The cherry tree can grow to 35 feet in height with broad widespread branches. Although they are best-loved for their fruit, the wood is also sought after for making furniture and musical instruments. But how good is cherry firewood for burning? We’re about to take a close look at whether this wood is worth tossing in the fire, so that you don’t waste your time or money.

Is cherry good for firewood?

Cherry firewood is a great choice for firewood as it is easy to split and gives off a lovely fragrance in the fire. Although its heat output is less than other popular hardwoods like oak, it burns clean and provides excellent coals.

  • Easy to split wood with any type of axe.
  • Produces excellent coals and burns clean.
  • Perfect for smoking meat and other food.
  • Lower heat output than most common hardwoods.
Infographic about cherry firewood data

Cherry firewood burn qualities

1. Heat output

To evaluate firewood, looking at heat output will usually be your first consideration. Whether you’re sitting around a campfire or relaxing at home, adequate warmth is an important criterion.

Cherry firewood gives off 20.4 million BTUs of heat per cord, which is relatively low. As a comparison white Gambel oak provides 30.7 and pinyon is 27.1. However, it still offers better heat than pine, spruce, and willow.

Logs of cherry in a campfire.
Cherry firewood makes excellent campfires.

If you live in an area that becomes freezing cold in winter, you may want to combine cherry with another hotter-burning wood. Of course, there are many factors to consider. If your home is well insulated, then cherry will still do the job. You could also use cherry in the shoulder seasons when maximum heat isn’t needed.

Check out the following table comparing the heat output of cherry to various other common types of firewood.   

Wood varietyHeat per Cord (Million BTUs)
White fir14.6
Spruce15.5
Cottonwood15.8
Willow17.6
Cherry20.4
Hackberry21.2
Tamarack21.8
Pinyon27.1
Beech27.5
Black locust27.9
Gambel oak30.7
Rock elm32.9

2. Smoke

Wood that gives off smoke like a steam engine will result in a smoked-out house and sore eyes. Thankfully, seasoned cherry burns clean, giving off low levels of smoke. Whether you’re huddled around a campfire or sitting in the comfort of your own home, smoke won’t be an issue.

Keep in mind that the firewood needs to be adequately seasoned before burning it. Green wood from the cherry tree is high in water content and will billow out smoke if it’s tossed into the fire. Unseasoned wood is also much less efficient as the fire uses all its energy to evaporate water instead of giving off heat.

3. Ease of splitting

Splitting cherry firewood is child’s play as it has a straight grain with a medium texture. You can make splitting the wood even easier by investing in a splitting axe or maul that’s fit for purpose.

Discussions throughout forums are always divided on how easy wood is to split. The reason no one agrees is that some wood is straight while others get the crotch. That’s the area where several limbs come together into one gnarly, knotted mess. If you try to split this section of the tree, then forget to do it by hand and use a hydraulic splitter.

4. Sparks

Some types of firewood, like larch or mulberry, fire off a lot of sparks as they burn. Inside a wood stove, you may enjoy the fireworks display. But if you have an open hearth or are camping, excessive sparks and popping can create a fire hazard.

Cherry will produce almost no sparks, so you can light the fire and relax. Keep in mind if you’re in the outdoors then you can never be too careful. Avoid leaving a burning fire unattended as it can be unpredictable.

5. Aroma

Cherry gives off a lovely fragrance as it burns and is considered one of the best firewoods for this purpose. It has a unique smell that is sweet and lingering. Some find the aroma is present days after the fire has gone out.

Meat smokers and barbecue enthusiasts love cherry for the flavor it imparts into food. Along with apple, hickory, and mesquite, home cooks generally agree that cherry is one of the best types of wood you’ll get your hands on.

6. Coaling

The quality of coal produced by firewood impacts how the fire burns and how long it will last. Cherry is a variety of hardwood and is one of the best for coaling. Toss a log in the fire and it will keep you warm all night. The next day, re-starting the fire is simple thanks to the embers that’ll still be glowing.

7. Creosote build-up

Over time, a black tar-like substance gets deposited on the inside of the chimney. Some types of firewood are worse than others, meaning you’ll need to clean it out more often.

Like most hardwoods, cherry doesn’t leave much creosote as it burns. Instead, it burns clean and hot, exactly what you’d expect from top-performing firewood.

How long does it take to season cherry tree wood?

Compared to most popular firewood, cherry is relatively quick to season. You’ll need 6-12 months of seasoning time for cherry firewood, although if you leave it 18 months, you’ll get a hotter burning wood with less smoke.

Seasoning time can be reduced if you have an old cherry tree that has been dead for years. They’ve already dried out so you may only need to season this wood for 4-6 months.

Sour cherry tree on white background
The wood from a cherry tree has a variety of uses.

Tips for seasoning cherry

To speed up cherry seasoning, a hot and dry climate will help. As that isn’t possible for everyone, accelerate the drying time further by following these tips:

  • Create spaces in the rows: build a series of stacks with a 3-5” gap between each one to help create airflow.
  • Stack in the right place: expedite drying time by avoiding shady spots and facing the stack towards the wind.
  • Cover the wood: use a suitable cover to protect the stacks from the elements while keeping one side exposed to the wind.
  • Raise the wood: lay the wood on some planks or pallets to create airflow beneath the wood.
  • Split the firewood: splitting the logs increases the surface area that gets exposed to wind and sunshine.

Commonly asked questions

When is the best time to fell a cherry for firewood?

If possible, chop down a cherry tree and split the firewood between winter and early spring. During this cold part of the year, there is lower sap and moisture content, resulting in wood that seasons quicker.

Is cherry firewood good for smoking meat?

Cherry is highly recommended for smoking meat, giving food sweet, smoky flavor that few can resist. Other good options for meat smoking include hickory, mesquite, and apple.

How long does a cord of cherry last?

The length of time a cord of cherry firewood lasts will vary depending on the fire you’re using, the climate, and how well the wood is seasoned. You should expect one cord to last between 8-10 weeks, enough time to get you through the coldest snap.

How can I identify a cherry tree?

To identify a cherry tree, look for pointed oval leaves that have jagged edges. They range from 2-5” and alternate along each side of the branch. Another sign you’re looking at a cherry tree is when the bark is brown or gray. The bark may be slightly peeling off, exposing a reddish wood underneath.

How can I identify cherry firewood?

The easiest way to identify cherry firewood is to look for reddish-brown wood. Out of all the common tree varieties in the United States, reddish wood means it is cherry or mulberry. However, mulberry has an outer white ring, while cherry is red throughout.

Cherry tree wood is easy to split.

Fast facts

  • The botanical name for the cherry tree is Prunus avium. It is a part of the family Rosaceae.
  • Cherry blossom petals are edible and can be used in tea, desserts, and cocktails.
  • Common cherry trees that produce edible fruit include the Wild cherry or Sweet cherry (Prunus avium) or sour cherry tree (Prunus cerasus). 
  • Most varieties of cherry trees have a short life of around 20 years although some can last 250 years.
  • Flowering cherry trees are grown for ornamental purposes rather than for fruit.

Summing up

If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on cherry firewood, then you’re sure to be pleased with the results. With a BTU of 20.4 million, this wood may not burn the hottest. But it makes up for this with excellent coaling, low sparks, and excellent fragrance.

Cherry firewood is one of the best all-rounder firewood varieties and it’s our recommended choice for meat smoking. If you want a hotter burning wood, then hickory may be a better option. This wood outputs more heat than cherry and has a wonderful fragrance to go with it.

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