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The four season has an affect on wood storage and its cooking or smoking potential
The four season has an affect on wood storage and its cooking or smoking potential
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Wood Storage-I recently had a lovely telephone conversation with a new customer who had previously lived in the Carolinas and now was dealing with the great variability of climate in the state of Colorado.  This customer had the fortitude to think about the altitude, humidity and temperature differences in Colorado and how they might affect hardwood purchased from us and stored in his new home state.

This got me thinking about the information we currently offer regarding hardwoods.  We’ve provided you with information on differences of hardwoods and which are ideal for cooking, on why moisture is important for certain methods of cooking, and how to store hardwood.  I think what’s missing is maintaining the stability of hardwoods in different climates.  To do this, you need to know Equilibrium Moisture Content (EMC) for each state and for each season.

Let me first state some facts about hardwood and wood storage. 

The Ideals for Wood Storage

Wood at or above the fiber saturation point – which I define as the point in the drying process when only bound water in the cell walls remain with all free water removed from cell cavities -will lose moisture when exposed to any relative humidity below 100 percent. The average fiber saturation point is 26%. 

Totally dry (oven dried) wood will absorb moisture when exposed to any relative humidity except when at zero. At a constantly maintained temperature and relative humidity, any wood will reach a point where it neither loses nor gains any moisture. When wood is in moisture balance with the relative humidity of the air surrounding it at a given temperature, the wood has reached its equilibrium moisture content (EMC). Put another way, in an environment maintained at a constant relative humidity and temperature, the wood will come to a moisture content that is in equilibrium with the moisture of the air.  I believe the ideals for relative humidity are 37 to 53% and temperature 66° to 74° F.  Keep in mind, relative humidity is much more important to EMC than temperature.

Why is knowing EMC important when it comes to hardwood or in this case, cooking hardwood?

Knowing this information can provide an indication of how fast the cooking wood might dry out or the likelihood that a wood might regain some moisture during specific seasons and in specific states in the USA.

EMC Averages in the USA for Wood Storage

There are five designations I am giving to the outdoor conditions for wood storage: arid (having little or no rain), dry (low relative humidity with little moisture), moist (air with high relative humidity), damp (air with moisture), and wet (air with high water vapor).  As you’ll see, some states have no variation in condition based on season and others see significant variation.  I’ll be listing the average EMC for season and the condition designation per season.  Keep in mind, each hardwood responds to these conditions slightly differently based on the density of the wood and the conditions it grows in.

  • Alaska:

Winter: average EMC = 13.9; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 12.9; Designation = Wet

Summer: average EMC = 14.6; Designation = Wet

Fall: average EMC = 15.6; Designation = Wet

  • Alabama:

Winter: average EMC = 13.6; Designation = Damp

Spring: average EMC = 13; Designation = Damp

Summer: average EMC = 13.8; Designation = Damp

Fall: average EMC = 13.6; Designation = Damp

  • Arkansas:

Winter: average EMC = 13.6; Designation = Damp

Spring: average EMC = 13; Designation = Damp

Summer: average EMC = 13.3; Designation = Damp

Fall: average EMC = 13.4; Designation = Damp

  • Arizona:

Winter: average EMC = 9.8; Designation = Dry

Spring: average EMC = 7.2; Designation = Arid

Summer: average EMC = 7.9; Designation = Arid

Fall: average EMC = 8.4; Designation = Arid

  • California:

Winter: average EMC = 12.7; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 11; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 10; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 11.4; Designation = Dry

  • Colorado:

Winter: average EMC = 11; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC =8.9; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 8.6; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 9.4; Designation = Dry

  • Connecticut:

Winter: average EMC = 12.6; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 11.6; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 12.4; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 13; Designation = Dry

  • Delaware:

Winter: average EMC = 12.3; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 11.8; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 12.2; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 13.1; Designation = Dry

  • District of Columbia (DC):

Winter: average EMC = 11.9; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 11.8; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 12.2; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 12.8; Designation = Dry

  • Florida:

Winter: average EMC = 13.9; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 13; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 14.4; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 14.3; Designation = Dry

  • Georgia:

Winter: average EMC = 13; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 12.3; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC =13.2; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 13.5; Designation = Dry

  • Hawaii:

Winter: average EMC = 13.5; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 13; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 12.5; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 13; Designation = Dry

  • Idaho:

Winter: average EMC = 14.5; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 10.3; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 7.9; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 10.7; Designation = Dry

  • Illinois:

Winter: average EMC = 14.7; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 12.9; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 13.2; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 13.5; Designation = Dry

  • Indiana:

Winter: average EMC = 15.1; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 12.8; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 12.9; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 13.7; Designation = Dry

  • Iowa:

Winter: average EMC = 14.8; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 13.1; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 13.6; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 13.7; Designation = Dry

  • Kansas:

Winter: average EMC =13.2; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 12.3; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 12; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 12.2; Designation = Dry

  • Kentucky:

Winter: average EMC = 13.9; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 12.3; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 13.3; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 13.1; Designation = Dry

  • Louisiana:

Winter: average EMC = 14.5; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 13.9; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 14.4; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 13.9; Designation = Dry

  • Maine:

Winter: average EMC = 13.5; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 12.2; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 13.1; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 14.3; Designation = Dry

  • Maryland:

Winter: average EMC = 12.2; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 11.5; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 12.1; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 12.8; Designation = Dry

  • Massachusetts:

Winter: average EMC = 12.4; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 11.6; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 12.2; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 12.9; Designation = Dry

  • Michigan:

Winter: average EMC = 17.3; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 12.8; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 13.2; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 14.7; Designation = Dry

  • Minnesota:

Winter: average EMC = 14.7; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 12.8; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 13.6; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 14.4; Designation = Dry

  • Mississippi:

Winter: average EMC = 14.2; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 13.4; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 13.9; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 13.7; Designation = Dry

  • Missouri:

Winter: average EMC = 14; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 13; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 13.3; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 13.3; Designation = Dry

  • Montana:

Winter: average EMC = 13.8; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 10.9; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 9.4; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 11.4; Designation = Dry

  • Nebraska:

Winter: average EMC = 13.5; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 12.3; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 12.3; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 12.3; Designation = Dry

  • Nevada:

Winter: average EMC = 11.4; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 8.5; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 6.5; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 8.4; Designation = Dry

  • New Hampshire:

Winter: average EMC = 13; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 11.6; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 12.4; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 13.5; Designation = Dry

  • New Jersey:

Winter: average EMC = 12.5; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 11.5; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 12; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 12.8; Designation = Dry

  • New Mexico:

Winter: average EMC = 9.7; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 6.8; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 8.5; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 9.2; Designation = Dry

  • New York:

Winter: average EMC = 13.9; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 11.6; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 12.6; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 13.7; Designation = Dry

  • North Carolina:

Winter: average EMC = 13; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 12.4; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 13.7; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 13.6; Designation = Dry

  • North Dakota:

Winter: average EMC = 15.1; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 13.2; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 12.7; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 13.6; Designation = Dry

  • Ohio:

Winter: average EMC = 14.9; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 12.7; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 12.8; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 13.7; Designation = Dry

  • Oklahoma:

Winter: average EMC = 13; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 12.5; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 12.4; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 12.6; Designation = Dry

  • Oregon:

Winter: average EMC = 16.4; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 13; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 10.7; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 13.4; Designation = Dry

  • Pennsylvania:

Winter: average EMC = 13.4; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 11.4; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 12.6; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 13.4; Designation = Dry

  • Rhode Island:

Winter: average EMC =12.2; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 11.5; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 12.3; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 12.8; Designation = Dry

  • South Carolina:

Winter: average EMC = 12.8; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 13.3; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 13.2; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 13.2; Designation = Dry

  • South Dakota:

Winter: average EMC = 14.2; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 12.9; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 12.5; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 12.8; Designation = Dry

  • Tennessee:

Winter: average EMC = 13.7; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 12.6; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 13.4; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 13.4; Designation = Dry

  • Texas:

Winter: average EMC = 12.9; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 12; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 12.1; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 12.5; Designation = Dry

  • Utah:

Winter: average EMC = 14.2; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 9.7; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 7.2; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 10.2; Designation = Dry

  • Vermont:

Winter: average EMC = 13.4; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 11.9; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 12.2; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 13.7; Designation = Dry

  • Virginia:

Winter: average EMC = 10; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 11.9; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 13; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 13.1; Designation = Dry

  • Washington:

Winter: average EMC = 16.9; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 12.7; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 11.2; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 14.2; Designation = Dry

  • West Virginia:

Winter: average EMC = 13.8; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 12.4; Designation = Moist

5; Designation = Damp

Fall: average EMC = 14.2; Designation = Damp

  • Wyoming:

Winter: average EMC = 11.7; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 10.5; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 8.9; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 10.2; Designation = Dry

So, what do you take from these numbers?  Locations in what we call the dry climates of the US Southwest exhibit the lowest EMCs, with Nevada posting the lowest annual EMC.  Locations considered coastal or near coastal like Alaska, the Gulf coast, and Northwest have the highest EMCs, with an island in Alaska having the highest annual EMC of over 19%.  Of course, for the lower states, Washington state has the highest EMC of over 17%.

The largest variability in EMC occurs in the states of eastern Washington, eastern Oregon, and Idaho.  Those states with the smallest variability include the deep South with Texas leading the list.  For 48% of the country, the range of monthly EMC variability is between 2 and 4%.

When it comes to times of the year with the highest EMC, its no surprise that December leads for most of the Midwest, western and northern states.  The south tends to show the most variability in September, with April and May demonstrating the most stability for 58% of the country.

Without question, certain locations will find it more challenging to purchase hardwood for cooking and maintain its stability.  Hopefully, this guide will assist you selecting the best season to purchase or to maintain a sizable inventory of product.

What challenges have you found with wood storage for cooking and barbecue?  Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to follow us on all platforms.  Providing tips, techniques, recipes, and the science behind the flame and fire to improve your skills with wood-fired cooking! That’s SmokinLicious®!

SmokinLicious® products:

Wood Chunks- Double & Single Filet

Wood Chips- Grande Sapore®

Smoker Wood Chips- Minuto® & Piccolo®

More related reading on proper wood storage and climatic influences see our smoking & Grilling tips and technique see our directory on previous blogs
More related reading on proper wood storage and climatic influences see our smoking & Grilling tips and technique see our directory on previous blogs !

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Dr. Smoke-
Dr. Smoke- Our state by state guide for proper wood storage, to preserve your wood.