Home » Can You Burn Pine Cones: Here’s What You Need to Know

Can You Burn Pine Cones: Here’s What You Need to Know

Anywhere pine trees exist, there’s bound to be piles of pine cones.  With such a massive resource of pine cones laying on the ground, you’re probably wondering if pine cones are okay to burn.

Well, you’re not alone.  I have burned plenty of pine cones in campfires and even in wood stoves.  Although, I was never sure if it was actually safe to do so until now.  With a bit of research, I have the answer for you. 

So, can you burn pine cones?  Yes.  Pine cones are great for starting fires since they ignite easily and burn hot.  However, they do not provide an efficient source of heat.  Pine cones also cause a creosote buildup in chimneys so burning large quantities of pine cones is not recommended in most fireplaces. 

For those of you with abundant access to pine cones, keep reading and we’ll go over everything you need to know so you can safely take advantage of burning them.

Do pine cones burn easily

Not all pine cones will easily burn and placing green or wet cones in your fireplace will cause excessive smoke and some fairly violent popping.  It’s the dry, open pine cones that you want.  You’ll usually find dry cones laying on the ground around the tree.  Properly seasoned cones are open with the classic pine cone shape and have spent the summer months curing on the ground.

The fibrous spines and sappy interior cause dry pine cones to burn easily in any fire.  Whereas, wet cones resist taking flame and do not burn as hot.  Likewise, “green” cones freshly shed from a pine tree are usually closed.  They are often coated with a waxy resin that also resists burning and once on fire, they forcefully pop.

Since dry pine cones burn fast and hot, they make excellent kindling for starting fires.  You’ll get the best results if you let your pine cones dry completely after collecting them.  Even during summer months, residual moisture gets trapped in the cones laying on the ground.  Keep them in a dry spot, like your garage, until fall roles around and you’ll have easy-to-light cones ready to go.

Can you burn pine cones in a fireplace

Pine cones are safe to burn in a fire place.  If you have an open fireplace without a screen, don’t burn pine cones without keeping a close watch on them.  Occasional popping could send sparks flying.

Use pine cones only to start the fire in a fire place.  Also, consider investing in a fire place screen if you don’t already have one.

Can you burn pine cones in a wood stove

Like I mentioned earlier, you can burn pine cones in a wood stove.  There are however, a couple extra things to consider before loading up your stove with pine cones.  

Air flow is extremely important for getting pine cones to burn clean and limit creosote build up.  Since the design of a wood stove allows for air flow to be controlled and dampened, make sure you have it set to allow adequate oxygen for a complete burn.  

It’s a good idea to only use pine cones to start a fire in a wood stove when air flow is usually set to the maximum.  If you notice copious amounts of smoke emanating from a pile of dry cones, open the damper or crack the door until things get nice and toasty inside.

Once the fire is going good and you are adding logs to the stove, refrain from adding more pine cones.  Especially, if you want to dampen the flames for efficient burning.  

Can you use pine cones for heat

Dry pine cones burn very hot and fast which makes them a poor source of efficient heat.  

The amount of pine cones it would take to keep your house warm makes them an impractical source of heat.  There are many more BTUs packed into dense, dry firewood than in a light weight pine cone. 

Although, I have heard of people living in tiny homes that can efficiently heat them with nothing more than pine cones.  My guess is that they live in a mild climate and probably have another source of heat as well.

All in all, skip pine cones as a source of heat and use them as a fire starter instead.  Conventional firewood is a better bet for pumping out heat in a home.   

Do pine cones explode in a fire

To say pine cones explode in a fire is a bit of an exaggeration.  Closed, sappy cones do violently pop when placed in a fire.  It’s not usually enough to be dangerous but it can send hot embers flying.  A few burnt strands of carpet in many households can attest to that.  In some situations, popping pine cones can be a fire hazard if not monitored properly.  That’s why it is a bad idea to burn wet or closed cones in an indoor fireplace.  

Dry cones, on the other hand, do not pop with as much force.  They do crackle and snap to some degree but they burn so hot and fast that it is seldom an issue.  

However, even dry cones with excessive sap residue will occasionally flare up or pop suddenly.  It’s enough to startle you but unlikely to send fiery bits of wood flying from your hearth. 

Avoiding creosote build up

The primary concern with burning pine cones is creosote build up in your chimney or stove pipe.  

The occasional pine cone tossed in the fire is not much of an issue.  Creosote build up arises from excessive burning of pine cones.  Especially, cones that are overly wet or covered in pitch.  These cones burn less efficiently and release thick smoke that coats the interior of your chimney.

If not addressed, creosote can cause a serious fire hazard in your home.  And surprisingly, it doesn’t take long to form a layer of creosote.  If you constantly burn pine cones, or any other damp material, clean your chimney or stove pipe regularly.

To minimize a build up of creosote, burn only dry, well-seasoned pine cones in moderation.  Using properly dried pine cones for starting the occasional fire won’t cause much of an issue in a fire place or wood stove.

How to make pine cone fire starters the easy way

A plain, dry pine cone is all you really need to start a fire.  But with a little more effort, you can create customized paraffin coated pine cone fire starters that burn longer, look great by the mantle and can even add some colorful flames to your fire.  Plus, turning a simple pine cone into an efficient fire starter is easier than you think.  Here’s how to do it the easy way.

Materials you will need

  • Fully dry pine cones
  • Parafin wax
  • Old wax crayons (for color)
  • Medium sized pot or pan
  • Large heat proof container
  • Stir stick or wood spoon
  • Wax paper
  • Metal tongs

Optional materials

  • Table salt (bright yellow flames)
  • Epsom salt (pure white flames)
  • Borax (yellow-green flames)
  • Salt substitute containing potassium (violet flames)
  • Essential oils for fragrance

Making pine cone fire starters: Step-by-step

Step 1:

Place a pot or pan on your stove.  Add 1-2 inches of water and bring to a simmer.

Step 2: 

Place your heat proof container in the water pan.  A heavy glass container will resist floating in the water.

Step 3:

Add paraffin wax to the heat proof container along with your choice of colored crayons.  Use paraffin wax without color if you want a white colored pine cone fire starter.  Keep the water simmering in the pan until the wax is fully melted.  At this point, add essential oils if desired.  Use a stir stick or wooden spoon to blend the colors.

Step 4:

Once the wax is melted, use tongs to dip your pine cones in the wax to fully coat.  Place dipped cones on wax paper to dry.  Repeat the dipping process for a thicker wax coating.  

Step 5:

After the last dip in the wax, and before they are fully dry, sprinkle the pine cones with your choice of salt for a colorful flame.  Make sure to use a small amount.  Just enough to dust the cone.  

As an alternate way of infusing your pine cones with flame coloring salts, try this method instead.  In a large tub, add 2 quarts hot water and one cup of your chosen salt (do not mix salts).  Dissolve thoroughly and add your dry cones to the solution.  Let soak overnight.  Remove pine cones from the salt bath and let dry completely.  It may take several days to fully dry.  Proceed with steps 1-4.

Final step:  

Gather your wax coated pine cone fire starters in a basket or pail and store a safe distance from your fire place or wood stove.  To light, place one or two cones on a bed of kindling.  Use a match or lighter to ignite the cone.  Then, place a few more pieces of wood over the top. 

That’s it!  Now you can enjoy starting fires with pretty pine cone fire starters.  They make awesome gifts as well!


More than likely, pine cones are prevalent in your neck of the woods.  Make use of them anytime you need to build a fire.  Just remember to follow the advice and tips in this article to get the most out of burning pine cones.