When outdoor temps drop and sweaters come out of storage, there’s nothing quite like the crackle of a real fire. Whether in a fireplace, a wood-burning stove, or a fire pit, it’s tough to beat the ambience, allure, and warmth of a fire. Sourcing natural wood can be challenging, however, if you don’t live in an area where it’s plentiful. In addition, real wood logs can be heavy and difficult to light.
Enter fire logs. Made from compressed wood products like sawdust and treated with waxes to light easily, fire logs will typically burn for 2 to 4 hours. While we like the recycling aspect of many fire logs—why cut down more trees when leftover wood products can be reused?—we weren’t sure if these products were all they’re cracked up to be, so we decided to test them. Over a 3-week period, we burned dozens of fire logs in fireplaces, chimineas, outdoor fire pits, and wood-burning stoves to see how easily they light, how long they burn, and whether they emit any real heat. Before buying, discover how the following brands earned a spot in this lineup of the best fire logs for most fireplaces. Plus, find out the pros and cons we uncovered in our hands-on testing.
- BEST OVERALL: Pine Mountain American Home Fire Log by Yankee Candle
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Duraflame 2.5-lb. Fire Logs (6 pack)
- BEST LONG-LASTING: Pine Mountain 4-Hour Fire Log
- ECO-FRIENDLY PICK: Enviro-Log 4.3-lb. Fire Log (6 Pack)
- BEST CREOSOTE REMOVAL: Pine Mountain Creosote Buster Fire Log
- BEST STARTER LOGS: Pine Mountain StarterLogg Firestarter
How We Tested the Best Fire Logs
We researched dozens of fire logs in their respective categories before choosing the top performers (based on ratings) to test.
Most fire logs included in our list are advertised as producing fewer carbon monoxide emissions than traditional wood. This reduces toxins in the home and limits the amount of pesky, harmful smoke floating around. These artificial logs come in various quantities and contain natural materials like real hardwoods, waxes, biomass fiber, sawdust, molasses, shells, and nuts.
In actual testing, we burned the fire logs as instructed by the manufacturer, noting how easy they were to light and how long they burned. We noted any added scents and looked for chemical-type smells (none we tested emitted chemical smells). The exception in our testing was the Creosote Buster fire log. We could not determine that it made much of a difference in the soot and creosote buildup in our fireplace chimney, so we noted how long it burned. In the final analysis, we had to base our awards for this product on former user ratings.
For each test or observation, we awarded points based on a rubric. The better the log performed, the higher the points. After testing, we added and averaged the points for each fire log and used the results to help determine the best category for each.
Photo: Glenda Taylor
Our Top Picks
The following fire logs earned a place on this list by being easy to light in our hands-on tests, burning uniformly, and burning as long as their manufacturer claims. They differ slightly—some burn longer, some add a pleasant scent, and some will help keep a chimney clean. One is likely to add a little coziness to your fireplace.
We found the Yankee Candle Fire Log from Pine Mountain to be a true delight in our testing site—what we call our three-season room. The fire log is scented with balsam and cedar, and the wrapper said we could enjoy the scent even before, which proved true. We placed the unopened fire log in the fireplace box, and the gentle aroma of cedar filled the small room straightaway.
When we were ready to light it, we positioned the fire log in the fire grate with the paper seam edge facing up, per the directions. Then all we did was strike a match and hold it to the top corner of the paper package: The wrapping caught fire immediately, and within 10 minutes, the whole log was engulfed. Once the fire log was burning, the aroma of balsam and cedar became stronger, filling the entire room with a pleasant scent.
The fire log burned slowly but uniformly for about 3.5 hours, which was 30 minutes longer than advertised. It put out some heat to slightly warm the small room but not enough to keep a larger living space warm. Still, this scented fire log is long on ambience. The combination of aroma and steady flames creates a cozy feeling when it’s cold and blustery outside.
- Number of logs: 4
- Materials: Recycled biomass, including sawdust, ground nutshells, and blended wax
- Burn time: 3 hours (3.5 hours in testing)
- Burned 30 minutes longer than advertised
- Filled room with the scent of balsam and cedar
- Burns uniformly
- Can only use 1 fire log at a time
Get the Pine Mountain Yankee Candle fire log at Albertsons, Vons, Kroger, or Walmart (set of 4).
Duraflame produces a wide range of fireplace products, including this 2.5-pound fire log, which is about half the size of some of the other products we tested. We burned this one in an old wood-burning stove that we use to heat a large shop. It was easy to light by following the instructions: folding out the seam on the paper wrapper and then lighting it along the seam using a single match. The entire log was on fire within 5 minutes, and it burned for just over an hour.
It’s advertised as burning for at least 1.5 hours, so we were slightly disappointed and felt it might have burned fast because we burned it along with other small wood logs. So we retested, using only the Duraflame log—and it burned for nearly 2 hours. Often, a fire log that lasts 1 to 2 hours is just right.
While this Duraflame fire log is smaller than some, it creates a soothing fire and very little smoke. Plus, we estimated that the temperature in the shop went up about 10 degrees during the testing process.
- Number of logs: 6
- Materials: Sawdust, wax, and fibers
- Burn time: 1.5 hours (nearly 2 hours in testing)
- Suitable for indoor and outdoor use
- Fully lights in 5 minutes
- Produces tall, clear flames
- Smaller than comparable options
- Less burn time compared to similar products
Get the Duraflame fire logs at Lowe’s or Walmart.
Those looking for an extended hangout in front of the fire might find Pine Mountain’s 4-Hour Fire Log to be just the ticket. Its claim of a 4-hour burn time is longer than many other artificial fire logs—and in our testing, it burned nearly 5 hours, but the flames were pretty small during the final 30 minutes.
As with the other fire logs, we lit the paper wrapper, and within about 7 minutes, the whole log was engulfed. It produced tall, clear flames for the first 4 hours and emanated gentle warmth the entire time it burned. The log is constructed of recycled hardwood, molasses, shells, and nuts—an eco-friendly composition. Pine Mountain logs can quickly light a nicely burning, long-lasting fire to cozy up to for the evening.
- Number of logs: 6
- Materials: Recycled hardwood, molasses, shells, and nuts
- Burn time: 4 hours (5 hours in testing)
- Burns longer than many fire logs
- Even burning
- Eco-friendly composition
- Cannot burn more than 1 fire log at a time
Get the Pine Mountain 4-hour fire logs at Amazon, H-E-B, or Walmart.
Break out the weenies, s’mores supplies, or other favorite campfire treats! The Enviro-Log is made from compressed cardboard and food-grade waxes, and the wrapper claims the product to be suitable for cooking, so we toasted a few marshmallows over its warm flames.
But first we stacked two fire logs together as the directions suggested. They lit easily, their paper wrappers catching fire immediately with a lit match, and the logs burned steadily for 2.5 hours. That was about 30 minutes short of the advertised time, but many factors can contribute to logs burning slower or faster. In our tests, we burned the Enviro-Logs in an outdoor chiminea during some strong breezes, which may have caused them to burn more quickly.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t retest elsewhere because those were the only two solid logs in the package. The other four had been crushed in their wrappers—during the packing and/or shipping process, we suspect. But we were still impressed by the two we were able to test. The Enviro-Log is suitable for virtually any fire-burning appliance, including indoor and outdoor fireplaces, wood-burning stoves, fire pits, and even campfires.
- Number of logs: 6
- Materials: Recycled cardboard, food-grade wax
- Burn time: 3 hours (2.5 in testing)
- Eco-friendly option
- Lights quickly
- Produces tall, clear flames
- Can burn more than one log at a time
- 4 fire logs arrived crushed and unusable
Get the Enviro-Log fire logs at Lowe’s, The Home Depot, or Walmart.
The Pine Mountain Creosote Buster Fire Log is designed to help rid the chimney of light creosote buildup. A specially formulated powder integrated into the log dissolves into a gas when under combustion. This gas breaks down creosote compounds in the chimney to help reduce the danger of a chimney fire.
This was a challenging fire log to test because we’d just had the chimney sweep out to clean the chimney a few weeks before we tested the fire logs. We had no absolute way of knowing whether the Creosote Buster was effective or not at cleaning the chimney, but we suspect it helped reduce some soot buildup. We tested it after we’d tested all the other fire logs and did a visual inspection of the chimney before and after using the Creosote Buster. We think the chimney looked slightly cleaner after use.
This creosote-cleaning fire log is advertised to burn with 80 percent fewer emissions than cordwood. The lighting process is slightly different than with the other logs we tested. Rather than placing the Creosote Buster in the grate and lighting it, we started a regular fire with wood, and after 30 minutes, we set the Creosote Buster on top of the burning pile. It took about 5 minutes to catch fire fully and burned for just over 1 hour.
Pine Mountain says the active ingredient in the fire log is a “powder” that creates an “active gas” that attacks creosote in the chimney. They don’t list what the powder is, and we did not detect any unusual smell. The manufacturer recommends burning a Creosote Buster every 40 fires to keep the chimney clean. We think this fire log may be a good way to keep excessive creosote from building up in the chimney, but we still recommend having a certified chimney sweep clean the chimney professionally once per year in late fall.
- Number of logs: 1
- Materials: Hardwoods, unspecified powder
- Burn time: 1 hour in testing
- Designed to remove light creosote buildup
- May help keep chimney clean
- Burns uniformly
- Cannot be sure creosote was actually removed in test
- Pine Mountain does not identify the active ingredient
Get the Pine Mountain Creosote Buster fire log at Amazon, Ace Hardware, or Dillons.
For those who prefer a real wood fire to an artificial fire log, check out these starter logs from Pine Mountain. StarterLoggs are a bridge between artificial logs and fire starters. They’re not traditional fire logs in the sense they won’t generate enough heat and flames for enjoying a fire. However, while most fire starters only burn between 3 and 8 minutes on average, StarterLoggs burn about 15 to 20 minutes. This extra burning time makes them well suited for use with firewood that’s difficult to light, such as maple or oak.
They come in a molded cube of four pieces and contain ground biomass and nutshells held together with a wax binder. We broke off a quarter of the cube (grooves make it easy to break off chunks), and then placed it beneath some logs in the fireplace.
It took three tries with matches to get the StarterLogg chunk to catch fire, but when it did, it quickly formed a hot flame sufficient for catching the real wood logs on fire.
While Pine Mountain StarterLoggs aren’t made to produce a fire on their own, we found they helped get a wood fire to start burning. The chunk we started the fire with burned out in about 15 minutes, but we had a roaring fire by then. Keep these handy near a wood-burning fireplace, stove, or outdoor fire pit, and start wood fires easily.
- Number of logs: 48 (12 cubes, sold in a 4-pack)
- Materials: Biomass containing hardwood, nutshells, and wax
- Burn time: Not applicable
- Natural ingredients
- Burns well once lit
- Can be used with real wood logs
- Took 3 tries to light in testing
Get the Pine Mountain StarterLoggs fire logs at Amazon, Kmart, or Walmart.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Fire Log
Artificial fire logs are often constructed from recycled coffee grounds, nutshells, sawdust, and waxes. They are easy to light with a single match or lighter. Many come individually wrapped in paper, and instructions typically direct users not to remove the paper but to put the whole package in the fireplace and light it. When choosing fire logs, consider these factors.
Most manufacturers list an approximate burn time on their packaging, and the majority claim their products burn for 2 to 4 hours. Manufacturers of some long-lasting varieties claim their logs burn up to 6 hours. The longest-burning log we tested stayed lit for nearly 5 hours, but the flames were pretty small in the last 30 minutes and failed to emanate any real heat.
The first fire logs were mostly sawdust mixed with petroleum wax as a binder. But petroleum products create carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas that has been determined to contribute to climate change. In recent years, many fire log manufacturers have begun incorporating more natural ingredients, such as natural soybean and pine tree oils, in place of petroleum products. Some brands even include seeds to simulate the crackling of a natural wood fire. None of the fire logs in our lineup contain petroleum-based components, but other brands still might, so it pays to read the ingredient list if you’re looking for eco-friendly fire logs.
One of the primary benefits of fire logs is a quick light time. Traditional fires require the proper building of kindling, paper, and wood, and a little coaxing is necessary to get the flames to come forth. Since the wrapper is treated with accelerant, fire logs are simple to light.
Building a fire with fire logs simply involves setting the product in the hearth, opening the damper, and flicking the lighter. The wrapper lights easily and spreads evenly to the compressed material within. The convenience of fire logs over regular fire logs is largely due to this convenient characteristic.
Burning real wood in a fireplace can create carbon monoxide (CO), a dangerous gas. Many of today’s manufacturers develop fire logs to burn slowly and cleanly. In some brands, the ashy byproduct of the burnt logs can be recycled as garden mulch. Some brands claim emission reductions of up to 80 percent over natural wood. Fire logs made from coffee grounds have the added benefit of emitting the smell of coffee as they burn. According to the FireSafe Council, commercial fire logs emit 50 to 70 percent less carbon monoxide than firewood.
Some types of fire logs can be combined with real wood logs to enhance the fire experience, but always read the usage instructions before combining the two. In some cases, adding real wood can result in the fire log smoldering rather than burning, which could lead to excessive fireplace smoke emissions.
However, be aware that burning anything—wood or a fire log with natural ingredients—can add pollutants, such as smoke, to the home if the fireplace is not properly vented and maintained. To be on the safe side, it’s a good idea to have the fireplace and chimney inspected before using it every winter.
Artificial fire logs provide some heat but are not known for producing intense heat—the type required to heat an ample living space. If heating a household is the priority, seek out natural wood. Nearly all varieties of seasoned hardwood that are appropriate for fireplace burning achieve higher, longer-lasting temperatures.
Some fire log manufacturers use compositions that offer more heat than others. Some of the hottest-burning fire logs can increase the temperature in a room, but the degree of increased warmth will vary depending on room size and insulation in the walls.
Creosote is a dangerous chemical that can build up in chimneys after prolonged wood-burning. Most regular chimney and fireplace maintenance revolves around removing creosote and reducing the possibility of a chimney fire. Creosote builds up over time with the burning of natural wood.
Artificial fire logs are cleaner and safer to use in a fireplace than natural logs. Some fire logs are even formulated to reduce the existing creosote buildup in the chimney, but not all fire logs have cleansing properties. Check the packaging before choosing to see if that particular log will aid in cleaning your chimney. That said, be aware that fire logs developed to help clean chimneys are not suitable replacements for regular professional chimney maintenance. For instance, they may keep soot and creosote from building up if used periodically, but they won’t remove heavy creosote deposits in the chimney.
Before you pull out your fireplace tools, you may still have lingering inquiries about the best fire logs for your situation. Take a look at these frequently asked questions and their succinct answers for the topnotch intel you may need prior to purchasing a fire log.
Q. Are fire logs toxic?
Fire logs emit less carbon monoxide than real wood fires. Studies have shown that fire logs emit lower levels of potentially harmful toxins than when burning natural wood.
Q. Are fire logs suitable for stoves?
It depends on the log. Some are suitable for use in stoves, and some aren’t. We found that the instructions on the wrapper always mentioned where we could burn the log and where we couldn’t.
Q. How long do fire logs burn for?
While some fire logs claim to burn for as long as 6 hours, the average fire log burns for 2 to 4 hours. The main difference in burn time is the size of the log and the density.
Q. How do you use fire logs?
Quick light time is one of the primary benefits of fire logs. While traditional fires require the proper build of kindling, paper, wood, and then coaxing fire to burst forth, fire logs are easy to light. The wrapper serves as the fire log’s accelerant; it lights easily and spreads evenly to the compressed material within. Unlike with real wood logs, avoid moving a fire log around with fireplace tools when it’s burning, as that will cause it to break apart.
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