Whether it’s in a wood-burning stove, a fireplace, or outdoors around the campsite, you want a hot fire that warms up fast. After all, that’s the main reason to have a fire, isn’t it? When buying or preparing firewood for the burning season, you probably want to know – what is the hottest burning wood?
Hardwood species such as oak, maple, ash, and most fruit trees will provide you with the hottest burning, and longest-lasting coals for your money. Hardwoods are denser than softwoods such as pine, so they have more fuel to burn hotter and last longer.
For intense heat that makes you take a step back from the fire before you start sizzling like bacon in a frying pan, you need a dry, dense wood that puts off a flame as hot as the surface of Mercury. Keep on reading as we go over 10 of the hottest burning firewoods, and how long they will last in the fire!
Determining ‘Hotness’ In Firewood
We were all taught at an early age that “fire is hot”, whether that was because your parents drilled it into your head, or they let you learn by making your own mistakes. Determining how hot firewood is, takes a bit more of a scientific approach.
We use BTUs, or British Thermal Units to measure the heat from firewood, heaters, or other sources of heat. One BTU is the amount of heat energy it takes to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree.
For firewood, the heat output is measured by how many BTUs are put out per cord of wood. A cord is the standard measure of a load of firewood and is usually sold by the cord. In terms of measurement, a cord of wood equals 128 cubic feet of split, stacked firewood (a 4’ x 4’ x 8’ stack of wood).
10 Hottest Burning Firewoods
We are assuming all of these firewood varieties have been properly seasoned before they are burned. Properly seasoned typically means the moisture content in the wood is around 20% moisture or less.
The only way to properly tell if firewood is properly seasoned is to use a moisture meter. This Moisture Meter For Wood is an inexpensive way to test for that magical number of 20%.
All you have to do is poke the pins into the wood and it will give you a digital readout of the moisture content in firewood, and even a few other materials.
Remember, you always want to check the moisture content of firewood before using it.
Without further ado, let’s get into the million-dollar question of what is the hottest burning firewood? Not all of these firewoods will be available for you to purchase, but if you happen to come across them, or you can cut them down yourself, then count yourself lucky.
10. Sugar Maple
There are a lot of maple tree varieties, from silver maple, and red maple, to sugar maple and bigleaf maple, there are around 125 different varieties. For this list, we are focusing on the sugar maple, as it is one of the hottest burning maple varieties.
Sugar maple is the same maple tree that makes the amazing morning syrup you slather all over pancakes, french toast, and waffles. Once the tree no longer is viable for syrup production, it makes great firewood, especially since you can probably get an entire cord of wood from just one tree.
Maple wood as firewood is a great all-around type of firewood. It may not be as dense or as hot as others like oak and hickory, but it makes up for that by being readily available in most areas, and for seasoning relatively quickly.
You don’t want maple to sit around too long because if it gets too old it can start to put off a funny smell when it’s burned.
Season your sugar maple wood for about six months and you will get a great, hot burning, long-lasting wood that will also give you a great aroma.
Some people report smelling maple syrup when it burns. The only bad thing about making your house smell like maple syrup is that you’ll then want pancakes for dinner.
Properly seasoned sugar maple firewood puts off around 24 million BTUs per cord of wood. To put that into context, let’s set it next to a ton of coal, which is burned in many areas to create electricity for communities.
One ton of coal puts off 26 million BTUs; considering a cord of wood can weigh approximately one ton, sugar maple firewood is an excellent heating source.
If you have ever seen these trees or had them growing on your property, you probably groaned a little bit. These trees are notorious for dropping tons of nearly tasteless berries that resemble elongated blackberries.
You don’t want to walk through them because the purple juice will stain your shoes and everything you walk in. You also don’t ever want to park near a mulberry tree, because not only will you have tons of berries splattering all over your car, but birds flock to these trees to eat the ripe berries, leaving purple and white droppings everywhere.
The berries can be eaten, but they don’t have much taste. You can also make jams, wines, and desserts out of them which are better since you usually add some flavor to them.
Mulberry trees also grow like weeds everywhere because of their massive seed dispersal, and they are fast-growing trees.
The birds help with this by depositing seeds everywhere they leave their poop. But if you cut this tree down and split it, you’ll have great firewood!
The only downside to mulberry firewood is the long seasoning time. After it is cut and split, it will need to season for at least a year. Mulberry trees contain a lot of moisture in the wood, so it takes longer to season.
Mulberry wood, once it’s properly seasoned, burns hot and it will burn for a long time without much smoke. It will keep a hotbed of coals that will last several hours as it’s one of the slowest burning woods. Mulberry wood, like most fruitwoods, puts off a pleasing scent when it’s burned, so it works great in fireplaces and campfires.
The second contender in our hottest burning firewood list, Mulberry wood, comes in at 25.8 million BTUs per cord of wood.
8. Black Birch
There are a lot of species of birch wood that are great for firewood, but the black birch shoves all others out of the way to come out on top. Black birch can be identified by dark brown bark and shiny, dark green serrated leaves that turn bright yellow in the fall.
Black birch trees are a very dense variety of birch trees. It contains long, thick fibers inside the wood that makes for a hot burning and very long-lasting firewood.
The black birch tree doesn’t take long to season, less than a year, so you could theoretically cut it, dry it, and burn it all the same year. This firewood does not put off a lot of smoke, it doesn’t throw many sparks, and it produces a sweet-smelling aroma when it burns.
As far as heat, the black birch packs about 26.8 million BTUs inside a cord of wood.
Another wonderfully smelling wood that also produces scorching heat is applewood. Yes, the same tree that produces the fruit touted to keep the doctor away is a great heating source.
Applewood is a little difficult to find though because it’s more lucrative as a fruit producer. If you do happen to come across some though you should certainly snatch it up.
Maybe a neighbor needs their apple tree taken down, or an orchard is replacing some of their trees, if so, it never hurts to ask if you could take the trees yourself to process for firewood.
Not only is it great for heating your house, but the flavorful smoke it produces gives meats a delightful smoky flavor. Applewood smoked bacon, barbecue, or chicken anyone? Yes please! Fill my plate up.
But as firewood to heat your house it is great. It takes about a year to season, but you won’t regret waiting that long because of the great aroma, and hot flames it produces, and applewood will burn for a long time.
In a fire, from start to finish, it will probably last between 5 to 6 hours!
Jumping up a notch, apple firewood comes in at a sweltering 27 million BTUs per cord of firewood.
I’m a HUGE fan of applewood trees overall, as they are one of the trees that produce the least amount of smoke overall!
Hornbeam wood is one of those that are usually hard to come by because they are great firewood that is usually felled before they get too tall or old.
They are especially hard to identify as they look incredibly similar to other trees. One of the tell-tale features of hornbeam trees though is the undulating appearance of the limbs.
The limbs look like they have cords running underneath smooth bark. The leaves look very similar to birch tree leaves, except the serrations are slightly wider.
For some, these trees can be difficult to split as well. To keep from getting aggravated, you may have to split the hornbeam with a hydraulic splitter if you have one.
Hornbeam firewood also needs a long time to season. This is very fickle firewood. If you have experience with avocados and wait for them to become ripe, you’ll see certain similar characteristics to hornbeam wood.
The wood takes a year with premium conditions to dry out, but you’d be best to wait two seasons to dry the wood, but once it’s dry enough to burn, the wood then tends to get moldy and go bad relatively quickly.
Like a green avocado, you wait forever for it to ripen, but when it does, you have a tiny window of use before it turns into brown, unappetizing mush.
For all its fickle attributes, the hornbeam makes for a wonderfully hot, long-lasting firewood.
A hornbeam bed of coals will glow bright orange and keep the heat for many hours. The wood produces a scorching 27.1 million BTUs per cord, so it will help to keep your house nice and toasty!
Halfway through the list, we find the majestic beech tree. These trees can grow to over 100 feet tall, so if you come across these giants, you could end up with a lot of firewood from just one single tree.
Beech firewood has a faint, nutty aroma when it’s burned, but it truly shines because of the intense heat it creates.
This is due to the low moisture content of the wood once it finally completes seasoning. Most woods will naturally dry to around 20% moisture; whereas beech trees can fall between 12%-17% moisture content.
It’s this low moisture that makes this firewood such a ‘hothead’. The only problem with beech as firewood is if you’re cutting it yourself, you will have to let it season for two years to get that extra low moisture content.
If you season it for one year and then burn beech firewood, you will probably get a lot more smoke coming off the firewood than you would if you let it season an extra year.
Beechwood is also a tough wood to split, so this is one you’d be better off with a hydraulic splitter than going about it with a maul or splitting ax.
You will be rewarded for your patience with a wood that burns 27.5 million BTUs per cord of wood. Burning this wood in your fireplace or woodstove means you can build up the fire at night, then when you wake up in the morning, you will still have a warm bed of coals to get a new fire started!
Hickory is firewood that is often readily available in many areas because it grows along the east coast of the United States, Canada, and into the midwest regions. Hickory wood is also popular for furniture, tool handles, and flooring because of its incredible strength.
Hickory trees also produce nuts that deer, squirrels, and even humans enjoy.
As firewood though, hickory is extremely hard to beat. It’s one of the best firewoods you can find because of the heat, longevity, and availability. Hickory firewood also produces a pleasing aroma that is utilized in many charcoals or chips for barbecue smokers.
Splitting this super-dense wood will be a chore because it is very hard. I have seen people bounce a sharp ax right off of logs before. After it is all split, it will take about a year to season, but then you have one of the longest-lasting, hottest burning firewoods you can find.
Hickory firewood does not spit off many sparks, and it produces very little smoke. A cord of hickory firewood will produce about 28.5 million BTUs of heat.
If you have some of these trees on your property or can find some that you can cut, they will provide plenty of warmth for those bone-chilling winters.
You can take a look at our full list of the slowest burning firewoods if you want something that burns longer and not just hotter!
3. Black Locust
Next up on our list, we have the black locust tree. This tree is one of the fastest-growing trees around, which is rather unusual because it’s still a very dense tree. Most fast-growing trees tend to be softwoods like pine or other evergreen species.
The black locust tree grows so fast in fact, that in many areas it’s considered an invasive species. Just cutting them down usually isn’t enough to keep them under control. Some people have resorted to using herbicides to get rid of their black locusts.
The National Resources Conservation Service has this to say about the invasiveness of black locust; when black locust is introduced into an area, they cast a wide net of shadow that starves out other sun-loving plants. These trees can get so dense that very little ground vegetation grows underneath them.
This may help you if you are looking for good firewood because neighbors or people dealing with these trees will probably let you come in and cut them down for them.
Black locust, even being this dense, is easy to split wood. You won’t be fighting with one block all day. It only needs to be seasoned for one year before burning, and once it’s ready you have top-notch firewood. I hear you saying, “I sense a ‘but’ coming,” and you’re correct…
Black locust trees have a lot of long, sharp thorns on their leaf-bearing branches. If you are dealing with this wood, you will have to wear some protective gloves such as these Wells Lamont Men’s Heavy Duty Leather Ranching & Fencer Gloves. These thick, leather gloves will help protect you from the thorns of black locust trees.
After you have dealt with the insidious thorns, you will end up with firewood that puts off a whopping 29.3 million BTUs per cord of wood.
With the right gear, and taking an extra step or two of caution, black locust firewood is truly hard-to-beat firewood.
2. White Oak
Whatever type of oak you burn as firewood, you can’t go wrong. Oak firewood, in my humble opinion, is the king of firewood. It may not be as hot as the top firewood, or it may not put off a sweet smell like applewood or cherry, but because of everything else, oak is all around the best.
Now, we say white oak simply because it’s proven that white oak makes better firewood than red oak.
Overall, it’s better than most other firewoods due to it’s natural abundance as well!
Other woods burn hotter, others burn longer, but not by much. What puts oak over the top of all the others is because of the availability, ease of splitting, low smoke, heat, and longevity of an oak fire.
Oak firewood is one firewood that will last all night long. Once you have a good bed of coals, you can put a few new logs on, go to bed, then wake up to still warm embers that are easily stoked back up.
White oak needs a year to season. It does hold a lot of moisture and needs a full season to lose enough of that moisture to make a good fire. Wet, or green wood usually smokes a lot, doesn’t put off as much heat, and is harder to burn than properly seasoned firewood.
White oak is at the top of the list of oak trees for heat output. Most oak trees put off a ton of heat when they burn, but the white oak is at the top of the list with an astounding 30.7 million BTUs of heat per cord of wood.
You can view our full list of the best oak trees for firewood here to learn more in-depth information!
1. Osage Orange
As we reach the top of the list for hottest firewoods we get to a contender that isn’t available everywhere, it’s a pain to split and doesn’t grow very tall, but if you want a heat as hot as Hades’ toejam, you can’t go wrong with osage orange.
Another name for this tree is the horse apple, but it’s neither orange nor apple tree. It produces green, grapefruit-sized, wrinkly, fibrous fruits that produce a sticky, latex-like sap when cut or crushed.
Many people consider this tree a nuisance because of the large fruits that animals don’t want to eat, and end up everywhere. It has thorns, and if it’s cut down, the tree will quickly sprout off many, thorny off-shoots, and keep growing.
Osage orange wood is so dense, that if you’re cutting down a single tree, you will need to bring along a few extra, sharpened chains because you will need them.
You should split it as soon as you can as well, as the wood dries, it gets harder to split.
If you’ve been able to cut and split a few cords of osage orange for firewood, leave it seasoning for about a year. Some say you can burn it after six months, but I’d leave it a few more months just to make sure.
When burning this wood, it will get insanely hot. Some people have reported damage to their wood-burning stoves when they burn this firewood.
If you are using osage orange as firewood, it would be best to supplement it with something that doesn’t burn quite as hot like cherry. Other than that, burn it outside in a campfire setting to help keep away the cool night.
This firewood is definitely not fireplace wood though. Osage orange puts off a showering spark show akin to a 4th of July celebration. All the previous firewoods in this list, only spark or crackle very infrequently, but the horse apple tree throws sparks constantly.
According to Nebraska Game and Parks, dried, seasoned, osage orange wood produced the highest amount of BTUs from native trees. However, when the wood burns it produces a considerable amount of sparks.
Even when you properly season osage orange, a thick, sticky sap remains behind. That’s the reason for the sparks. As the wood burns, the sap burns and crackles as well, throwing off a constant show of sparks.
While osage orange wood puts off a staggering 32.9 million BTUs of heat per cord, it also throws off a fireworks stand worth of sparks.
Osage orange is the unstoppable beast of heat when it comes to firewood, but with all the sparks, you’d be better off going with white oak firewood. See why I said oak is the king of firewood? Wink, wink.
That’s A Wrap!
Whether you’re using the firewood in a wood-burning stove, in your fireplace for supplemental heat, or outside in a campfire setting, these firewoods will certainly keep you warm for hours.
Even with average firewood, you are getting about 20 million BTUs per cord, which will certainly keep your home warm. But if you are looking for firewood that will fight off the chill of winter like a champion prize-fighter, you can’t go wrong with white oak, hickory, black locust, beech, or any other firewood on this list.
Good luck on your firewood journey!
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Zou, L. Y., Zhang, W., & Atkiston, S. (2003). The characterisation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons emissions from burning of different firewood species in Australia. Environmental Pollution, 124(2), 283-289.