Mesquite vs Hickory Wood – Which Is Better for Smoking Meat

In this article we took a look at Mesquite and Hickory Wood, uncovered their pros and cons, so every meat-smoker can decide for himself what type of wood would suit his style best.
Jeremy Bivens
Jeremy Bivens
Research Writer
Jeremy Bivens is a passionate writer and grilling enthusiast. He's been working as a freelance journalist for over 15 years now and has a particular interest in food writing read more
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Bruce Williams
Bruce Williams
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Claims that grilling is the art that he has been learning all his life long and is not planning to stop. Has been grilling for as long as he can remember. Author of numerous read more
Last updated: August 09, 2023
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Whenever it comes to smoking the meats, you’re usually more concerned with how to spice it up rather than with what smoky flavors to add to it. The aromas of the smoked meat, on the other hand, have a significant impact on the taste of the final meal. And that is when the concept of using firewood to smoke the meat comes into the picture.

Not all smoking hardwoods are considered to be identical, and in this article, we’ll compare and contrast two of the most often used woods for smoking food: hickory vs mesquite.

We’ll review the flavors of the 2 types of hardwoods, as well as the kind of dishes they’re suitable for and which one wins this hickory vs mesquite battle. Let’s discover more about these two unique smoking kinds of wood right now.

Mesquite vs Hickory Wood – What is the Difference?

The burning qualities of hickory and mesquite hardwood are pretty similar. They both generate a comparable proportion of smoke and burn hot at a similar level. In the end, both smoking kinds of wood will deliver a beautiful piece of smoked meat, but the slight changes in taste might make a significant difference based on what you’re cooking.

Mesquite wood

Mesquite vs Hickory Wood – Which Is Better for Smoking Meat

Mesquite is good for the ecosystem and soil in regions where it grows extensively, such as Texas, because it contributes extra nitrogen to the soil. The comparatively high nitrogen content of this hardwood is notable in the flashes that frequently occur during burning.

Mesquite is, without a doubt, is the most intense smoking hardwood. With great power, though, come great responsibilities. It has a reputation of a strong smoking hardwood due to its robust smoke.

Whenever mesquite wood is burned, it generates a rich, earthy taste and aroma. However, once you use it too much, the flavor might become too intense and unpleasant. Furthermore, the taste of mesquite may be detected with just one nibble.

Even though mesquite is sometimes criticized for being overly intense or bitter, when the smoke is handled well or combined with other smoking woods, it offers a unique and powerful smoky taste.

If you can’t take using too much of the mesquite aroma straight away, you could get Weber Mesquite Wood Chunks and burn them with other fruitwoods to combine the flavors. Continue doing so until you’ve become adapted to the taste of mesquite smoke.

Hickory wood

Mesquite vs Hickory Wood – Which Is Better for Smoking Meat

Hickory is generally acknowledged as a medium-strength hardwood. It generally produces a smoky flavor when used to smoke meat. Hickory, unlike several other hardwoods, does not have a distinct or unique taste characteristic. It does, however, provide a nutty flavor to your meats as well as a sweet and delightful aroma.

Many people seem to enjoy Hickory, thanks to its mild flavor. Like mesquite, if Hickory is unfamiliar to you and your household, spend some time getting comfortable with its flavor. In these kinds of circumstances, you should definitely reduce the intense flavor by mixing your fruitwoods with Traeger Grills Hickory wood pellets.

So how does its smokiness taste like, given that it’s clean-burning lumber? Well, researchers discovered that hickory has a strong but sweet flavor. In addition, when compared to many other hardwoods, it imparts a rich taste to meats.

Meanwhile, because of the intense flavor of the lumber, be mindful of adding just the correct proportion of wood, otherwise, you’ll end up with a nasty aftertaste.

Hickory hardwood smoke is believed to be nicely balanced, and as a result, it is quite adaptable in its usage, making it a great and popular choice for continuous smoking. However, it does not have the same sweet, nutty, or fruity qualities as apple, nut, or cherry.

When grilling several sorts of meats simultaneously or steaks of different slice sizes, you’ll have much less to stress about using Hickory. It’s one of the greatest options for newcomers to the world of meat smoking.

Wood Formats to Choose from:

The finest firewood for smoking meat varies according to the smoker you own, the piece’s thickness, and the aroma you want to attain. Various types of hardwood may provide a range of smoky tastes. Let’s explore the most common types of wood for smoking meats, as well as the tastes they generate.

Mild, fruity flavors:

Maple is perfect for a delicate and somewhat smoky taste. For a sweet, nutty taste, use pecans, but they should be paired with wood that has a greater taste. Apple offers a pleasant and tangy taste with a light smokiness. Cherry gives a fruity smokiness with a bit of tartness. It goes well with hickory. Olive is ideal for a subtle smokiness that is close to but not as intense as mesquite.

Medium to strong flavors:

Oak provides a somewhat smoky taste that isn’t overwhelming. It has a long burning duration, making it an excellent choice for newbies in meat smoking. Hickory is ideal for nutty or bacon taste that is generated by its strong and intense smoke. However, be cautious since too much hickory smoking might make the meat unpalatable. Mesquite has a strong earthy flavor, burns fast, and has a distinctive taste. That’s the hardwood you use if you want to recreate an iconic Texas smoked beef. It may, however, be overwhelming, similarly to hickory.


Can you mix hickory and mesquite wood?

Even though no one will keep you from combining hickory and mesquite together, when it comes to smoking hardwoods, the goal is to balance out the sharper smokiness with sweeter, fruitier, or nuttier woods.

Blending is also not encouraged if you are unfamiliar with the tastes of these two types of hardwood. When combining these two, think about the kind of meats you’ll be cooking.

To achieve a pleasant aroma with your dish, you might blend hickory and mesquite if you have trouble deciding whether to use hickory or mesquite. Combining the two might turn out to be a decent compromise. As a result, you’ll get a smoke combination that’s not quite as intense as mesquite but more flavourful than hickory.

What kinds of meat are they best for?

So, which of these two types of wood is superior after reviewing their taste profiles? The answer is that it depends on what you want to do with it.

Red Meats

Even though it’s frequently controversial, mesquite is one of, if not the greatest firewood for smoking beef for a variety of reasons. This one is due to the fact that it has a strong taste. On the other hand, Hickory pairs well with dark red meat cuts like thighs, drumsticks, and such.


Mesquite vs Hickory Wood – Which Is Better for Smoking Meat

The most popular meat in cooking which hickory is used with – pork. Hickory and bacon work great together. If you’re trying to understand how to smoke pork for the first time, hickory is a good place to start. It increases the taste of pork and provides it with a deeper color when used with it. Hickory’s fragrant scent absorbs into the meat quickly and results in a delicious final dish.

On the other hand, for pork, mesquite could be too intense.


Mesquite vs Hickory Wood – Which Is Better for Smoking Meat

Hickory pairs well with beef, just as it does with bacon. It aids in bringing out the unique tenderness and sweetness of the meat. It is strongly suggested that you would use mesquite cautiously if you wish to have its flavor too. You might also combine it with other fruitwoods to tone down the unique taste.

As for poultry or even more tender fish, hickory could also be used. It smokes smoothly and steadily, making it ideal for cooking these delicate foods.

How much wood should I use at once?

The amount of wood you need to add to the fire and when you must do so would also be defined by the type of cooker you’re using and whether or not firewood is your main source of heat.

When using a Weber Smoker Mountain, firewood isn’t the primary source of heat. In this scenario, 3-4 medium-sized bits of wood would be sufficient to produce enough smoking. However, if you’re using an offset smoker, hardwood is the main heat source, and you must add more.

Final Thoughts

So, who won the battle between hickory vs mesquite? Both have pros and cons, that’s for sure. Just take into consideration that hickory has a distinctive taste, whereas mesquite has a stronger flavor and aroma. Hopefully, this article has given you a solid understanding of the differences between mesquite vs hickory. Therefore, the sort of firewood you use is mainly dependent on the meat you pick as well as your tastes.

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