Burning firewood outdoors is in a lot of ways different than burning indoors. The best firewood for outdoor fires can be different than what you might think is best for indoor burning. When heating with a wood stove indoors, most people prefer dense hardwoods to give off long radiant heat. But with outdoor fires, this is not always the case. But in all cases, dry wood is by far the best.
The best wood for an outside fire will depend on what you want from the fire. What you might want for cooking or roasting hot dogs may be different than if you want a lively fire with big bright flames to sit around. Dense hardwoods are good for cooking over. They make good hot coals that put out a steady heat with low flames. Hardwoods are also the types of wood that have the best smoke flavors and aroma.
Softwoods like fir, pine and cedar are often better if you want big bright flames. This is what can create the type of outdoor fire that will light up the area at night and bring a lot of warmth and great atmosphere. But be careful with some softwoods like cedar, since they have a tendency to throw sparks. And with softwoods, they do burn a lot faster than dense hardwoods so be prepared to go through more wood and put wood on the fire more often.
Pinion pine is a very popular firewood for outdoor fireplaces, fire pits, and chimineas. Pinion pine is a softwood, but one of the more dense softwoods. It burns longer and puts out more heat, and it is resinous which helps to make more brilliant flames. It is also popular because of its aroma when burned and its mosquito repelling properties.
Many people consider pinion pine to be the best firewood for outdoor fires. But because of its popularity and limited growing area, it can also be expensive. Pinion pine grows in the arid southwestern USA and Mexico. It doesn’t grow very fast and the trees don’t get very large. It also usually has to be shipped a long distance for most markets. So to me, I would rather burn more local woods that cost much less. But many people enjoy it enough to pay the higher price for it.
If you are burning wood in a thin metal or clay fireplace or other outdoor burning device, be cautious of the super hot burning woods like mesquite, manzanita, and Osage orange. these types of wood can get so hot they can damage these devices. If you do burn them you may want to keep the fires small or mix in other types of wood. Thick cast iron and copper are not so much a worry.
You should avoid burning treated wood or wood soaked in creosote or paint. These can put off toxic fumes. Beware of burning used lumber and building material scraps, since some of it might be treated. As long as it is clean untreated wood, it is fine to burn. You can usually tell if wood is treated because it will burn with a greenish flame.
Just about any type of clean dry wood will burn fine. So if you have it, try it out. The best way to know what type of wood you like best is to try different types and decide for yourself.
Post your experiences and preferences of types of wood for outdoor burning below.