What is the Best Fire Wood?
Determining the best fire wood can only come after asking, "Best for what?". Not all firewood is created equal. Some are better than others but some just have specific purposes they are best for. So picking a good firewood can only be done after knowing what you plan to do with it. I'll cover some of the best firewood whatever your need, especially if you are looking for a barbecue cooking wood such as cooking with apple wood, or the best fire wood for your fireplace.
- Hardwood vs. Softwood - The terms hardwood and softwood refer to the density of wood, how hard it is and how much weight it has. A very dense wood, a hardwood, has more wood matter in it and therefore will burn hotter and longer. Therefore, hardwoods are the best fire wood if you need a lot of heat and you want your fire to burn long. Oak is one of the most frequently seen hardwood available. Other examples of very hard woods are rock elm and some types of ash.
While softwood burns faster and cooler, it lights much easier. Therefore, softwood is good for kindling to get a fire started. Pine, spruce, fir and willow are examples of commonly seen softwoods.
- Best Fire Wood for the Fireplace - In your fireplace you generally want a wood that will burn hot and burn long. Again, more dense woods, such as hardwoods, are great for this. The harder the wood, the better it is for producing high heat and long-lasting embers. These hardwoods can take a long time to get lit, but once they do, the embers they produce will be super hot and will ignite practically anything you throw on their afterwards. Examples of good hardwoods which are readily available are oak, almond, apple, hickory and mesquite. There are others like madrone, manzanita which are good too but less available in general.
Resinous woods are okay in the fireplace if you are not cooking over them. They do have a strong aroma, some of which can be very pretty. These woods do not work well for cooking however.
- Best Fire Wood for Cooking - Cooking over firewood has many advantages, whether its in your fire pit or fireplace barbecue cooking wood can add great flavor and aromas to your grilled foods. Again, dense hardwoods are best here.
The fruit woods, like cooking with apple wood, almond wood or cherry wood, are perfect companions to grilled foods. Their sweet smoke aroma complements food beautifully. Oak, being one of the hardest and densest woods, burns hot and long and is definitely a good barbecue cooking wood, but doesn't have as much distinct flavor as the fruit woods. It does impart a strong smoky flavor though.
Some of the strongest smokey flavors come from hardwoods like hickory and mesquite. They can be a great compliment to certain meats and poultry but have a very distinctive aroma. If you don't want their strong signature aromas in your food, stick to the milder fruit woods or oak.
For cooking, avoid softwoods and highly resinous woods like pine or juniper. First of all, they burn quicker and cooler. Secondly, the resinous woods give off very potent resin aromas which are off-putting and don't work with food. Some can even be toxic so avoid these woods!
- Some Tips and Facts to Help Choose the Best Fire Wood for You:
- Softwoods burn fast and cool, good for starting a fire, but bad for heat and cooking.
- Avoid resinous woods, like pine, willow and juniper, for cooking.
- Wet wood burns colder than dry wood but burns longer. It is harder to light. Generally avoid wet wood for cooking.
- Use "seasoned" firewood because it is dried out completely so that it burns slow and hot and is easier to light.
- Heart wood burns hotter than sapwood in general. Sometimes wood is labeled as one or the other.
- Wood embers (and charcoal) burns hotter than the fire of the fresh wood itself. Therefore, for maximum heat for cooking, let a bunch of logs burn completely until they are embers before adding food. The embers give off much more heat than the fire itself. You can get coals faster if you use smaller pieces of wood to begin with. More can be added as needed to maintain the heat.
The best place I know of to buy fire accessories is SpitJack.com. They have a selection of firewood carrying, splitting and storage equipment. They are also the very best for beautiful and functional fireplace cooking accessories including fireplace grills, rotisseries, cranes, and utensils as well as fire pits and other fire and fire cooking related accessories.
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