Whether you’re cooking or just relaxing around the fire, there are many ways to utilize your fire pit. However, did you know that certain types of wood are better suited for each of these fire pit activities? Because of this, the best firewood for your fire pit depends greatly on what you want from the fire.
In this guide, we will breakdown some of the most popular types of wood for burning to help you decide which is best for your fire pit needs.
When to Use Softwoods
Softwoods are not typically the first choice for cooking because of the size of the flames and some of the scents they produce. There are some exceptions to this rule, such as cedar, which is great for smoking and cooking. In general, softwoods burn very quickly. While this is not suitable if you’re looking for a long-term fuel, it’s great for getting things started. Use softwoods for kindling, or if you want a relatively quick fire before heading inside for the evening.
These types of woods are also great if you want a fire with big, lively flames. Softwoods will create a bright, warm atmosphere if you’re sitting around the fire pit in the evening with your family and friends. Popular softwoods for fire pit burning include pine, cedar, redwood, and fir.
When to Use Hardwoods
As a rule, very dense hardwoods are the best for cooking. These woods contain more wood fiber than firewood that is less dense, causing them to burn much slower. While they may take longer to ignite, hardwoods generate low flames that emit a steady, radiant heat.
Large flames, like those created by many types of softwood, are not ideal for cooking because they will often overcook the outside of your food long before the inside is done. Whereas, the glowing coals that hardwood fires create are excellent for cooking. In addition to desirable burning qualities, hardwoods also tend to produce great aromas and impart the best smoky flavors into your foods. Popular hardwoods for fire pit burning include oak, madrone, ash, hickory, and maple.
Now that you know which woods to use, it’s time to try cooking a few classic recipes over your fire pit!
A Closer Look at Burning Properties
Along with the many varieties of desirable firewood, there are also woods that are best avoided. Woods on this list may produce too much smoke or many sparks, burn poorly, or emanate unpleasant smells.
- Poplar – Best avoided because of its poor burn, poplar also produces a lot of smoke.
- Spruce – This wood burns easily, but much too quickly. Spruce also sparks and smokes quite a bit, so it’s not ideal for a fire pit.
- Laburnum – Much like poplar, laburnum is a smokey, poorly burning wood.
- Willow – Even when seasoned, willow can be very difficult to burn. Save yourself some frustration, and skip this wood.
- Chestnut – This wood is not a great choice if you want goo heat output. Chestnut does not burn well and creates very small flames.
- Walnut – Every type of walnut has the tendency to give off heavy smoke that has a strong, bitter scent. If you choose to use it, make sure to mix it with other woods.
No matter which type of firewood you choose, wood that has been seasoned will produce the best results in any situation.
What is Seasoned Wood?
Seasoned wood is firewood that has been dried over long periods, typically by the air, to reduce the moisture content for more efficient burning. The denser the wood, the longer it needs to be seasoned. Regardless of your fire pit activities, wood burns most effectively when it is dry.
Wood that is unseasoned, also known as green wood, is much harder to light, emits more smoke, produces little heat, and often extinguishes quickly. When buying wood for burning, make sure to check for signs that it has been seasoned.
Keeping Your Wood Dry
If you purchase or collect wood for later use, be sure to store the wood where it will be fully shielded from the rain or snow so it stays dry. For large quantities of wood, store it in stacks outside of your home under a tarp or permanent structure such as a woodshed. For smaller quantities, store the wood indoors or outdoors in a designated holder or even a decorative container. If outside, make sure the holder has a cover.
- Check for cracks in the grain at the ends of the wood. This may not always be 100% accurate, but it can sometimes be a quick identifier.
- The wood sounds hollow and dry when knocked against another log.
- The outside is faded or gray, while the inside is a crisp white color.
- When split open, the inside of the wood should feel dry to the touch.
If you’re still in doubt about your firewood, burn a piece as a test. Naturally, dry wood will ignite much more easily than its damp or green counterpart will. Damp wood will hiss when it burns.
What’s Your Favorite Firewood?
Ultimately, the best firewood is the one that gives you the results you prefer, and trying many different types of wood is the easiest way to find out what you like. Plus, you will have yet another excuse to use your fire pit!
Do you have a favorite type of firewood or more questions about choosing the right variety? Let us know in the comments below! We’d love to see pictures of your successful fire pit ventures on your next visit to our Facebook page.