Those who do not have all that much experience with an outdoor fire pit may, inadvertently, choose the wrong type of wood to burn. Very often they will select wood that is not ready, or green, in other words. When you use wood that is unseasoned or green, it takes much longer to get the fire going. You require a lot of heat to get rid of the moisture within the wood, so that it will burn. What they fail to realize is that, as the moisture in the wood evaporates in the high temperature, it simply helps to extinguish the fire in the process. That produces copious amounts of smoke that your guests, and even your neighbors, have to endure.
When you choose seasoned or cured wood instead you will find that the fire is much easier to start, it will produce even more heat, and it will not produce all that smoke. When wood is freshly cut as much as 70% of its weight is made up of moisture. On the other hand, cured or seasoned wood has far less moisture content, around 25% in fact. If you want to get really technical and have wood that is ideal for burning, you should choose wood that has even less moisture content than that and this would save the taste of your own secret BBQ family recipes if you're planning to use it as a grill!
In order to promote the lower moisture content and ensure proper burning, firewood is normally cut to lengths of around sixteen inches. The pieces are stacked off the ground, because this promotes air circulation, helping the wood to dry. It is then left to cure (or season) for around nine months.
Of course, cost is a major factor when it comes to curing firewood. You will get far more heat for your money if you purchase the wood you need in your home fireplace or outdoor pit early in summer. It can be stacked and left to dry throughout the warmer months until it is needed.
Some woods are denser than others, but when the wood is dense it has high energy content, and therefore produces more heat. Hard woods will ensure that your fire burns for longer and will produce coal beds that will last longer as well. On the other hand, softer woods burn much more quickly, but the coal bed leaves a lot to be desired. As a starter wood, or if you are looking for a wood that will burn quickly, soft woods would be the way to go.
If you prefer working with hard woods that will burn nicely and not produce a lot of smoke, you need to choose ash, birch, red oak, apple, and maple wood, etc. Soft woods would include fir and spruce, for example. Apple wood is great because it not only burns well; it also gives off a nice aroma. Pinon is another wood that will give off a great aroma, as well as chase the mosquitoes away, but it should not be your first choice for cooking purposes.