Is Hickory Good Firewood?

Hickory is one of the most popular woods grown and used in the United States. It is part of the walnut family Juglandaceae and so is extremely tough and durable. This is why it is very much a commercial wood.

When it isn’t being turned into ax handles or drumsticks, can hickory be used as firewood?

Hickory is one of the top firewoods to burn in most situations. It has a phenomenal heat output of up to 32 million BTUs per cord depending on the variety while creating very few burning problems once seasoned. The smell of hickory makes it a desirable smoking wood and so is fairly cheap to access.

hickory firewood thumbnail

What Are The Varieties Of Hickory

There are around 18 species of hickory in all but only 6 that grow in the US:

  • Shagbark
  • Bitternut
  • Mockernut
  • Nutmeg
  • Pignut
  • Water

These 6 types do vary in burning qualities though it will not matter too much which variety of hickory grows near you as they all make excellent firewood.

What Are The Physical Characteristics Of Hickory

Heat per cord (Million BTUs)25.6 – 32.3
Weight dry (lbs per cord)3713 – 4685
Weight green (lbs per cord)5100 – 5780
Seasoning time1 year +
Resin / Sap contentLow
Splitting DifficultyDifficult
SmellExcellent and Fragrant
Coal ProductionVery good
Creosote Build-upMinimal

Does its Wood Split Easily?

Hickory is full of grain, which means there is a higher chance of it developing knots, making its splitting more difficult.

However, if you are able to find a hickory tree that has grown without knots, then you will find it easy to split.

Like most woods, it is better to split hickory while it is still green. It is a very dense wood which only intensifies when dry. So, to save yourself and your ax some extra work, split hickory while it’s still green.

How Much Sap Does It Have?

With one of the lowest sap contents of any tree in the world, hickory will not create any mess while processing.

It is a species that is high in moisture rather than sap.

How Does The Wood Smell?  

If you ever spend your winter nights wishing summer would hurry up so you can cook your favorite BBQ food, then hickory is the wood for you.

Its smell is the perfect example of what firewood should smell like and will take you back to a cool summer evening BBQing your favorite burgers.          

Heat Output And Efficiency Of Hickory

The heat generated by hickory is considered one of the best in the world. However, its various varieties do differ slightly.

Pignut hickory has the highest heat output of 32.3 BTUs, with shagbark and mockernut coming in a close second with a 31.1 BTU measurement.

Bitternut Hickory has a BTU of 28, while water hickory has a 26.2 BTU.

The coolest burning hickory wood is nutmeg hickory which still has a very impressive 25.6 BTU.

Fire Characteristics Of Hickory

It is the density of hickory that allows it to burn a steady, and produce stable heat. In fact, a single firewood log of hickory can provide up to 4 hours of heat.

Hickory’s excellent coaling qualities also help to keep its fire burning for longer. The coals will remain hot even once the main fire has died down, making it easier to restart a fire when you are ready.

So long as you season hickory long enough to reduce its high moisture content, then you will not experience any smoke when you burn it. Neither will you have to worry about a build-up of creosote because of the lack of smoke.

The only real burning issue with hickory is that it does not ignite quickly. Though once you get a hickory fire burning hot and strong, it is easy to forget about it as it requires little maintenance.

Is It Okay To Burn Hickory In A Fireplace?

Hickory is one of the best firewoods you could possibly burn in your fireplace.

It leaves very little ash and instead leaves strong, hot coals for your next fire. The lack of sap means that you won’t get any sparks or smoke, so it is an overall easily maintainable fire to keep.

The main issue you may experience is the fire getting too hot or not igniting quickly enough.

This can easily be solved by mixing hickory in with a few lower-burning kinds of wood that ignite quicker such as ash or cedar.

Or, if it is a particularly cold winter’s night and you do want the phenomenal amount of heat produced by hickory, then use some softwood kindling to start the fire.

How Expensive Is Hickory Firewood?

Hickory is considered to be premium firewood, as such, it is priced appropriately. According to, a cor of kiln-dried split Hickory firewood will set you back 540USD.

How Long To Season Hickory

If you use hickory before it has had long enough to season, then you will not have a very pleasant experience. Its naturally high moisture content needs to be dried out to less than 20%; otherwise, it will smell awful and smoke a lot.

In most cases, hickory will need at least a year to fully season but will likely need longer as it is such a dense wood.

Your best bet is to check how seasoned your wood is after a year and then check it with a moisture meter every few months until it is ready to burn.

Pros And Cons of Hickory Wood


  • Extremely efficient heat
  • High quality coals
  • Minimal smoke and creosote production
  • Best firewood smell


  • Difficult to split
  • Prolonged seasoning time

How Does Hickory Compare To Other Firewood?

Though eucalyptus has a better heat output as an overall species, hickory is far more common and is better to burn due to its lack of creosote production.

Hickory is often pitted against black locusts in terms of heat output. It falls just short of being the best burning firewood that is widely available in the US.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Is Hickory Good For Smoking?

Yes, in fact, you can buy specialist smoking liquid that is made to smell like hickory. It is the preferred smoking choice and will always win against apple.

Can I Use Hickory In A Log Burner?

A log burner is arguably the best place to burn hickory. It will last for hours and will keep your home cozy without feeling too hot, like in an open fireplace.

Can I Burn Hickory On A Stove?

Hickory can be burnt on a stove as it releases little smoke or sparks. But it will most likely burn your food before it cooks it fully.


Hickory is easily one of the best firewood choices in North America. Its lack of smoke and extremely high-quality burning characteristics make it a safe, efficient wood to burn.

Recommended reading:

Scroll to Top