Seasoned wood refers to wood that only contains about 20% of the moisture inside. As you know, freshly cut wood has at least 60% moisture, making it harder to ignite. The result is poorly burnt wood that produces very minimal heat.
Added to that, unseasoned wood can contribute to creosote formation. Creosote is a thick, black, carbon-rich residue usually left in your smoker or grill if your wood is not burning properly. It also makes meat taste bitter and can even numb your tongue.
If you want to ensure that you have a great smoking experience, then learning how to season wood is the first step.
How To Season Firewood – The fastest methods
1. Know The Type Of Wood You’re Using
The type of wood toll season will determine how much time you need to spend to season it. This way, you’ll be able to prepare during the right time of the year.
For example, if you think your wood needs around six months to be completely seasoned and you need firewood around October (when it’s winter), you need to start seasoning around March and April.
If you don’t have a specific target date, the summer months will be most ideal as there’s sun almost every day.
2. Cut, Split, and Size Your Wood Properly
Think about where you’ll be using your wood and make sure that the length fits there. This way, you don’t have to cut the wood again after seasoning it. You also need to ensure that they are of the same sizes so that it’s easier to stack.
When splitting the wood, it’s also recommended to split it along the grain, so it dries up faster. This is very important because if you don’t split your wood, then you might end up still having wet wood even if you seasoned it during the summer.
3. Stack Your Wood Correctly
You should make sure that your wood is not touching the ground. A firewood log rack would help with this. On top of this, you should make sure to leave some air gaps in between.
Making sure that there is proper airflow in and around your wood will help them dry efficiently. You can also make sure that no wood will remain wet after the whole seasoning process.
Pick a good stacking place where the wood can get plenty of sunlight, too. Also, make sure not to stack near the walls, as this also prevents good airflow.
4. Cover With A Roof
Protect your wood from rain or snow by having a roof on top of them. A tarp or some boards will do. However, make sure not to wrap the wood completely as this prevents good airflow, thus making the drying process slower.
5. Leave Your Wood Out In The Sun For The Summer
It’s recommended to leave your wood out uncovered under the sun to dry it faster during the summer season. Once autumn comes, cover it again (as instructed above), so it continues drying before winter.
How do I know if the wood is seasoned?
It’s very easy to tell if your wood is seasoned properly because seasoned and unseasoned wood has very different appearances.
Unseasoned wood, or green wood as they call it, appears greenish to light brown color compared to seasoned wood. Apart from the color, you can also tell that the wood is not dried correctly because the bark could not be peeled off in one go. You can also observe that there’s still moisture inside. And if you try to tear green wood, there’ll be strands of wood and bark seen.
Seasoned wood, on the other hand, is the complete opposite:
- It is browner and darker, and there’s very light to no appearance of green coloration
- The ends are dry, and you’ll even see it splitting
- The bark is very dry and is already coming away
- It’s very light because of the lack of moisture inside
- If you hit two seasoned wood together, it makes a hollow sound
If you’re unsure if the wood is seasoned or unseasoned, even after looking at the characteristics, you can get yourself a moisture meter to get a reading of how much moisture is inside.
Remember: A properly seasoned wood should have less than 20% of moisture. The lower, the better.
The Best Woods To Smoke With
Apart from a high-quality smoker and using properly seasoned wood, it’s also important to know what type of wood you should use. Depending on the meat you’re going to use and the smoke flavor you want to get, here are the best woods to smoke with:
Maple: This is best used if you’re looking for a sweet and mild flavor. This is most suitable for smoking delicate chicken, pork, and game foul.
Pecan: If you’re looking for a mix of rich, sweet, and nutty flavors, this is for you. It’s also best used in combination with hardwood to create a good balance of flavor.
Fruit Wood: Fruitwood includes apple, cherry, peach, and pear. As the name implies, these woods give a sweet and mild flavor to the meat.
Mesquite: If you’re looking for a really strong flavor, this is for you. This wood is not highly recommended for beginners as it can be challenging to use. You will only require very few amounts of mesquite, so you don’t overpower the taste of the meat.
Oak: This is one of the go-to woods that beginners can use. It has a strong flavor but not as strong as mesquite and will be perfect if used along with fruitwood.
Hickory: This wood produces a sweet, savory, and a bit balcony flavor. It’s a lot stronger than oak. It’s very versatile and can be used with other wood to produce a balanced flavor.
Benefits of Burning Seasoned Wood
Burning seasoned wood is more than just about making sure that we produce quality smoke. It’s also so we can burn wood quickly, safely, clean, and efficiently.
Burning unseasoned wood also means burning wood that still contains moisture in it. It takes a lot longer to ignite because, as we know, moisture (or water) doesn’t catch fire. And in moments that you do ignite it, the wood won’t even burn well; thus, not producing enough heat.
Safe and Clean
Unseasoned wood produces a lot of smoke, increasing the rate of creosote it produces. This is a dangerous chemical that can cause irritation when inhaled and can restrict proper airflow if accumulated. Seasoned wood, on the other hand, produces cleaner smoke with lesser amounts of creosote.
Seasoned wood is a lot more efficient to use. This is because when you burn unseasoned wood, heat energy will spend more time removing moisture than heating the smoker or your home (if you’re using firewood).
Commonly Asked Questions
Kiln Drying utilizes an oven to dry the wood. Unlike air drying, you can control the environment as the wood dries. This includes the surrounding temperature, humidity, and steam levels. It’s a lot faster because there are no outside and unpredictable elements involved, but this process is also more expensive than air drying.
Depending on the wood you’re drying, seasoning can take from 6-12 months long. You should never go over 18 months, or else the wood would lose flavor. Things such as when you started seasoning, the amount of rainfall, stacking, etc., can also affect the drying process.
Yes, firewood does dry out in winter. However, it takes a lot longer than when drying it during the summer season.
Yes, you can cover the firewood with a tarp, but don’t cover it completely. This will trap water vapor inside, there’s no proper airflow, and the wood won’t dry out.
Seasoning wood is a very long but important process if you want to ensure high-quality smoke. If you don’t have time to season your own wood, then make sure that what you’re buying is properly seasoned by checking its appearance.
If you do want to try seasoning wood, then just remember two things: airflow and timing.
These two are very important to ensure the success of your seasoning. Airflow ensures that no areas in and around your wood stack would stay wet. On the other hand, timing ensures that outside factors won’t be much of a problem in the drying process.
Again, this is a long process, but if done right, you can ensure clean, safe, efficient, and high-quality wood that you can use for the next months to come, whether it’s for smoking or for warming up your home during winter.