The pinyon pine is a pyramid-shaped tree that typically grows 10-30 feet in height. It is native to the Four Corners area of the United States and is famous for its edible nuts. This guide will look at whether pinyon makes good firewood and how it compares to other popular options.

Is pinyon pine good for firewood?

Pinyon is an excellent type of firewood that provides similar heat to hardwoods like black locust, oak, and beech. It is an easy-to-split wood that quickly lights and gives off a pleasant fragrance as it burns.

  • High heat output
  • Easy to split
  • May spark and pop
  • Often used in chimineas
  • Ideal for kindling
Infographic of pinyon pine firewood data

Pinyon firewood burn qualities

1. Heat output

The heat given off by wood as it burns is an important consideration when choosing firewood. Whether you’re huddled around a campfire or relaxing at home, you want to stay warm.

Pinyon pine firewood provides a toasty warm 27.1 million BTUs per cord. That’s an impressive heat rating that rivals many of the popular hardwoods. If you live in a freezing climate, pinyon will get you through the coldest nights in winter.

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

Wood VarietyHeat per Cord (Million BTUs)
Black walnut22.2
White ash24.2
Red oak24.6
Honey locust26.7
Black locust27.9
White oak29.1
Osage orange32.9

2. Smoke

Whether inside or outdoors, too much smoke leads to sore, red eyes. Properly seasoned pinyon usually burns clean and gives off minimal smoke. It’s useful wood for any style of fire, even open fireplaces without a door.

Like any firewood, pinyon pine should always be well seasoned before burning. Green pinyon contains water that will cause unpleasant levels of smoke. Unseasoned pinyon will also use all its energy heating water and will produce much less heat.

3. Ease of splitting

Most of the time pinyon pine is easy to split by hand. A splitting axe will work fine for most jobs although it’s good to have a maul on hand for the tougher sections.

The crotch of a pinyon pine is difficult to split. This is a gnarly, twisted section where multiple limbs and the trunk meet. You may prefer to use a hydraulic splitter for this part of the tree.

It’s best to split pinyon while it is still green. Unseasoned wood isn’t as dense and it will season quicker in smaller pieces.

4. Sparks

Pinyon is known to spark and pop as it burns. While some enjoy the fireworks display, sparking embers could cause an unwanted fire or burns to the carpet.

Well-seasoned pinyon pine will burn more cleanly, so it’s important to allow sufficient time for the wood to dry.

Keep a close eye on outdoor fires and never leave them unattended. A random spark could turn a relaxing campfire into a much larger blaze.

5. Aroma

Pinyon pine gives off an excellent fragrance as it burns. It has an intoxicating pine smell that differs from other types of wood.

If you enjoy cooking with a flame then pinyon pine is a great option. It will add extra flavor to barbecued food, smoked meats, poultry, and seafood.

A chiminea is a popular type of potbelly-shaped outdoor stove. Pinyon pine is commonly used in these fires, an ideal fuel source for heating and cooking.

6. Coaling

Pinyon pine produces good coals that allow fires to keep giving off heat for longer. You can stay warm without having to constantly add more wood. Once the fire burns out, there are minimal ashes to clean up.

When compared to other firewood varieties, pinyon makes coals that are much better than other faster-growing types of pine. However, it won’t match oak or hickory for its coals.

Pinyon makes better coals than juniper firewood or other pine varieties like Ponderosa, Lodgepole, and White.

7. Creosote build-up

Creosote is a nasty black substance that gets deposited on the inside of chimneys as the fire burns. Pinyon doesn’t produce much creosote if it has been properly seasoned. It burns clean with low amounts of resin and sap. Thankfully, chimney maintenance won’t be too much of a headache when burning pinyon.

A mature pinyon pine at Colorado National Monument with a canyon and mountains in background.
A mature pinyon pine at Colorado National Monument.

6 tips for seasoning pinyon

To speed up pinyon firewood seasoning follow these quick and easy tips.

  • Cover the wood or position it under a shelter to protect it from the rain and snow.
  • Face the exposed side of the firewood towards the wind.
  • Place the firewood on pallets to create airflow beneath the wood.
  • Stack the wood away from shady places that don’t get lots of sunlight.
  • Split the logs before seasoning so that more surface area is exposed to the wind and sunlight.
  • Stack up the wood in piles with a 3-5” space between each one to encourage airflow.
Closeup of burning pinyon pine firewood in a chiminea
Well seasoned Pinyon pine firewood burns well in a chiminea.

Commonly asked questions

How long does it take to season pinyon pine firewood?

People living in warm, dry climates should allow 8-12 months of seasoning time. Those in cooler areas are best to allow 12-18 months for their pinyon to season adequately.

When is the best time to fell a pinyon pine for firewood?

Try to fell pinyon trees and split them between winter and early spring. During this cold time of the year, there is less water and sap so the wood will season quicker.

How do I identify a pinyon pine tree?

Pinyon pines have a flat rounded crown with dark green needles that grow to a length of 1 ½”. The tree’s needles are grouped in pairs on the twigs.

How do I identify pinyon pine firewood?

The heartwood of pinyon pine is yellowish-brown while the wide section of sapwood is a lighter shade. The wood often contains knots and has an irregular grain.

5 fast facts about pinyon pine

  1. The scientific name for pinyon pine is Pinus edulis from the family Pinaceae.
  2. Other names include the pinion, piñon, Colorado pinyon, singleleaf pinyon, and two-needle pinyon.
  3. The tree typically grows to a height of 10-20 feet although it may reach 50 feet in the right conditions.
  4. Common uses include utility lumber, paper, firewood, and charcoal.
  5. The pinus edulis is New Mexico’s state tree; its pinyon stocks have suffered from dark beetle infestations and drought.
Closeup of seeds inside a pinyon pine cone.
The seeds of a pinyon pine cone are edible.

Summing up

Pinyon pine makes above-average firewood that produces good heat when burned. It also lights fast, making it a handy type of kindling.

Pinyon doesn’t produce coals that are as good as oak or other popular types of firewood. It also tends to produce sparks, especially if the wood hasn’t been well seasoned.

Anyone that appreciates a fragrant fire will love pinyon pine. It gives off a homely, relaxing smell that’s hard to beat. The smoke is also great for giving food tantalizing flavor.

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