Is Oak Good Firewood?


Lighting a fire is one of the most ancient human activities. Since the Stone Age, we’ve used fire to keep ourselves warm, cook our food, and provide light and safety at night.

Nowadays, there are so many different kinds of fuel that you can choose for your fire – especially when it comes to firewood.

Since there are so many different types of firewood, it can be difficult to choose which one suits your needs.

One question that might currently be on your mind: Is oak good firewood? 

In this article, we’ll explore whether oak is a good choice overall when it comes to making your next campfire. 

We’ll take a deep dive into the qualities it possesses – such as its smell, spark, and cut difficulty – to determine if it’s firewood that’s worthy of your consideration.

Is oak good firewood? Your guide to campfire fuel.

Oak Firewood Facts

BTU: 24.6 – 29.1 Heat per Cord (Million BTUs)
Weight: 4888 lbs./ Cord (Red Oak, Green)
Weight: 5573 lbs./ Cord (White Oak, Green)
Seasoning Time: 12-24 months
Resin / Sap Content: Low
Splitting Difficulty: Medium
Coals: Excellent
Smoke: Low
Fragrance: Pleasant
Overall Quality: Excellent

What is Oak?

Oak trees can grow almost anywhere in the world, but they are native to the northern hemisphere

These trees are estimated to have been around for over 50 million years. Throughout this time, oak trees have evolved into the many subspecies that we see today. There are over 600 species of oak trees, ranging in size from small shrubs to large, majestic trees.

Soaring to towering heights, many oak trees can grow to as tall as 100 feet. They also enjoy significant longevity and are known to live for almost 300 years.

One of the most interesting facts about oak trees is that they are the state tree of many US states, including Georgia, Illinois, and Maryland. They are also the national tree of the United States. 

Oak trees are known for their strength and durability, and their wood is widely used for construction, furniture, and flooring due to their resistance to decay and rot.

Oak wood can also be found in a variety of colors such as brown, beige, and red. Since it stains well, oak is also often treated with different colors for aesthetic purposes.

Types of Oak Used for Firewood

Oak trees can be broadly divided into two categories: Red and white oaks. These are both commonly used as firewood.

Red oaks have serrated leaf edges and their wood often appears redder in color, while white oaks have more rounded leaf edges with a body that has a more olive appearance.

A mighty oak tree with a beautiful sunbeam shining behind it.

White Oak (Quercus Alba Firewood)

One of the most commonly used species for firewood is the White Oak (Quercus alba). This type of oak is known for its dense, heavy wood and high heat output, making it a popular choice for campfires, fireplaces, and wood-burning stoves.

Red Oak (Quercus Rubra Firewood)

Red oak (Quercus rubra) is another popular species of oak used for firewood. It is known for its high heat output and strong, hot flames, making it a great choice for heating a home or cooking over an open fire. However, red oak has a tendency to produce a lot of sparks and may not be the best choice for indoor fireplaces or wood-burning stoves.

Post Oak (Quercus Stellata Firewood)

Post oak (Quercus stellata) is a type of oak that is commonly used for firewood in the southern United States. It is known for its high heat output and long burn time, making it a popular choice for home heating and cooking. Post oak is also prized for its unique flavor, which is imparted to food when cooked over an open fire.

Live Oak (Quercus Virginiana Firewood)

Quercus virginiana, also known as Southern Red Oak, is a popular choice for firewood due to its high heat output, good burning characteristics, and availability in many regions. It is known for its good aroma when burned, and for its ability to burn for a long period of time. Additionally, it is relatively easy to split and season, making it a convenient choice for many people.

Best Reasons to Use Oak as Firewood 

Burns Slower Than Others 

Oak is known to burn slower than some other firewoods such as pine or poplar, but faster than other hardwoods such as hickory or maple. The exact burn time will depend on various factors such as the species, size, and moisture content of the wood, as well as the fire conditions.

One log of oak can burn for over two hours in the right conditions. Longer burn time means you’ll stay warm more efficiently, without having to refuel the flame as often.

Oak Firewood Generates A Lot Of Heat 

The heat output of firewood is typically measured in BTUs (British Thermal Units) per cord. A cord of wood has a total volume of 128 cubic feet.

When choosing firewood, having a higher BTU means that wood burns much hotter.

At between 24.6 and 29.1 million BTU, oak generates more heat compared to other firewood. It’s hard to find comparable woods that compete with this heat generation!

Aside from producing a hot flame, the fire also doesn’t flicker as much. Oak burns hot and steady, which is perfect for long, cold nights.

A roaring campfire built next to a lake.

Oak Firewood Is Reliable and Efficient

Because of its high heat output, you won’t need much oak to get your campfire toasty warm. That means less time chopping, and more time engaging in more enjoyable tasks.

On top of that, oak tends to have minimal variation in its burning quality -, assuming it’s been properly seasoned. As such, you can be reasonably confident that it will burn similarly.

Oak Firewood Is Low Maintenance

Once you’ve started a fire using oak, the flame doesn’t require a lot of maintenance.

Unlike faster-burning woods that can burn out quickly and leave a fire in need of frequent replenishing, oak tends to keep on by itself. 

The most you might need to do is chuck another log or two into the flame overnight while you go about your business. Ideal for those campers who struggle to keep a campfire going all night.

The Burn Qualities of Oak Firewood


Like all types of firewood, oak has a distinctive smell that depends on whether it has been aged, dried, and seasoned properly.

The smell of oak has been described in many different ways, from age-old perfume and earthy, to vinegary or even sweet. The smell will typically be more pleasant if the wood has been properly seasoned.

Because of these qualities, oak is suitable for heating, campfire cooking, and smoking meat.

Resin and Sap

Oak wood has a comparatively low sap content when compared to other woods. You won’t have to deal with too much of the sticky stuff when chopping or lighting a fire.

Cut and Split Difficulty

Despite being a hardwood, oak is quite easy to split. 

However, it’s much easier to cut and split oak when it is green or wet. Cutting and splitting oak once it has dried up is much more difficult to do.

Be aware that red oak might be easier to split than white oak thanks to its straighter grain. Splitting white oak, on the other hand, can be messy.

Old ax and a deck for chopping wood. Dry oak firewood stacked in a pile, chopped ready for the winter.


Seasoning firewood is the process of drying it to remove as much moisture as possible.  

Properly seasoned wood burns better, smells less, and produces less smoke.

In general, hardwoods like oak require longer drying times. As a result, oak can take up to two years to properly season.

Because of its lengthy seasoning time, make sure to plan ahead if you’re interested in using oak as firewood.


Oak produces minimal smoke when properly seasoned. You won’t need to worry about your fellow camping neighbors complaining about the amount of smoke coming from your campfire.

Note that unseasoned wood generally produces more smoke and leads to other nasty byproducts, such as creosote and sparks.


Firewood that produces a lot of sparks is a fire hazard because it increases the risk of a fire spreading.

Oak produces very few sparks when properly seasoned, making it ideal for outdoor heating and campfires.

The Cost of Using Oak as Firewood

Among hardwoods, oak is relatively cheap. But it could still be considered an expensive firewood option if compared with softwoods.

The cost of oak firewood can vary depending on several factors such as location, availability, and time of year. 

On average, oak firewood can be considered more expensive compared to other types of firewood. This is due to its high energy content and longer burning time, making it a popular choice among homeowners and campers.

While an average cord of oak will set you back between 300 and 500 dollars, its price can drop to as low as 180 dollars.

Pros and Cons of Using Oak as Firewood

Stack of split oak firewood ready to be used for campfires.


  • Inexpensive. It’s relatively cheap (as a hardwood) and easy to get due to its widespread distribution
  • High energy content: Oak is a dense hardwood that releases a lot of heat when burned, making it an efficient fuel source.
  • Long burning time. It burns for a long time while requiring little maintenance of the fire, so you don’t have to hover over it all the time
  • Cost-efficient. Since it produces a significant amount of heat, it’s cost-efficient and requires only some refueling to keep the fire going.
  • Pleasant aroma: Oak firewood has a distinct, pleasant aroma when burned, adding to the overall ambiance of a room or outdoor space.


  • Heavier weight: Oak is a dense wood, making it heavier than other types of firewood, making it more difficult to handle and store.
  • Seasoning time. Seasoning takes a long time—up to two years
  • Requires planning. Oak requires some forward planning because it’s best to cut and split before it is seasoned, unlike other types of firewood which can be cut after they have been seasoned.

The Verdict: Is Oak Good Firewood? 

Oak wood is a great choice for firewood. It’s perfect for people who are looking for cost-efficient firewood that produces a pleasant smell and will last for hours.

However, you will need a fair bit of time to season oak properly so it won’t smoke or spark too much. If you’re looking to light a fire right away and there’s no pre-seasoned oak available, it’s not a great option.

As long as it’s properly seasoned, oak is an overall excellent type of firewood because of its hot flame and low refuelling requirements. Its pleasant scent also means it’s also perfect for outdoor fires and cooking food.

Firewood Facts – Your Guide To Campfire Fuel

There are many types of firewood you could use for your campfire. All of them offer different characteristics which make for better or worse campfires – depending on what you’re looking for.

Discover, below, the key differences between some popular firewood’s to help you determine which wood would be best for your next campfire.

For a complete firewood facts guide, check out our Best Firewood Facts Chart article.

Mitch Taylor
With over 20 years experience with camping and hiking, I've taken it upon myself to share my insights. From common camping and hiking questions to gear recommendations, your adventure starts here.

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