I wasn’t planning on doing a piece on the best fire logs. Then there I was at my local grocery store when I happened upon an entire aisle of them.
Why are there so many kinds of fire logs? Can they really be that different?
So I bought them. All eight of them. I even threw in a bundle of real firewood too. I was determined to sort out which fire log is best and why.
Thus, my experiment began. I went on to compare and contrast the many different fire logs to determine which ones burn the brightest, last the longest, and are worth using.
Thanks to my quasi-scientific analysis below, next time you and I should be able to buy just one fire log that suits our burning desires without wondering if the others would have been better.
The Best Fire Logs Based On Real Tests
Based on real-life testing, here are our recommendations for the best firelogs you can buy:
- Best Overall: Duraflame Every Night
- Best for Short Fires: Duraflame Indoor/Outdoor
- Runner Up: Duraflame Gold
- Best of the Rest: Duraflame Firelog
- Best Budget Pick: Fireside Supreme Firelog
- Best of Brand: Pine Mountain Quantum
|Best Overall||Best for Short Fires||Runner Up||Best of the Rest||Best Budget Pick||Best of Brand||Tied for Last||Tied for Last|
|Product||Duraflame Every Night 5.2lb||Duraflame Indoor/Outdoor 2.5lb||Duraflame Gold 4.5lb||Duraflame 6lb||Fireside Supreme 2.8lb||Pine Mountain Quantum 5.5lb||Pine Mountain 4.8lb||Yankee Candle Balsam & Cedar by Pine Mountain 4.5lb|
|Price||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price|
(Out of 5)
|Time to Full Burn||4||4||4||4||3||3||1||1|
|Burn Time as Advertised||5||5||5||3||5||5||4||4|
|Flames and Ambiance||5||4||4||4||4||4||3||3|
|What We Think||Outdoor Empire's Top Pick! Good for indoors and outdoors, lights fast, perfect burn time, recommended.||Versatile firelog, easy to transport and use, readily available, great for small fires. Weeknight wonder.||Good, reliable firelog, though slightly overhyped. Flames started big, then died down to below average.||The classic Duraflame firelog, seemingly the warmest, but the only firelog in our test that came up short on the advertised burn time.||Can't complain about the cheap price. Burned a long time for a small log.||Supposed to be biggest, brightest premium firelog, but flames died down early. Best of the Pine Mountains.||Disappointing partial burn that would grow then die down and repeat. Boring.||Not recommended. The only thing that smells like balsam and cedar is the wrapper. Exact same firelog as the classic Pine Mountain.|
1. Best Overall
Of all the firelogs I tested, the Duraflame Every Night provided the most pleasant experience. With big, bright flames, the optimal duration, and a consistent burn this firelog came out on top. It is good for both indoors and outdoors. While it’s a larger size, there is something different about it than the other Duraflames that made it a great all-around firelog.
2. Best for Short Fires
Just as advertised on the packaging, this is the perfect little log for weeknights. Also good for when you have company, but you’d rather see them go sooner rather than later. It was rated to burn for an hour and a half and in our test, it went for 1 hour and 48 minutes. This one is easy to find online or in stores and it’s good for fires both outside and in.
3. Runner Up
While I was a bit disappointed that the bright gold flames of this premium firelog didn’t last the whole burn, it’s good reliable fuel for your fireplace. It lights nicely and leaves very little waste. It burned for just over three hours in our test and it makes for a cozy evening.
4. Best of the Rest
This is probably the product that comes to mind when you think of firelogs and it doesn’t disappoint. While it took a little longer to get going and the flames were not’ quite as exciting as the others, it does the job well. It was the only one in my tests that came up short of the advertised burn time, but it was close enough.
5. Best Budget Pick
This may have just been luck that let me find this three-dollar firelog at my local grocery store. It took a little longer to get going than the Duraflames and it didn’t stand out from the crowd in any way, but it did the job well. And it was the cheapest one I could find.
6. Best of Brand
While I wasn’t overly impressed by this one’s performance, it was definitely the best of all the Pine Mountain firelogs I had. It was the most expensive one I bought at $6.49 for a single log. Though it took some time to get going, once it did, it burned nicely. The “bigger, brighter flames” didn’t hold out very long, but I’d buy this one again if the Duraflames were gone.
Which Fire Logs to Avoid
While these fire logs did indeed do the trick and burn the night away, in my opinion they did not provide as pleasant an experience as the others.
I would not recommend the following fire logs:
- Pine Mountain Firelog (classic green package)
- Yankee Candle Balsam & Cedar by Pine Mountain
Why You Should Trust Us
I personally purchased and used eight of the most common fire logs available. Each one was evaluated based on the same criteria and in the same fireplace. Observations were meticulously recorded in a spreadsheet and they are analyzed in detail here.
My conclusions are not based simply on other online reviews or easily accessed information on the web. Opinions expressed are my own based on my experience with the products.
Best Fireplace Log Recommendation
The Duraflame Every Night is definitely the one I would buy over and over again. It had the nicest flames, burned for just the right amount of time before you’re bored with it, fully ignited relatively quickly, and it’s good for both indoor and outdoor use. If that one’s not in stock, I’d buy another Duraflame or just the cheapest off-brand available.
I expected more from the premium logs, the Duraflame Gold and the Pine Mountain Quantum. The Yankee Candle one was perhaps the biggest letdown because it didn’t even smell like balsam and cedar like the package led you to believe. Turns out, just the wrapper was scented. Totally worthless.
Firelogs are great. Despite a few of them being finicky, and the slight letdown when I discovered they really don’t warm you up that much, they did indeed provide a nice ambiance. My kids enjoyed sitting on the floor watching the flames or having it going on movie night.
Compared to regular firewood, they are certainly lower maintenance and require less babysitting. It’s a set it and forget it sort of thing that invites good vibes.
They do not, however, provide that nostalgic sound of a crackling fire or the hot knees and face effect. But I think they are ideal for a casual evening at home or on the back porch.
Analysis and Testing of the Best Fire Logs
The main criteria used to compare these firelogs were:
- Time to full burn
- Burn time as advertised
Time to Full Burn
It became very apparent early on that not all fire logs fully ignited, or they took a while to do so. I checked my stopwatch and noted the time from start at which each fire log was burning from its entire surface.
Caption: Most fire logs, like this Duraflame Indoor/Outdoor, would first ignite on both ends, then gradually the flames crawled across and around the entire log.
It was clear that some fire logs take to full flame sooner than others. The Pine Mountain logs seem to not catch fire as quickly or easily as the Duraflames. It’s like the paper wrapper (which is used to light them) is too baggy. The wrapper burns and falls away before it catches the log fully on fire.
The Duraflames averaged 15-20 minutes to full burn. Whereas the times noted for the Pine Mountains ranged from around 40 (Quantum) to never (classic and Yankee Candle).
So what? Why does this matter?
Well, the whole purpose of using these things is to have a pleasant fireside experience with flames, ambiance and, if you’re lucky, a little warmth. But if the log is only slowly burning from one end (like the Pine Mountain Yankee Candle) or just a bit from the top but not all around (like the Pine Mountain classic), then you don’t have much more of a flame than you would with a big candle. It’s a letdown.
This wasn’t a test where the longest lasting wins. What I really wanted to know is whether the duration marked on the package was accurate. If it says it’ll burn for three hours, does it?
I started a stopwatch as soon as each fire log was lit and I stopped it when the last flame went out.
It was a pleasant surprise to discover that all the tested fire logs exceeded the advertised burn time except for one. The classic six pound Duraflame (yellow package) was expected to last four hours and the flames went out at 3 hours 31 minutes.
The 4.8 pound Pine Mountain fire log lasted the longest at 5 hours 10 minutes when it was rated for four hours. However, I don’t give it accolades due to how it scored in the Time to Full Burn test. The only reason it lasted so long was because it was never fully on fire. It was a somewhat pitiful slow burn fire that kept me up past my bed time.
I recommend you buy a fire log rated for the duration you’re interested in sitting and tending to the fire. Four hours is pretty long for casual evening in.
There are three main phases to a fire log burning:
- Startup: from ignition until fully engulfed in flames
- Full burn: the peak burning period with the best flames
- Wind down: flames die down smaller until they go out
Judging the flames was somewhat subjective since I couldn’t exactly put a ruler up next to them. I evaluated them relative to one another during the full burn phase, including how long that lasted. The point was to assess whether the burning log was aesthetically pleasing and provided a nice ambiance.
Some fire logs advertised exceptional flames that were bigger, golder, or otherwise superior. These include the Duraflame Gold, the Pine Mountain Quantum, and the Duraflame Every Night. These three logs did indeed have better flames by my estimation. However, the Duraflame Gold and Pine Mountain Quantum only had full-burn big flames for about 45 minutes. By then the flames died down drastically to the point they seemed smaller than the average of all the other logs.
While none of the fire logs I tested flamed as high and beautiful as a regular firewood fueled soiree, the Duraflame Every Night was the clear winner. The rest of the field was pretty comparable to one another. All were pretty pleasant.
Don’t count on any fire log as a primary heat source. While an EPA study from 2006 did determine that fire logs produce notably less emissions than cordwood, the latter burns two to three times hotter. In addition, manufacturers state on firelog packaging that you should not burn them in enclosed spaces. So no burning firelogs in wood stoves or with the glass doors shut on your open fireplace.
In an effort to measure any relative differences in temperature during my own experiment I relied on two data points.
- Using an infrared thermometer I measured the temperature of a fixed point periodically during each firelog’s burn. The point was a spot near the front of the fireplace about eight inches in front of where the firelog sat on the grate. I recorded the peak temperature for each firelog.
- The commentary of my wife.
I’m not sure which data source is more authoritative.
Regardless, none of the firelogs were able to heat the living room to any noticeable level of toastiness. The top performers were the classic Duraflame (206°F) and the Duraflame Every Night (204°F). The laggards were the classic Pine Mountain and the Yankee Candle (135°F each). As a reference, the cordwood I burned reached a temperature of over 475°F on the same spot.
What did my wife say? For what it’s worth, her comments ranged from, “a little tiny bit of heat if I stand right in front of it” for the Duraflame Indoor/Outdoor to, “I feel more heat than the other ones” for the classic Duraflame.
Differences in price among the test group were nominal. The bigger, longer lasting firelogs were a bit more than the small ones. The premium firelogs like Duraflame Gold or Pine Mountain Quantum were a couple bucks extra.
When I purchased them all, the Fireside Supreme was the cheapest at $3.29 for a single. Whereas the Pine Mountain Quantum was the most expensive at $6.49.
Prices will, of course, vary quite a bit based on when and where you buy them. Most of them were available in boxes of 4-6 logs which make them a bit cheaper per unit.
What We Didn’t Review
Other testing factors that I tracked and expected to be big differentiators in the beginning ended up being non-consequential. There was really no considerable difference among the many fire logs I tested when it came to:
- Lighting difficulty: I expected that some fire logs would not take fire from the wrapper alone and that I would have to add some newspaper or tender to get it going. Not so. While a couple of the Pine Mountain logs came very close to losing a flame entirely, they all hung on with no extra assistance.
- Waste: I expected greater variation in the amount of leftover ash. But by the morning after each fire, there was a tiny amount of ash left no matter the fire log burned. Not an issue.
- Material composition: All fire logs are made of very similar materials. While the minor differences were interesting, any effects of those variations were ultimately manifested in the main criteria I analyzed.
Once I bought up every fire log I could at my local grocery store, I went online to research some more. Others that came up frequently included the following:
I ruled out testing the Enviro-Log because it was quite obvious from user reviews on Amazon, Lowes, and Home Depot’s websites that it was a mediocre product.
Eco-Fire ECO Coconut
The Eco-Fire ECO Coconut looked interesting, but it seemed quite clear from user feedback that it did not burn for two hours as advertised. And while I appreciate the eco-friendly material concept, I live in Idaho which means anything made of coconuts traveled a VERY long way to get here. So, the carbon emissions for transport sort of ruin the enviro-vibes for me.
Java Log from Pine Mountain
I would have liked to test the Java Log as it seems to be a fan favorite. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find one for sale anywhere at the time. It’s made by Pine Mountain and I was less impressed by their other fire logs that I tested. But the Java Log is significantly different in that it’s made up in part of coffee grounds. I think it’s worth an honorable mention. Supposedly it smells a bit like a cup of morning Joe as it burns.
Fire Log FAQ
1. What are firelogs made of?
Most firelogs are made up of recycled biomass such as hardwood sawdust and ground nutshells that are blended with wax. Some logs incorporate other byproducts like the Java Log and its coffee or the ECO Coconut’s coconut husks. The common thread is that they generally use waste materials from industrial production facilities and they compress them with wax.
2. Are firelogs better than wood?
Firelogs are better than wood when it comes to emissions and ease of use. They don’t require tender or kindling to get started and they don’t burn down quite as fast as wood. However, they have their limitations, such as their inability to produce significant heat or be used in wood stoves.
If heat is not your goal and you can burn in an open fireplace or fire pit, go with a firelog. But if you are looking to heat your home or frozen toes at camp, nothing beats cordwood. And if the wilderness is where you prefer to gather your firelogs, we reviewed the 9 best axes for splitting!
3. Are firelogs environmentally friendly?
Any material that emits carbon dioxide when burning has an environmental impact and firelogs are no exception. However, relative to burning cordwood, charcoal, or propane, firelogs have less of an environmental impact.