By and large, those who spend a lot of time in the great outdoors are calm, measured people who take everything in their stride. But if you want to wind up an outdoorsman, you can ask them a contentious question that strikes at the heart of their identity and lifestyle. There is some debate about whether or not cottonwood is a good type of firewood.
Some people swear by cottonwood as a fuel for their fires and note that it burns well and has a low odor and low-density smoke. Others say that it is these very properties that make it unsuited for burning and that you ought to pick different firewood.
Let’s take a closer look at this firewood problem. Here is what you need to know.
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Also read: How Hot Does Wood Burn? Examined
What Is Cottonwood?
Cottonwood is not a single type of wood, in fact, it’s the wood from a family of trees that are common in North America and Central America as well as Asia and Europe.
They are the Populus section Aigeiros trees. And yes, that means they’re a subspecies of poplar.
There is some argument as to exactly how many trees belong in this group. Some say six and others say, three. It is fair to say that the current official definition has three with the other three now said to be subspecies of a different poplar, section deltoides.
They grow to a decent height of around 30 meters/100 feet tall and can be as wide as 4 meters/13 feet at the base.
They are extremely hardy trees that can easily handle flooding, erosion, and even post-flood deposits without flinching.
What Is Cottonwood Used For?
The hardiness of cottonwood trees makes them a popular choice for timber production trees when grown alongside wet river banks.
They grow very quickly and can be harvested for their wood in as little as 10 years after planting. However, this isn’t all good news, cottonwood is generally quite coarse in texture and thus, it’s not the highest value wood.
They may also be grown as shelter/screening trees because they grow so quickly.
The most common commercial cottonwoods are hybrids which are crossed with the Carolina poplar.
The bark of the tree is sought after by artists because it’s super soft and very easy to carve.
Is Cottonwood Good Firewood?
As we said at the start of this article, there is some contention about this. While many will argue that cottonwood is just fine for firewood we would note that those in the other camp may have a point.
Cottonwood is not a very good wood fuel. This is because the wood doesn’t dry out very well and because of this, it has a tendency to rot quickly. It’s a bad idea to burn moldy wood as it releases spores that can be highly toxic to people.
It’s also hard to split the wood into cords because of the fibrous interiors. And then it also a very low level of energy production when compared to the unit volume of the wood.
However, this doesn’t mean that cottonwood is always a bad choice of firewood, after all, not everyone needs a top-quality fire made from wood that pours out tons of heat.
This video has some more info on this topic:
Does Cottonwood Burn Easily?
While cottonwood doesn’t always dry out easily, when it is dry, it burns very easily.
You shouldn’t expect to have to work hard to get it lit. However, if it still has some water content, it’s going to be more challenging to get the cottonwood to burn.
Just make sure there’s no mold or fungus on your cottonwood before you use it for a fire.
Does A Cottonwood Fire Make A Lot Of Smoke?
Cottonwood fires produce light thin smoke with almost no odor.
This makes cottonwood a good choice for certain fires. After all, not everyone wishes to sit around a fire choking on fumes, right?
Is Cottonwood Good For Campfires?
We think that it is, even if others would argue otherwise.
A cottonwood fire will burn for a long time and produce light, thin, odorless smoke and it’s more than hot enough to warm yourself by.
Can You Cook With Cottonwood?
In fact, if you’re looking to burn a wood that won’t impart much flavor (due to that near odorless smoke it produces) to the food you’re cooking, you can’t really go wrong with burning cottonwood to cook on.
Can You Smoke Fish With Cottonwood?
Yes. Though you shouldn’t expect to get a very strong smoky taste, as we’ve already noted the scent of cottonwood smoke is light and it adds a subtle touch to fish rather than a defining one.
Can You Smoke Meat With Cottonwood?
We don’t recommend it.
Cottonwood smoke offers no flavor to meat and thus, if you’re smoking meat for the purposes of improving the taste, it’s a wasted effort. However, if you’re smoking the meat as a preservative method, that would work.
How Much Are Cotton Wood Logs Worth?
Cottonwood is one of the cheapest woods to buy.
It may be popular to grow and harvest, but prices for a BDFT Green tend to be much lower than for other woods.
You’d need to check with your local hardware supplier for a recent price, though, as wood is currently undergoing rapid inflation with fast-rising prices.