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james 08-21-2006 03:15 PM

Choosing and finding wood
Hello all,
This is a sticky posting on choosing and finding wood that will stay at the top of the "Firing Your Oven" forum.

I was thinking it would be a good idea for folks to say where they got their wood, how much is costs, etc. Sharing good leads on firewood sources is good for everyone, and even if you don't find someone else in your region who had a good lead, at least you can see what folks are buying and paying.

As a general rule, food cooked in a refractory oven does not take on as much "flavor" from the wood as a grill. The biggest gain from a wood-fired oven is how refractory ovens wood (for more on that you can read Still, you have a nice live fire in the oven while cooking pizza, so the wood does have an impact.

Joseph at The Fire Within says that he uses Apple when he is cooking pizzas, because the nice smell brings in the crowds.

I think the best woods are fruit and nut. Almond, Apple, Cherry, Plum and Walnut are all great, and you can find them in many parts of the country. As a mainstream wood, oak is also very good. It gives you a nice balance of flame and coals, which is important. You can find a cord of either Oak, or Oak/Madrone mix in Sonoma county for about $300/delivered.

The only rule on wood is to not burn pine, fir or cedar. They don't add a lot of heat to the oven, they burn very black and smokey and they soot up you oven opening, vent and chimney.

So please, share with us what you burn, where you buy it, and how much you have to pay.

Also, what do you use for kindling? Personally, I burn oak and fruit wood from trees I have pruned at our property.

Richard 08-22-2006 02:29 PM

For Southern California , Los Angeles County and Ventura County.
They deliver.

CanuckJim 08-23-2006 02:17 AM


I posted a lenghty thread on wood selection a while ago, so I won't repeat myself. Because of the area I'm in, wood is abundant, and I haven't needed to buy any for several years. My personal favourite is maple limbs, about three inches in diameter. Standing dead is best, because it's ready to go. Standing dead elm is common on farms here also, and I cut it when it's available. Both are high in BTUs and get my oven smokin hot.


jayjay 11-04-2006 07:38 PM

Here in the Philippines most of our firewood is well under three inches.
We have a lot of Mango, and some Mahagany. We also use Santol and
Nara. These are woods that many of you have not heard of. I beleive that
part of the problem I had/have with my oven is not getting it hot enough.
JJ :cool:

ray g 03-02-2007 05:48 AM

Re: Choosing and finding wood
I feel I must point out that walnut should not be used in your oven while you have food in it. Walnut has poisons in it which can be released without them denaturing during beginning ignition (the first smoke coming off the wood). These can condense onto your food and hurt you. There are many other woods which are dangerous for this reason, and a little research can prevent one from exposure to a potential poison.

james 03-02-2007 05:55 AM

Re: Choosing and finding wood

Welcome aboard, and thanks. I've definitely burned walnut -- are there sources you could point us to to read more?

CanuckJim 03-02-2007 08:06 AM

Re: Choosing and finding wood

As a woodworker and woodturner, I'm quite aware that walnut, black walnut in particular, has oils in it that definitely give me a headache from the dust if I don't wear a mask. Also dyes my hands purple. This is true of other woods, too, such as rosewood, pearwood, Cuban mahogany, Cocobolo (Mexican), many other rainforest type woods (farmed) and even some exotic Australian bits. However, I've burned lots of walnut cutoffs in my oven, even chunks of Cocobolo, with no ill effects. These ovens burn very hot, and, without documentation, I'd be sceptical about the dangers of residuals (poisons??) on food. I'd like to see a report or two before making a firm judgment, though.


ray g 03-02-2007 08:28 AM

Re: Choosing and finding wood
I don't have a citation which definitely says that one shouldn't eat walnut wood, but there are quite a few which warn against using walnut wood shavings as horse bedding or feed, and why. Also, it is quite toxic to many plants (the "juglone" compound), and breathing the sawdust is toxic to people (that's true for many woods, including Eucalyptus species especially).
Growing up (suburbs) it was common knowledge to be careful about walnut, and reinforced when I started using it to make furniture. I have no fears about using it to warm up my oven, but I won't use it while food is in the oven. Same goes for pine and fir.
I'm including a few web links which are somewhat useful.:

Well, I can't, because the "administrator" of this forum won't let me!


ray g 03-02-2007 08:31 AM

Re: Choosing and finding wood
To each (and their companions) their own poison.
Remember when carbon tetrachloride fire extinguishers were OK?

jengineer 03-02-2007 03:39 PM

Re: Choosing and finding wood
Ray your links didn't come through because the Admin is trying to keep spammers out. We have seen quite a few first posts include links to spam sites and this is but one way to discourage that kind of behaviour. I am not sure of the number of posts required before you are allowed to inset a link or a photo. Stick with us and soon you will be unfettered. I am off board until monday but you could shoot an email to James (The Head Honcho) with the links and he can insert them for you.

I am no where cognizant of chemical engineering but here are some stats on Walnut pruning. I would assume that this is unseasoned wood
from an EPA report

Fire type : Walnut prunings, pile fire

Modified Combustion Efficiency 0.95
Emission factor (g/kg)
Benzene 0.016
Toluene 0.011
Styrene 0.002
Cresols 0.007
Naphthalene 0.018

quoted source:
Jenkins, B.M., S.Q. Turn, R.B. Williams, M. Goronea, H. Abd-el-Fattah, J. Mehlschau, N. Raubach, D.P.Y. Chang, M. Kang, S.V. Teague, O.G. Raabe, D.E. Campbell, T.A. Cahill, L. Pritchett, J. Chow, A.D. Jones. 1996. Atmospheric pollutant emission factors from open burning of agricultural and forest biomass by wind tunnel simulations.
Project A932-126, California Air Resources Board, Sacramento, CA.

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