Using your fire pit is a great way to create ambiance outdoors. Sitting around the fire is enjoyable most of the year and allows you to extend your outdoor season by keeping you warm. Burning different wood types in your fire pit can impact your fire experience, so let’s explore which wood types are best for your next fire!
Firewood Hits and Misses
- Ash Wood – Ash burns very hot, and tends to burn well even when green or wet.
- Fir – Favorably smelling and easy to burn, fir is a smoky and sparky wood. Even unseasoned fir burns relatively well.
- Hickory – Considered the best wood for fires as it produces a long-lasting heat that’s also good for cooking.
- Oak – Although harder to get burning, oak burns hot and produces little smoke. However, don’t buy unseasoned oak. It absolutely needs a year to be firewood-worthy.
- Maple – The hard-to-light maple produces little smoke and odor. Generally considered a good fuel wood.
- Pine – Plentiful in nature, pine burns easy and has an enjoyable smell. Often crackles and pops while burning thanks to trapped resins.
- Spruce – Smoky and sparky, spruce is not a high-heat producer. Try to avoid using spruce as a fire wood.
- Walnut – Another wood to avoid burning in the fire pit. It usually produces a strong, bitter-smelling smoke.
Buy Seasoned WoodWhen you’re buying firewood for your fire pit, you typically want seasoned wood. This term refers to wood that has had time to dry out after cutting. Usually, wood is considered seasoned after it has dried out for about one year. The best wood for any fire, however, was cut two or three years prior to its use.
How can you tell if wood is seasoned? Here is what to look for:
- The firewood has a gray, faded appearance outside.
- If you split the wood, it should be bone white inside.
- The interior of the firewood will be dry to the touch. Fresher wood will feel wet and have a fresh-smelling interior.
- The bark from the wood will chip and fall off easily.
Hardwood or Softwood?
Another choice you must make when burning in your fire pit is whether you want hardwood or softwood. Choosing one or using both can affect how your fire burns.
- Softwoods burn quickly and often produce more smoke. Softwoods are often fueled by their trapped resins as much as the wood itself.
- If you plan on wrapping up your outdoor event quickly, softwoods are probably best. They burn quickly enough that your fire should be naturally dying down by the time you’re ready for bed.
- Hardwoods are denser and take longer to burn. They also tend to put out more heat, which make them great for cooking.
- The best softwoods for fires are southern yellow pine and fir. Softwoods also serve as great kindling for hardwoods.
- The best hardwoods for fires are ash, beech, hickory, and apple.
When finding and using your own wood, it is important to remain cognizant of poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. If you come in contact with these plants while gathering wood, you will develop a very itchy and unpleasant rash. Burning wood from these plants, or wood covered by their vines, will cause the irritants to enter your lungs through inhaling the smoke. Generally this is followed with a painful respiratory infection.
Another concern with firewood is that sometimes it can harbor invasive species, such as the Emerald Ash Borers. While these bugs won’t hurt the enjoyment of your fire pit, they can decimate an area once introduced there. Further, many states and municipalities have limited the transport of firewood, meaning you shouldn’t pack firewood with you for your trip to the cabin or lake. Instead, you should buy local firewood.
If you plan to collect firewood for your fire pit, make sure you have permission of the landowner to do so. If you want to collect firewood on public property, such as a state or national park, make sure to check with a park official beforehand. Failing to do so on either type of land may result in trespassing or theft charges.
Knowing and Identifying Firewood
Identifying a tree species can be difficult when collecting firewood or when purchasing pre-cut firewood. Your best tool will be a tree identification guide. With that, you can piece together the clues to identify it. After some additional experience, you should be able to ID “your” wood by sight.
- Deadwood – If you are harvesting firewood from a fallen or dead tree, it may be difficult to identify it since it won’t have any leaves on it. First, look around on the ground for any fallen leaves in great numbers. The size and shape, along with the help of a tree identifying guide may help you. Next, study the tree’s bark and branching patterns — these are often great indicator of the tree species.
- Pre-cut wood – To identify wood that’s already been split, study the bark on the wood as well as the grain of the wood. You may also spot other identifiers, such as branch or leaf remnants that can help you with the identity. Another indicator is the weight of the wood. Hardwoods are heavier.
Your Favorite Firewood
What firewood do you prefer for your fire pit? Do you use a different wood for cooking in your fire pit? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to visit us on Facebook for deals on fire pits and fire pit accessories.