The 15 Hottest Burning Firewood Species’ in America | Burly Beaver (2023)

Not all firewood is created equal. Some is great for campfires, some is excellent for smoking meat, and others kick butt when it comes to heat output. If you’re looking to find the HOTTEST firewood you can burn, then you’re in the right place.

In this article, I’ve compiled a list of the 15 hottest burning firewood species that are found in America. I’ve taken a data-driven approach, and have used data from Oklahoma State University and Utah State University in order to create the below ranking.

Let’s start with a summary chart, and then we’ll dig into each species in more detail.

Hottest Burning Firewood Chart

RankFirewood SpeciesHeat Output / Cord (in Million BTUs)
1Gambel Oak30.7
2Osage Orange30.1
3Black Locust29.3
6Pinyon Pine27.1
8White Oak26.4
9Bur Oak26.2
10 (Tie)Mulberry25.8
10 (Tie)Honey Locust25.8
12Red Oak24.8
13White Ash24.3
15Hard Maple23.9

Below, we’ll cover each type of firewood in more detail. I’ve even recorded videos walking through the essential facts for several species.

And if you’re looking for a specific species that you didn’t see in the chart above (e.g. Dogwood, Ironwood, etc.), then jump to the list of honorable mentions at the bottom of this article, to see a few more species that weren’t included in the above list due to insufficient university data.

Now – let’s dive into the hottest burning firewoods!

1. Gambel Oak

Gambel Oak is the hottest burning firewood species on record in America. It burns at a sweltering 30.7 million BTUs per cord. If you haven’t heard of Gambel Oak before, then that’s probably because it has a fairly limited geographic area where it grows, and is mostly found in Southwest America (e.g. Utah, Arizona, etc.).

Gambel Oak also goes by a few different names, including Scrub Oak and Oak Brush, probably due to the fact that it often grows like a shrub. And some folks even call it White Oak, although it is not technically the same (White Oak’s scientific name is “Quercus Alba” and Gambel Oak’s is “Quercus Gambelii”). We’ll talk more about White Oak a few steps down this list, but first, we’ve got to talk about Osage Orange.

2. Osage Orange

If you asked a room full of self-proclaimed “firewood enthusiasts” what the hottest burning firewood is, you’d probably get a lot of folks shouting “Osage Orange!” at you.

Osage Orange burns at a staggering 30.1 million BTUs per cord. To put things into perspective, I’ve even heard that if you use a wood stove, you have to be careful with Osage Orange because it burns so hot that it can actually damage the stove.

Even though it burns hot and long, I don’t think I would call Osage Orange the best firewood out there. When considering the best all-around firewood, it’s useful to also consider other factors, like how easy the wood is to split and work with, whether the wood sparks or smokes heavily when it burns, etc. If you want to learn more about these things, you can check out our article that covers my favorite firewood species.

(Video) Top 10 hottest burning firewoods

3. Black Locust

Growing up in the Midwest USA, my family prized Black Locust, and would typically save it for the coldest months of winter, and especially for keeping our wood stove burning overnight. If I could only have one species of firewood to heat a house, I’d probably choose Black Locust.

Black Locust burns extremely hot with a heat rating of 29.3 million BTUs per cord. The wood is also quite dense and it’s one of the longest burning species’ of firewood. In addition, Black Locust has anti-rotting properties in the wood, which can prevent the wood from decaying for years or even decades.

Overall, Black Locust is a top firewood, which burns long, hot, and can be stored for long periods of time.

4. Hickory

My second favorite firewood for fires that burn hot and long, is Hickory.

Hickory produces 28.5 million BTUs per cord of heat output, and although there are other firewood species that burn a little hotter, Hickory is better for campfires and cooking due to the beautiful smell and flavors of it’s smoke.

In other words, Hickory is pretty comparable to Black Locust for how hot it is capable of burning. However, if you want to use the wood outdoors for a campfire or cookout, and you want to keep that fire going for a super long time, then Hickory is going to give you a more pleasant experience.

5. Beech

Beech is the final type of firewood in the top 5 for heat output. It burns at 27.5 million BTUs per cord, which is still extremely hot. Beech trees often grow in the shade of other trees, like Oak, and they tend to have hollow trunks.

For firewood burners, the fact that Beech trees are usually hollow is important, because that can make it more difficult to get the same volume of Beech wood compared to non-hollow species like Hickory or Black Locust.

Beech wood is also pretty tough to split, but it has a really nice fragrance when burned. The fragrance and flavor in Beech wood is also why it is used in barrel making. If you’d like to learn more, feel free to check out the below video that I recorded about Beech firewood.

6. Pinyon Pine

Now this one is interesting. Pinyon Pine is the only softwood species to show up on this list. But even though Pinyon Pine is technically classified as a softwood, it is much more dense than other softwood species, such as White Pine.

Pinyon Pine also has the highest heat output of any softwood species in America, burning at 27.1 million BTUs per cord. This is considerably higher than other softwood species’ like White Pine (15.9 million BTUs) or Eastern Red Cedar (13 million BTUs).

(Video) The WORST Smelling Firewood

7. Apple

Now we’ve reached the first fruit wood on this list.

Apple wood is dense and will burn long and hot at 27 million BTUs per cord. One of the main downsides of Apple firewood today, is that modern varieties of Apple trees tend to be quite small.

It’s still worth burning, especially if you have dead trees or branches that wouldn’t be used otherwise. However, the amount of wood you get for the effort will probably be smaller compared to other woods.

With that said, Apple is another great wood for campfires, because of it’s pleasant aroma. It smells lighter and fruitier than Hickory does, and is also used for smoking meats (ever had “apple wood smoked bacon”?).

8. White Oak

You may be surprised to see White Oak so far down on this list, and I can understand that given the popularity of Oak for firewood.

White Oak has an excellent heat output of 26.4 million BTUs per cord, and compared to Gambel Oak, White Oak is a much more common species of firewood. There are a few reasons for this. First, White Oak has a wider natural range, and is more common in colder regions of America (which use more firewood). Second, White Oak trees usually grow much larger than Gambel Oak, and so it provides a more plentiful supply of firewood.

The size, natural range, heat output, and other burning qualities of White Oak, make it among the best types of firewood for heating a home. When you look at the numbers, other species technically burn hotter (like Osage Orange and Apple), but for many people in Central and Eastern America, White Oak will be a more practical source of wood heat.

In addition, Oak (in general) is arguably the most versatile type of wood native to America. It makes excellent firewood for heating and cooking, and is excellent for woodworking, furniture, and more.

9. Bur Oak

There are 4 species of Oak featured on this list. The 3rd is Bur Oak which has a similar heat output to White Oak, at 26.2 million BTUs per cord.

For use as a firewood, Bur Oak is similar to White Oak, it just won’t burn quite as hot or long.

I’ll leave it at that.

(Video) Pine Firewood - How Does it Compare? (Episode 3: Firewood Series)

10. (TIE) Mulberry

I think Mulberry is somewhat underrated for the quality of it’s firewood.

Mulberry is excellent firewood when it’s used in a wood stove. It burns long and hot, at 25.8 million BTUs per cord. And it also produces a nice aroma when burned. Perhaps the biggest issue with Mulberry firewood is that it produces heavy sparks. So it could cause problems for indoor open-air fireplaces, or for outdoor campfires.

Here’s a little video I recorded about Mulberry firewood, feel free to check it out:

10. (TIE) Honey Locust

There’s a ton of Honey Locust trees next to the river where I live.

Honey Locust is good firewood, it burns long and hot at 25.8 million BTUs per cord, but it can be quite difficult to work with. Honey Locust trees produce extremely large clusters of thorns on their trunks and branches. In addition, Honey Locust tends to throw sparks when it burns, so you may want to avoid for open-air fires.

If you can get around the thorns without hurting yourself, and if you’re burning in a wood stove, then Honey Locust can be a great source of wood heat.

12. Red Oak

Red Oak is the 4th hottest burning species of Oak firewood, burning at 24.8 million BTUs per cord. It doesn’t produce as much heat as the other types of Oak mentioned in this list. However, it’s still Oak, and it’s still among the best species’ for hot and long-burning fires.

Now let’s jump to another favorite among firewood burners: Ash.

13. White Ash

If you asked 100 firewood burners what their 5 favorite types of firewood are, probably 70+ people would include Ash in their list. Many would probably call it their #1 favorite.

White Ash has long been a favorite among those who heat their homes with firewood. It burns hot at 24.3 million BTUs per cord, and can sustain a long fire with quality coals. Plus, it’s pretty easy to split and work with.

The sad thing about Ash, is that most mature Ash trees in the US are dying, or already dead, due to the Emerald Ash Borer. The Emerald Ash Borer is an invasive species of beetle, which has decimated the native Ash tree population in America. Sad, but true.

(Video) Ash Firewood - How Does it Compare? (Episode 2: Firewood Series)

If you’d like to learn more about Ash firewood, check out the below video I made about it:

14. Sycamore

Sycamore has a comparatively low heat output of 24.1 million BTUs per cord, but it still easily beats other types of wood like Willow, White Pine, or Cottonwood.

Sycamore is plentiful in some areas, so depending on your situation, it might be a good firewood to still use for heating in the fringe seasons (i.e. Spring/Fall). Sycamore has other qualities that some will also find annoying, including being very difficult to split and producing a moderate amount of smoke.

15. Hard Maple (i.e. Sugar Maple)

There are two main categories of Maple trees in America: Hard Maple and Soft Maple. Hard Maple trees include species like Sugar Maple, which have harder and denser wood compared with Soft Maple trees. An example of a Soft Maple tree would be Silver Maple.

Similar to Sycamore, Hard Maple has a relatively low heat output at 23.9 million BTUs per cord. But, it’s important to remember that this is still significantly higher than many other species’ of wood, like White Pine, Eastern Red Cedar, etc.

Hard Maple also has a pretty nice aroma, but on the downside, it produces quite a bit of smoke when it burns. If you’d like to learn more about Maple firewood, check out my video below:

Honorable Mentions

If you looked through the 15 species’ of wood above, and haven’t seen one that you think is among the best, you may still be correct.

There are a handful of species’ that have a reputation as hot-burning woods that simply didn’t have BTU data available from the university data sources I’ve referenced above. Here are the a few other types of firewood that could have potentially made this list, given sufficient heat output data:

  • Dogwood
  • Ironwood
  • Mesquite

How to Identify Firewood

It’s also worth mentioning that knowing how hot a type of firewood will burn, doesn’t do you much good if you can’t identify it. That’s why I’ve put together, what I believe, is the most helpful guide about firewood identification on the internet. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, but I hope you’ll find it helpful.

Best Smelling Firewood

Finally, if you’re in the mood for a little fun, I’d recommend checking out our ranking of the 11 best smelling firewood species’. I think you’ll get a kick out of it.

(Video) Sassafras Identification and Firewood Quality


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