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Hickory Smoke vs. Mesquite Smoke (And Which Is Best to Smoke With)

Hickory Smoke vs. Mesquite Smoke (And Which Is Best to Smoke With)

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When it comes to smoking your meats, there are obviously quite a few things that you are going to have to think about. For one, you will probably want to think about what kind of wood you are going to use for your meats. After all, there are so many different options to choose from.

Two of the most popular smoking woods that people have to choose from are hickory and mesquite.

These are both incredibly common woods for smoking, but they each have their advantages and disadvantages over each other. Some meats are better smoked with mesquite, while others are better smoked with hickory.

What both of these woods share in common is that they produce a very distinct flavor that is loved by millions and millions of people all around the world.

If you are planning to smoke your own meats, there are a few things that you should know before choosing which type of wood to use. First, you should know what kind of flavor profile each wood is going to give your meat. This will help you plan your overall recipe.

You should also have an idea of which meats go best with which wood. Thankfully, both woods burn at about the same, so you won’t have many issues with this.

What Flavors Do They Provide?

The first step to knowing how to use the woods and knowing which one is best for your smoking needs is going to be to know what flavors each type provides. This will help you figure out what types of meat to use while you are cooking them.

Hickory is considered to be a very well-rounded type of wood to use for smoking. It doesn’t have a distinct flavor that it is well known for, but it is known for giving meats a stronger flavor than other types of wood, such as applewood or oak.

The smoke itself that comes from hickory wood is known to be a sweeter, more fragrant smoke than you might be used to if you have cooked with other woods before. The one thing that you should be wary of is that some people might not like how strong the taste can be, especially if they are used to oak-smoked meats.

Mesquite, on the other hand, can be considered almost the complete opposite in this regard. Mesquite wood gives a very bold, very definite flavor that will be universally identifiable on the first bite. It can, and will, overpower the flavor that you add yourself if you use too much of the wood, so you will want to be careful with this.

Generally, if you are new to smoking meats at all, or even if you have only used the weaker woods, you should only use mesquite wood sparingly.

What Kind of Meats Should They Be Used with?

Now that you know a little bit more about what kind of flavors each type of wood provides, you should look into what kinds of meats go along best with the wood. This will not only help you prepare the perfectly smoked meal for your family, but it will also help you get an idea of what meats work with stronger woods.

Because hickory is a very well-rounded and common wood to use with smoking meats, there is no one cut of meat that is going to be the best of the best to use.

In fact, some people consider hickory wood to be one of the most universal smoke woods that you can use. Because of its strength in flavor, you can also use it with the heavier cuts of meat out there.

More often than not, people will use hickory with pork and beef specifically, although plenty of people use it with chicken and there are even a handful of people who choose to use hickory to smoke fish.

Smoking Fish With Wood Chips

If you want to try your hand with smoking meats with a stronger wood, hickory wood should definitely be the wood you use, since it goes with just about any and every meat out there.

Mesquite, on the other hand, is a little bit more particular. It is almost exclusively used in the Texas region of the United States, meaning that the meats used for it will be very common there as well.

Additionally, because of its extremely strong flavor, it can only go well with a few dishes. Of course, if you can master using mesquite wood, you will have a Texas classic dish on your hands that you can serve to your family.

You should only be using mesquite wood with the more robust cuts of meat out there, and you should really only be sticking to red meats as well. The most common cut that people use to cook with mesquite is brisket.

If you are determined to use mesquite wood, keep in mind that it can easily compliment any dish as long as you use a small amount of mesquite wood, and a milder smoke for the rest of the dish.


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Sean Martin

Saturday 10th of October 2020

G’day Ben, Thanks for the tips on smoking meat. I have just purchased a Grill Crate set of plates and am keen to smoke some meat. I also own a Weber kettle, so I’m looking forward to using hickory and or mesquite in the kettle bbq.

Regards Sean, And best wishes from Australia.

Ben Esman

Tuesday 13th of October 2020

Nice! There is nothing more enjoyable then to experiment with flavors and watch your guests enjoy them. Good luck!