What Wood Burns the Best?

Hickory and Oak are Always a Great Choice

Firewood Storage
Firewood storage shelter. OSU

You will get the best results and more heat per wood volume when burning the highest density (heaviest) wood you can find. Dense firewood will produce the highest recoverable British Thermal Units (BTUs) but all wood must be "seasoned" for optimum heat production. Seasoning lowers the moisture content and less energy is used to drive off water which limits heat efficiency.

The Best Woods to Burn by Species

So, there are several properties of wood that will give you the best chance for sustainable, cleaner heat.

The best wood species are hard hardwoods that have dense cells and their green (and dried) weights are relatively heavy. They give out more heat when measured in BTUs than softer woods.

See this chart on heating properties of the most common North American trees.

The best burning firewood species:

  • Hickory - 25 to 28 million BTUs/cord - density 37 to 58 lbs./cu.ft.
  • Oak - 24 to 28 million BTUs/cord - density 37 to 58 lbs./cu.ft.
  • Black Locust - 27 million BTUs/cord - density 43 lbs./cu.ft.
  • Beech - 24 to 27 million BTUs/cord - density 32 to 56 lbs./cu.ft.
  • White Ash - 24 million BTUs/cord - density 43 lbs./cu.ft.

Building the Best Fire with Wood

I have listed the best wood to burn and the least desirable burning wood by tree species: What wood species gives off the most heat?  Many of these heavy woods have excellent burning properties during the three stages wood goes through when burned. Understanding these stages can also help you successfully and properly starting and building your fire for best performance.

The final "coaling" stage is very important for sustaining heat over time.