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fuelwood species & moisture content discussion - Forno Bravo Forum: The Wood-Fired Oven Community


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I'm Peter Reinhart! Ask Me Anything! Monday, February 15, 2016 7:00-8:00 pm EST

To kick off our AMA feature, we have invited author, chef and master bread maker and host of Pizza Quest, Peter Reinhart, to be our first host! Peter will be in the Forum on Monday, February 15th, from 7:00 - 8:00 pm EST. If you are unable to be online during the live session, you can post your questions in the sticky post. Peter will answer those questions during the live session on February 15th. You can view Peter's answers to your questions as well as what happened during the live session in the session thread.

Ask Me Anything New Forum Feature

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fuelwood species & moisture content discussion

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  • fuelwood species & moisture content discussion

    I plan to use a combination of Red-oak, and hard/sugar Maple for fuel, I am using these woods because that is what I have in abundance and at a decent cost locally. In my wood-fired mobile commercial BBQ pits, I use a 70/30 blend and the reasons for that mixture is explained later in this post.

    Here lies the problem, what I consider "seasoned, ready to burn fuelwood" suitable for cooking is at a moisture content between 18%-22%, BUT our local firewood dealers refer to any wood species with a total of 6 months age after being cut & split seasoned wood! I commonly see moisture bubbling out of the end-grain of the wood I have purchased, I burn that in our woodstove to heat our home, but I cannot cook with it due to the acrid smoke and huge amounts of creosote that it creates.

    I have found 24 months minimum is required to dry oak to at least a 22% moisture content, anything above that moisture level creates a thick black smoke and does not burn well at all, and it tends to coat your food with creosote. Anything under 18% moisture seems to give up it's smoke to rapidly, and you do not get a good secondary smoke combustion, which leads to excessive fuel being needed to keep temperatures within cooking range.
    My BBQ pits are indirect-heat style cookers, the fire is contained in the firebox, with the heat and smoke only traveling into the cook-chamber. The semi-technical description of this style pit is an "offset, direct-flow, log-burning mobile BBQ pit"

    Wood burning characteristics;
    Maple, it creates tons of coals, but offers little live flame, it also creates large amounts of ash after the initial combustion is complete.

    Red-Oak, great live flame, very little ash production if burned at the right moisture level for cooking use and minimal coal production.

    I do not currently have a WFO, but a large FB WFO is in my plans for the expansion of my business. It will be a wood/gas combo commercial unit kept in a commercial kitchen viewable to the public through glass partitions.

    My main concerns are having enough properly seasoned wood each day to keep the oven fired for 14-16 hours each day, 6 days a week. and my cooks being able to properly maintain temperatures, that is why I want a t-stat controlled gas back-up option to keep the temperature in the proper range if they forget to feed it fuelwood.

    After the days cooking is done, I hope to stack a large portion of my next days fuelwood in the oven for it to act like a kiln to help dry the wood that has not had enough cure time to reach the moisture level content that I prefer to cook with.

    Will this become a problem and possibly cause damage to my oven? does anyone feel that this practice may cool the oven too rapidly where I may damage the structure from too rapid of contraction?

    After the oven has all coals removed for the night, and my fuelwood is in there to dry, do I leave the door opening unobstructed? do I close it fully? or do I partially cover the opening for airflow to still be present to help drive out some of that excess moisture in the wood?

    What have the members here found for optimum moisture level for their fuelwood, and what species do you prefer to burn, and why?

    I look forward to discussing the topics that I have laid out in the thread,


    Although I am not a newbie to making pizza, or cooking other food items with wood, I am new to wood-fired ovens and I would appreciate any help that I can garner.

  • #2
    Re: fuelwood species &amp; moisture content discussion

    Thanks you for the post.
    Watch Salt Online Free


    • #3
      Re: fuelwood species &amp; moisture content discussion

      These things will burn just about anything.

      Since all wood, hardwood or softwood, gives off the same BTU's per pound, go for the wood that is cheapest by weight. Also consider wood that will be easy to split into smaller pieces. I split mine down to a size that is about 3 to 4 inches in diameter.

      The key is that the wood has to be well seasoned. Even if the seller assures that the wood is "seasoned" , I would store it in a well ventilated woodshed for over at least an additional summer season. I use mostly Douglas Fir and Alder, and buy the wood in the spring for use the following summer = 12 plus months of additional seasoning. It is my opinion that wood used for wood burning ovens should be more seasoned than would be considered enough for a fireplace or wood burning stove.

      As to drying in the oven, this works OK. Make sure the oven is cool enough first. If the temperature is over 450 F or so you could end up "coking off" the wood. Leave the door open just a crack so the moisture can escape. I did this occasionally when I first built my oven and woodshed and had not yet established my wood management regime.
      Last edited by Neil2; 07-22-2010, 11:51 AM.


      • #4
        Re: fuelwood species &amp; moisture content discussion

        If I was in the business of needing a steady quantity of firewood, I would keep a running "firewood wanted" ad going on craigslist. Put your buy price and let them bring it to you. Green or seasoned, round or split...it wouldn't matter, you just have to arrange it in a way that you know what you have. I just did a quick look locally...here's an ad and pics


        Date: 2010-06-24, 8:07PM CDT
        Reply to: sale-mf7df-1809627260@craigslist.org [Errors when replying to ads?]



        A great firewood around here is mesquite...it burns hot! But, if it is not well seasoned - and in the case of mesquite, bark falling off seasoned - it is leaves a bitter taste, especially with BBQ.


        • #5
          Re: fuelwood species &amp; moisture content discussion

          I bought a cord of 2 year seasoned oak for $450 and it burns like it had gas on it. Fire starting is a breeze when you have seasoned wood. There are places that sell Klin dried wood in my area which they say will have no more than 20% moisture.


          • #6
            Re: fuelwood species &amp; moisture content discussion

            I find the only way to guarantee dry wood, the size I want it is to buy a tandem load of oak/maple/beech logs , cut it to length, and put it through my little [5hp honda] splitter . A truck load is $800 = 24 cords @ 16in length
            And it keeps you in shape [or hobbles you]


            • #7
              Re: fuelwood species &amp; moisture content discussion

              I am posting and I hope that it'll help. The aroma of fruit woods is also good when its seasoned and you get a good heat. The difference between your open fire and a stove for seasoned wood is you have more control of the speed of burn with a stove particularly the ones that self regulate with a thermostat so you can regulate the rate of burn and subsequently the heat output.
              electric fireplaces


              • #8
                Re: fuelwood species &amp; moisture content discussion

                Thank you for your sharing, I have been used to dry wood.
                The sun on the paint on the window, My sweating forehead over the candle in a wine bottle.