This post was most recently updated on January 2nd, 2021
Choosing a type of firewood can be overwhelming and confusing for a newbie. Here is a list of typically available firewood, and their outstanding positives and negatives.
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If you are cooking on a wood fired stove, the right kind of firewood can be the difference between a delicious dinner and a last minute sandwich.
It is usually best to use a mixture of wood in your fire – a faster burning wood to get the fire going and then a hotter, longer burning wood to keep the fire chugging along.
If you only have one type of wood to choose, macrocarpa is a great middle of the road option, the thinner sticks work well as kindling, and the larger logs will burn well for a long time.
If you are looking at growing a wood lot, I would suggest including some coppicing gum and some tagasaste for a good hot burning wood, and something like pine for fast growth.
RELATED POST: How to tell if your firewood is seasoned yet
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A note on measurements below to help compare firewood options
British Thermal Units, or BTUs, are the required amount to heat one pound of water by 1-degree Fahrenheit. For firewood it is measure in how many million units per cord of wood. A cord of wood is stacked wood 4′ x 4′ x 8′ or 1.2m x 1.2m x 2.8m.
When it comes to firewood, the higher BTU value, the more heat the firewood produces. The BTU rating of wood is higher when the wood is well-seasoned and also depends on the species of wood.
1. Pine firewood
Positives of burning pine
Cheap, freely available, dries fast, easy to light (makes awesome kindling).
Negatives of burning pine
Burns fast and struggles to make a real hot fire, can spit so might not be good for open fires.
BTU 14.3 million/cord
2. Macrocarpa firewood (Monterey cypress)
Positives of burning macrocarpa:
Mid range price, freely available, doesn’t take too long to dry, puts out a medium heat fire and burns for a moderate amount of time.
Negatives of burning macrocarpa:
Can spark a lot and for some, it is not suited to open fires.
BTU 21 million/cord
3. Manuka/Kanuka/Tea-tree firewood
Positives of burning Manuka
Burns hot, long and clean. Smells amazing so is often used for smokers or pizza ovens.
Negatives of burning manuka:
More expensive, not as common, works best on top of a well-established fire, takes 18+ months to season properly.
BTU 35 million/cord
4. Eucalyptus/Gum firewood
Positives of burning gum:
Readily available, mid-range price, burns hot and long, great for banking up your fire or for cooking in a wood fired stove.
Negatives for burning gum:
Needs the fire to be hot before being added, takes 8-12 months to season/dry.
BTU 34.5 million/cord
5. Poplar or Willow firewood
Fairly cheap, ignites easily.
Burns very fast so you will chew through it.
BTU 14.3 million/cord
6. Gorse/Broom/Tagasaste (tree lucerne)
These are all cousins and while probably won’t be available commercially as firewood but they are freely available around the country.
You may find a farmer all too happy to let you remove theirs for them!
Could be free! Burns HOT and long – one of the best firewoods.
Due to its thinner sticks, it dries faster than you might expect.
Gorse has horrid prickles.
BTU 37 million/cord
Firewood for my American Readers
I know several of the types of wood above are not available in the US in large volumes, so here are the 5 best firewoods for the USA.
Oak is so abundant in North America that it makes for a brilliant firewood option that’s relatively easy to find.
Burns quite clean when dry. Oak is a very dense hardwood, which allows it to burn longer.
While readily available and effective, oak takes one to two years to fully season.
BTU 24 million/cord
Hickory is one of the hottest burning firewood’s around.
Burns very clean and smells quite pleasant while burning
Since hickory is a very dense wood, it takes at least a year to properly season.
BTU 28.5 million/cord
Less common to buy as fire wood, but if you can get some apple is a great choice.
Like hickory, apple wood is another fantastic smelling wood when burned and is often used to smoke meats.
Can be difficult to come across.
In order to be properly seasoned, apple wood requires one year minimum to dry.
BTU 26.6 million/cord
Birch is readily available and usually quite affordable.
The bark on birch wood can be peeled right off of the rest of the wood. The papery bark can be used to start your fire.
Only needs 9-12 months to properly season.
BTU 20 million/cord
Ash wood is a fantastic choice across the board.
Only requires about six months to fully season and produces a clean burn with no smoke.
BTU 23.6 million/cord
Choosing the type of wood you should get/buy/plant can be quite overwhelming. In general all wood will burn and the best wood is the one you can get for free.
But given the choice, some woods are definitely better than others. You can use this information to decide what you want to burn on your own fire.
What is your favorite firewood and why? Tell us in the comments below!
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