Choosing the Best Wood for Burning

| 10/10/2012 1:57:00 PM

Editor in Chief Hank Will, in his International.If you're cutting wood to stoke a fire, there are a few species that are more desirable than others. Here are some hints for picking the best wood for burning:

Most trees with the "hardwood" classification are fair game, although trees like cottonwood will burn hot and quick — do you really want to load your stove several times a day?

Osage Orange wood: This is one of the most dense and hardest woods you might encounter around your place. Upside is that you get lots of BTU's per cubic foot of wood. Downside is that it's so hard it will quickly dull your saw (when I'm cutting posts my saw sometimes sparks) and it has a tendency to burn very hot and it pops and shoots sparks. It's not too hard to split green. 

White Oak wood is often considered the most desirable heating wood in North America with some other oaks coming in close behind. White oak has fewer BTUs of energy per cubic foot than Osage Orange, but it splits very easily, is more prevalent and is easy on the chainsaw. Split and seasoned white oak often brings a cash premium for cordwood sellers.

Hickory actually has more BTUs per cubic foot than White Oak and even though it splits nicely and burns beautifully, this species may have more value as a food-smoking wood than a heating species.

Speaking of smoking, one of my favorite food smoking woods is apple wood. In addition to its mouth-watering flavor, apple wood also carries more energy per cubic foot than white oak. It's also one of the easiest to split by hand, so next time you're tempted to pass by those orchard-sized brush piles, think again.

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