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Best Types of Hardwood Trees to Use for Firewood: Oak, Cherry, Sassafras, Locust, and Ash

Rachel worked as a farm manager for three years in Pennsylvania and now has her own farmstead in Minnesota.

What kind of firewood is best for you, and why?

What kind of firewood is best for you, and why?

What Is the Best Wood to Burn in Fireplaces?

Hardwood, hands down.

While it takes longer to ignite than softwood, there are many benefits to burning hardwood, especially if you use your fireplace or wood stove often (e.g. to cook over or heat your home).

Hardwoods Yield Hotter, Cleaner, Longer-Lasting Fires

Hardwood is denser than softwood, meaning it burns hotter and longer. Because of this, it's more expensive (if you can't chop your own), but you need less of it, so if you use your fireplace often, the price differential should work out in the long run.

Hardwoods also produce far fewer creosote deposits and less ash, meaning your chimney will stay comparatively free of buildup and you won't have to do as much cleanup when the fire is out (part of burning clean fires has to do with properly seasoning your firewood, which is covered at the end of this article).

Lastly, hardwoods also burn longer and result in wonderful coals.

Understanding BTUs

A BTU (British Thermal Unit) is a standardized measurement of energy used to describe the power of various heating and cooling appliances, but it can be applied to wood as well (1 BTU is about the amount of energy needed to raise a pound of water 1˚F).

Below, you will find a table rating the five types of firewood in this article by how much heat they give off per cord.

What Firewood Burns Hottest?

SpeciesMillion BTUs per Cord

Black Locust

26.8

Red Oak

24.0

White Ash

23.6

Black Cherry

19.5

Sassafras

18.9

This is all to say that if you only use your fireplace once in a while, and more for aesthetics than anything else, you can get away with using softwood. But hardwood is what you want for heating or cooking. And there are literally hundreds of species of hardwood trees from which you can harvest firewood.

Here are five types of hardwood that I have had a lot of personal experience with. In addition to being described in detail, each one is rated for "split-ability," heat, kindling grade, and cook-wood grade.