Beginner’s Guide to Mesquite Firewood

Beginner’s Guide to Mesquite Firewood

When we think of mesquite wood, campfires and barbecues immediately come to mind. But what really makes mesquite one of the most popular firewoods in the market?

In this article, let’s take a closer look at the benefits of using mesquite as firewood. Read on to learn more!

Is mesquite a good firewood?

Is mesquite a good firewood?
Image: Cappadona Ranch

Mesquite is an efficient high-heat burning firewood with a BTU of 28 million per cord. It is known for its sweet and smoky aroma that can add flavor to food, also making it a popular wood stove cooking companion. 

It produces extremely high heat and can sustain the heat during the burning period because of the wood’s high density. Additionally, it extends its burn time by creating high-quality coals.

Mesquite is a good choice for grilling and smoking because it’s only one of the few firewood that can impart its unique smokey flavor onto the food. 

Mesquite is safe to burn indoors or outdoors because of its dryness and low sap content. With this firewood, you won’t have to worry about pops and sparks while burning them in your fireplace or a firepit.

Here’s an overview of the characteristics of mesquite as firewood. 

Tree NameMesquite
Scientific NameProsopis glandulosa
FamilyFabaceae
Height 30 to 50 feet 
Life Span50 to 200 years
Type of WoodHardwood
Dry Weight (lbs per cord)4,000
Green Weight (lbs per cord)4,099
Seasoning Time6 to 8 months
Heat Content (million BTUs per cord)28
Sap ContentLow
Splitting DifficultyModerate
SmokeModerate
SmellSweet and tangy
Coal ProductionModerate
Creosote Build-upLow

Fire-Burning Properties of Mesquite Wood

Fire-Burning Properties of Mesquite Wood
Image: Desert USA

Mesquite firewood produces high heat, a sweet yet smoky aroma, moderate smoke and coal, and low creosote and sap content. However, it is moderately difficult to split because of its twisted branches and tough wood fibers.

Read on to know how each property affects mesquite as firewood.

1. Moderately Difficult to Split

Moderately Difficult to Split
Image: AZ Plant Lady

Mesquite is moderately difficult to split because of its twisted branches. This tree grows irregularly with tough wood fibers, making it harder to chop and break. 

The hardest part to split in this tree is its crotch. This is the gnarly area where branches join the trunk twistedly.

You’ll need the help of a hydraulic splitter to get a clean cut of mesquite firewood.

2. Low Sap Content

Low Sap Content
Image: Titan Tree Care

Mesquite trees are deciduous, and their leaves contain most of their sap, so when their leaves fall, they carry the sap with them, leaving the wood with less sap content.

After seasoning, the naturally-dry mesquite contains low sap, usually around 10%. It’s best to cut mesquite during winter when it has the lowest sap content.

3. Sweet and Smoky Smell

Sweet and Smoky Smell
Image: The Shops at Willow Park

Mesquite’s strong, sweet, smoky smell is its best feature, making it a popular ingredient in smoking meats and vegetables.

This unique fragrance is due to chemical compounds such as guiacol and vanillin, which are found in the tree. 

For instance, the presence of vanillin in mesquite wood, which is also found in vanilla beans, allows it to emit a sweet, caramel-like smell. 

On the other hand, guiacol, also found in tobacco, makes the firewood give off a slightly earthy smell when burned.

4. High Heat Output

High Heat Output
Image: Masterclass

Mesquite is one of the hottest burning firewood anyone can get, with a high BTU of 28. 

Besides cooking with mesquite wood, it can also be your winter season companion as this hot burning firewood can heat your home.

Here’s how mesquite compares with other firewood’s heat capacity.

FirewoodHeat Output (million BTU per cord)
Osage Orange32.9
Rock Elm32
Gambel Oak30.7
Shagbark Hickory30.6
Mesquite28
Black Locust27.0
Beech27.5
Red Oak24.6
Larch21.8

5. Low Creosote Build-Up

Low Creosote Build-Up
Image: We Love Fire

Interestingly, despite its moderate smoke output, mesquite causes low creosote build-up. It will burn cleaner if you allow the wood the dry out completely before burning.

These creosote usually get deposited on your chimney when the fire burns. It’s best to clean your chimneys at least once a year to eliminate the creosote build-up.

6. Moderate Smoke Output

Moderate Smoke Output
Image: Panadero

Although it’s naturally dry wood, mesquite still produces moderate smoke. 

Because of this, we recommend using this firewood in wooden stoves, fire pits or campfires to prevent everyone in the room from getting sore eyes or irritating their respiratory system.

To ensure your mesquite wood will emit the least smoke, complete its 6 to 8-month seasoning time so that there’s less moisture left in the wood.

7. Moderate Coal Production

Moderate Coal Production
Image: Panadero

Mesquite produces a moderate amount of high-quality coals, vital in keeping a long-lasting fire. 

As the wood burns, volatile gases are released, and the remaining carbon turns into coal, keeping the heat steady.

Mesquite’s capacity to provide high heat and long-lasting fire makes it popular for barbecues, fire pits, and wooden stoves.

Strengths and Weaknesses of Mesquite Firewood

Strengths and Weaknesses of Mesquite Firewood
Image: Backyard Gardener
StrengthsWeaknesses
Sweet and smoky smellModerate smoke output
Low sap contentModerately difficult to split
Short seasoning time
Moderate coal production

Mesquite burns slow and hot with a 28 million BTU per cord. This firewood can sustain its high heat for long hours thanks to its high density and high-quality coal production. 

It’s primarily used in barbecue activities and restaurants because its sweet, smoky, earthy smell helps the food develop a deeper and more robust flavor.

Unfortunately, mesquite is a tough wood to crack. Its twisted wood fibers and gnarly tree crotch make it difficult to split. You’ll need a hydraulic splitter to get the job done. 

Finally, this firewood has a moderate smoke output. It’s an excellent feature for those using it for cooking, grilling and smoking meat, fish or vegetables; but a difficult wood for burning outdoors.

How does mesquite compare with other firewood?

How does mesquite compare with other firewood
Image: Home Stratosphere

Mesquite is at the top of the list of the hottest burning firewood. It also has a quick seasoning time compared to hardwoods like ash, locust and oak varieties.

This firewood also joins cherry and tulip poplar as one of the best-smelling firewoods for cooking, grilling or smoking food.

Below is a comparison of mesquite to other firewood.

FirewoodHeat OutputBurn TimeSmoke ProductionScent
MesquiteHighLongMediumStrong
OakHighLongLowMild
HickoryHighLongMediumStrong
PecanHighLongLowMild
AshMediumLongLowNone
PineLowShortHighStrong

How long should you season mesquite wood?

How long should you season mesquite wood
Image: Fire and Ice

Mesquite needs 6 to 8 months to completely dry out. This is a relatively short waiting time thanks to this tree’s inherently dry wood and low sap content.

Fair warning, be careful about how you store your mesquite wood. Make sure that it won’t be touching the ground because it will grow molds and rot quickly.

We recommend using your fully-seasoned mesquite wood because its aroma will reduce as it ages. Use this firewood within three years to still enjoy its fragrance.

FAQs on Mesquite Firewood

Is it okay to burn mesquite in a fireplace?


Mesquite firewood is safe to burn in a fireplace as it can provide extremely high heat for long hours. However, since they emit more smoke, burning them in fireplaces with glass screens or closed doors is best since they emit more smoke.

Can I use mesquite to smoke my food?


Mesquite is a popular firewood choice for smoking food because of its sweet and earthy aroma that helps add more flavor to the food.

Should I season mesquite before using it for cooking?


Mesquite firewood must be thoroughly dried before cooking because only fully-seasoned wood can fill your food with a sweet and smoky flavor.

Is mesquite firewood prone to bug infestations?


Mesquite firewood is prone to bug infestations like the wood borer, so constantly check your firewood stack to prevent these bugs from attacking your mesquite firewood.

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