If you have experience with bonfires, campfires, fire pits, or fireplaces, you know some firewood puts off a lot of smoke while others seem to burn with no or very little smoke. Have you ever wanted to know which firewoods burn the cleanest? If so, you’re in luck because we have a list of 9 types of firewood that produce the least amount of smoke!
All firewood is going to produce smoke, but with proper seasoning and an informed wood choice, you can have a relatively smoke-free fire. Oak, ash, beech, and hickory are examples of low-smoke firewood. However, some hardwoods, like eucalyptus, poplar, and elm, produce a lot of smoke when burned.
No one wants to play musical chairs because a thick stream of choking smoke keeps chasing everyone around the fire. So if you are looking to burn firewood for heat in your fireplace or wood-burning stove, or you want to have visitors over for a campfire in the backyard, make sure you have a stack of good, clean-burning firewood.
Green Firewood Produces The Most Smoke
For this list, we are assuming all these firewoods have been properly seasoned. It does not matter what kind of wood you burn—with ash being the sole exception to this rule—if your firewood is not seasoned properly, it will probably smoke a lot.
Heavy smoke is a sign the wood is still wet or still has a lot of sap or pitch in the pores. Seasoning your firewood properly reduces the moisture to about 20%, which is an optimal moisture level for proper burning.
When firewood is not seasoned properly, it does not burn efficiently.
When you use firewood, it’s imperative to season it especially in a wood furnance. Seasoned firewood is easier to start, burns brighter and hotter, and produces little smoke.
Green firewood will hiss as the water burns out and produces more smoke. Fires with a lot of smoke are inefficient and wasteful.
Firewoods That Produce The Least Amount of Smoke
Whether you are cutting and splitting your own firewood or buying it from someone, the more knowledge you have about different firewood, the better. Informed decisions will help your fires reach their maximum potential.
If you’d like to learn more about firewood, take a look at our article on the top 10 firewoods (ranked) and how long they last before you make a firewood decision!
If you are looking specifically for the least amount of smoke from your firewood, here is the list. You and your guests will not be playing smoking, musical chairs around the firepit.
Before we get started, I have to say all firewood is going to produce some smoke when burned. We have compiled a list of firewood, which, when properly seasoned and burned correctly, will produce the least amount of smoke.
Ash firewood is a great all-around firewood, produces almost no smoke, puts off a moderate amount of heat, and is a quick seasoning wood. You can process this firewood in the spring, and it will be seasoned and ready to burn when the weather gets cool again.
Some people say ash can also be burned green, but if you do, you will not get an efficient fire and it may smoke more. This is because the flames are using a lot of energy to burn off the excess moisture. With an inefficient burn, you will get more smoke.
The Department of Consumer Products tells us ash burns easily with medium-high heat. Very little smoke or sparks comes from this firewood. Overall, ash is excellent firewood.
One of the major problems with ash firewood is it can be hard to find because of a pest called the Emerald Ash Borer Beetle, which has severely threatened ash trees. This invasive pest, in the larval stage, kills ash trees by eating the tender bark around the tree, thus starving the tree of nutrients.
There are over 600 different varieties of oak trees from around the world! We are focusing on the most prevalent varieties from the US and grouping them into one category.
If you are looking for a specific variety of oak wood to burn, read our guide on the 10 best oak firewoods here!
Oak may be the king of firewood (in my humble opinion). It is readily available nearly everywhere trees grow, is a dense, compact wood, burns hot, for a long time, and produces very little smoke. Oak can be a bit of a chore to split, especially the larger logs.
But hey, firewood is the only heat source that warms you twice; once when cutting it, another time when you burn it.
Oak firewood will take a little longer to season than ash, but give it a year, and you should be ready. You will have a hot burning fire that lasts you all night and produces very little smoke. There may be a thin line of white smoke rising into the air, but there will be no black clouds of choking discomfort coming your way.
To make sure your firewood is properly seasoned, check out this Moisture Meter For Wood. It has built-in calibration and can be used for more than just wood!
You want your firewood to be 20% moisture content or lower before you burn it. Any higher and you will have an inefficient fire that spends a lot of energy trying to burn off the excess moisture.
Specifically talking about oak variaties of firewood, if you didn’t check out our linked list above, you should know that white oak is better than red oak for firewood.
We usually know maple trees for the syrup produced from the sap of the sugar maple. There are several varieties of maple trees, but they are all hardwoods that burn well. Maple trees on the whole are not as dense as oak trees, but they burn similarly.
The major difference between maple firewood compared to oak is maple burns a little faster, but maple wood smells great when burned. This firewood still burns hot and clean, making it a great choice for all of your wood burning needs.
Another great-smelling firewood with little smoke production is applewood. It burns hot and clean, but it can be difficult to find. Once an apple tree is no longer used for apples, the wood is often scooped up for smoking meats.
Have you ever had applewood smoked bacon or an applewood smoked pork loin? But wait, you may ask, “if applewood doesn’t smoke much, why is it used for smoking meats?” Applewood is soaked in water first before it’s used to smoke meats, so it creates more smoke to impart the unique flavor.
When seasoned and burned as firewood, applewood is a very clean burning firewood and produces very little smoke.
Beech firewood is a very hot burning firewood sought by those with wood-burning stoves because of the intense heat. Beech wood burns clean with little smoke, and it is said to have a nutty, pleasant smell when burned.
Beech firewood dries out to a much lower moisture content than most other firewood varieties. On average, when seasoned, beech firewood will dry out to around 10 to 12% moisture. It’s this low water content that makes beech such clean and hot burning firewood.
The only problem is it takes longer for beech to season well. It needs at least a year to season enough to burn but to get the most benefit out of your beech firewood, season it for two years.
6. Black Locust
The black locust tree is not a well-known tree unless you are well versed in wood varieties or do a lot of woodwork. This fast-growing tree makes for excellent firewood though. It burns very hot and produces very little smoke.
Among the contenders on this list, the black locust is one of the best when it comes to the least amount of smoke.
This firewood needs at least a year to season, but to reap the benefits, a year and a half to two years is optimal. When black locust is seasoned longer, the moisture content will go below 20%. You will get a very lean smoking, hot fire, which will burn all night long.
Black locust firewood also has little to no smell when burned. So if you don’t particularly like the smell of burning wood, this is an excellent firewood choice for you.
Hickory firewood often outperforms oak when compared side by side, especially if you are looking for fragrant-smelling firewood. The only reason I would choose oak firewood over hickory is oak is easier to find and typically will season slightly faster than hickory.
Hickory burns hotter than oak, not as high as black locust, but very similar. As for smoke output, hickory is pretty on par with black locust because both produce very little smoke. Hickory, when burned, smells like a backyard barbeque and brings back all those wonderful memories.
It’s a very popular wood for smoking meats and cooking on because people want the smoky flavor. However, when used as firewood, the smoke content is quite low. You’ll get a great fragrance from it, but it won’t choke you out of the campsite.
Winner winner, smoked chicken dinner!
8. Black Walnut
In North America, there are three popular varieties of walnut trees, but the best overall for low smoke when burned is the black walnut. This wood is a little difficult to find for firewood because it is sought after as furniture building wood. Black walnut trees also hate shade and typically grow in bright sunny patches by themselves, so you will not find a large grove of black walnut trees.
If you find a mature black walnut tree, you can most likely get a full cord of wood or more from it. As a firewood, black walnut is an excellent choice. It burns pretty hot, for a long time, and produces very little smoke. It smokes similarly to oak.
Black walnut may smoke more than hickory or black locust. Even so, this firewood still produces so little smoke, you’ll hardly notice it.
The walnut is one of the slowest burning woods to burn in your fire. You can view our full top 10 list of the slowest burning firewoods here!
9. Osage Orange
Osage orange trees are easy to identify from the large, green, wrinkled fruit they bear in the summer months. They were planted in residential areas many years ago and are found now in 39 states. Osage orange wood is used for bows and furniture, but when the lumber cannot be used for these products, it makes for great firewood.
Osage orange is a heavy, very dense wood that burns exceptionally hot, and creates very little smoke. It is an excellent choice for wood-burning stoves when it can be found. There is one problem with Osage orange as firewood though, it sparks… a Lot!
Since it creates an Independence Day level show of sparks, it’s not recommended to burn Osage orange in the fireplace. In a wood-burning stove, you do not have to worry about sparks as much until you open the door to put more wood in. Outside, make sure you have a large fire ring to handle the sparks.
As far as smoking, this wood burns so hot and efficiently, there is little smoke to speak of. You will get a show because of the constant sparking, crackling this wood creates, but you won’t have to worry about smoke at all.
Other Reasons You Have Smokey Firewood
Let’s say you are using wood from this list in your fire, but you are still getting heavy clouds of smoke. What could be the problem? There could be a few reasons your hardwood firewood is smoking everyone out, such as wet wood or a suffocating fire.
The Fire Is Not Getting Enough Air
If your logs are piled together tightly, you could have a hard time lighting them. Once it is burning, you might end up still getting thick clouds of smoke rolling off your fire. When a fire is not properly “breathing”, it can smoke because the wood is not burning cleanly.
When you start a fire or when you add logs to an existing fire, make sure there is plenty of space around the logs so that it burns efficiently.
By stacking your wood either in a teepee shape or alternating logs like a log cabin, you let enough air flow between the logs so your fire burns hot and efficiently, reducing smoke.
When you start your fire, there is often a good amount of smoke at the start because the fire has not got hot and efficient. This also depends on what you use for fire starter or kindling. These materials may be softwoods like pine, which usually put off a lot of smoke.
If you are using yard debris like pine cones, pine needles, or leaves to start your fire, they could still be wet. This will cause heavy smoke before you get a solid bed of hot coals built up.
Firewood is Wet Because of Weather
We already went over green, unseasoned firewood, but did it rain a night or two ago? Was your firewood covered with a tarp or plastic sheeting keeping moisture in? If either of these happened, you may be trying to burn wet wood. It’s just the same as trying to burn green wood.
Wet wood from bad weather will smoke and smolder as the fire fights to remove moisture from the wood. Before burning your wood, use your trusty moisture meter to make sure you don’t have wet wood.
That’s A Wrap!
That does it for this article. Now you have a long list of firewood that produces very little smoke. Hardwoods are the best for fires, but not all hardwood varieties are equal.
If you are looking for firewood that produces the least amount of smoke, you can’t go wrong with oak, hickory, maple, applewood, ash, and the others on this list.
We hope this article has helped you find the right firewood for your needs!
Todd, John Jeffrey, and J. Good. Wood-smoke handbook: Woodheaters, firewood and operator practice. Environment Australia, 2002.
Olsson, Maria, Jennica Kjällstrand, and Göran Petersson. “Specific chimney emissions and biofuel characteristics of softwood pellets for residential heating in Sweden.” Biomass and Bioenergy 24.1 (2003): 51-57.
Schueftan, Alejandra, and Alejandro D. González. “Reduction of firewood consumption by households in south-central Chile associated with energy efficiency programs.” Energy Policy 63 (2013): 823-832.
Njenga, M. A. R. Y., et al. “Trees on farms could satisfy household firewood needs.” Tree Farmers Mag. Afr 33 (2017): 20-23.
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