Mesquite vs Hickory Smoke

Mesquite vs Hickory Smoke – Which is Better for Your Food?

A few years ago, Mesquite as a cooking wood was in obscurity because there were other woods that people loved to smoke their foods with. 

But in recent times, Mesquite is becoming the go-to woods for barbecues and barbecue and all those who love the outdoor life and enjoy cooking with woods.

Mesquite is becoming a household name as a cooking wood because its characteristic sharp and distinctive flavor gives your food the smokiness that only Mesquite can give.

Hickory is a very popular wood for smoking food because it gives your food a rich pungent flavour while giving deep color to your smoked food. 

Many people wonder which woods are best for smoking their foods and which wood is best for what kind of food. If you also have these questions in mind, relax; we will answer your questions.

Let’s Get to Know Hickory Wood

Mesquite vs Hickory Smoke

Hickory is a hardwood whose family name is Carya, and some of these woods produce nuts. An example is a pelican.

Many people love hickory for smoking their foods because of the taint it gives smoked food and the strong flavor. Most people mix hickory with other milder woods to balance the flavor it impacts on their food. 

This wood is great is grilling cheeses, nuts, pork loin and shoulder, chicken, Turkey, and wild geese.

Below are some of the qualities of hickory wood: 

1. Hickory is a very hard wood, harder than maple, cherry and the likes bit not as hard as Mesquite.

2. This wood burn slowly and so is great for barbecue and other grilling needs.

3. They give off a flavor on foods that are almost like bacon, which is one characteristic of hickory that makes it distinctive. 

4. They give a darkish color to foods that are grilled long in them

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Let’s Get to Know Mesquite

Mesquite vs Hickory Smoke

Mesquite wood comes from a small and spiky tree and is a member of the Pea family. They are grown both for the bean some of the species produce and for their fine woods.

This wood thrives in the desert and is also useful to the soil because of its ability to fix nitrogen. 

Below are a few qualities of Mesquite:

1. When you burn Mesquite, it emits sparks which are probably due to its spiky nature. 

This calls for caution when smoking food with it to avoid the risk of a fire outbreak.

2. Mesquite has an earthy flavor that is so intense that it permeates your food. Some people like this about this wood, while most people don’t. 

3. They produce a lot of smoke when they burn, and they burn very fast and hot, which that you will need a lot more of these woods if you will be cooking for long.

4. Mesquite, add a little color to your smoked meat just like most hard work like oak.

5. They are best suited for cooking foods that cook fast because they take time to cure. Another option is to burn them down to charcoal and use them for cooking.

6. Because Mesquite is high in lignin, they combust sporadically to produce lots of smoke when they burn.

General Tips for Cooking with Both Hickory and Mesquite 

Woods come in different shapes and sizes; the unit you will use to cook the food will help you figure out the best size of wood you will need to get, be it pellets, logs, chunks or even wood chips.

When you smoke food with wood, don’t be in a hurry for the food to cook. Give it the adequate time it needs to be done, which means you will have to start early.

It is always better to cook with a low fire that cooks slowly so that your food gets smoked and not charred to the point that they become dry and inedible.

Cook your food until the bark of the meat gets dark to ensure the food is properly cooked. You can also use a water pan to regulate the temperature of the cooking. 

Always be mindful of the smoke that your wood emits as you cook. White smoke will cook your food faster and leave no taint on your meat, while black smoke will taint your food. 

Therefore, it is important to know the type of smoke the wood you buy produces, as this shows on your food. 

Lastly, safety precautions can never be too much when dealing with woods and fire. It is always better to err on the side of caution. 

Is Mesquite or Hickory Sweeter

The sweetness of wood depends on the favor it impacts on the food it cooks. Woods are like an ingredient that adds its favor to the overall flavor of the food you cook.

Hickory has a sweeter taste than Mesquite because its flavor is associated with the sweet taste of bacon. On the other hand, Mesquite has a very strong flavor that can be a tad too aggressive, which is why many people shy away from it. 

Secondly, its tendency to darken your food and give it a bitter taste makes it a put off for many people. 

Hickory can also give your meat cuts a bitter taste if you cook with it for a very long time. So, if you aim to cook with a wood that will give you a sweet flavor, you can opt for fruit woods like cherry and apples.

But if you must choose between hickory and Mesquite based on their sweetness, then hickory is the way to go.

What Does Mesquite Smoke Taste Like?

Mesquite wood produces smoke that has a very strong earthy favor that is very intense to the point that it can overpower your whole food.

This characteristic sharp and distinctive flavor is bold that people who love to cook with wood with strong flavor prefers mesquite.

This flavor profile of Mesquite is because of a high content of lignin which is an organic matter that most hardwoods possess.

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What Does Hickory Smoke Taste Like?

Hickory wood, which is best for pork, has a sweet yet strong bacon flavor with a pungent taste that is great for many meat cuts.

You should, however, be careful while smoking with hickory because the food might end up being a little too strong and offensive if you cook the food for too long in it.

Which Is Better – Mesquite Vs Hickory

The issue of which wood is better between Mesquite and hickory depends on the food you want to cook, your taste palate and how long it will take the food to be properly cooked.

Generally, Mesquite is great for cooking dark meats that can withstand its strong flavor, making them an excellent choice for smoking wild games, lambs, ducks, brisket, and Tex-Mex barbecue. 

The charcoal from Mesquite is also good for grilling vegetables, steaks, and other fast cooking foods. 

Mesquite, however, do not go so well with ribs, fish, and some poultry because their very strong flavor will overpower the natural flavors of these foods.

Because of the sweet bacon flavor of hickory, it is best suited for smoking pork, barbecue, ribs, and other such food. This is because of its relatively mild flavor.

Because hickory burns very slowly, it can also be used to cook foods that need a lot of time, like brisket and even some wild games.

If you do not want to keep feeding your fire with woods frequently as you smoke your food, you will have to opt for hickory which will burn slowly and cook longer than Mesquite that nuns hot and fast.

Is Hickory or Mesquite Better for Ribs

Ribs have a rich flavor and so pair very well hickory which is also strong but not as intense as Mesquite. 

Hence many people prefer smoking ribs or any other meat that is rich in flavor with hickory because it gives a savory and sweet taste that is so sweet that it accentuates the flavor of the food.

Mesquite, on the other, is so strong a flavor that if you smoke ribs with it, it will mask that rich flavor of the ribs with its very intense smokey flavor.

Is Hickory or Mesquite Better for Pulled Pork

Many people use both kinds of wood for smoking pulled pork, especially those who love the bold flavor Mesquite can give their food. 

However, hickory is preferred because it has a sweeter flavor than Mesquite and its distinctive barbecue flavor blends well with the flavor of pulled pork.

Mesquite asides have an intense flavor that will overpower the flavor of your ribs, burns very hot and fast because of its spiky nature, and so can easily dry the pork and give it a bitter taste.

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Is Hickory Stronger Than Mesquite

Woods are classified into two main categories: Hardwoods and Softwoods.

Softwoods: You cannot smoke with softwoods because they are airy and produce a lot of sap and resins that, when you burn them, produce a very strong unpleasant smell, coupled with the fact that they burn too fast. You can know a softwood from the fact that the seeds of their trees are uncovered.

Hardwoods: you will know a tree whose wood is hardwood because the tree produces seeds that are covered in the form of a nut or fruit. They are slow-burning woods that are dense and produce a smoky flavor when burnt due to their lignin.

The strength of wood is one of the criteria used in categorizing hardwoods onto:

1. Light flavor hardwood: these woods produce a mild sweet smell and are great for smoking fish and poultry. Examples of these woods are cherry and apple.

2. The middle flavor hardwood: the flavor these woods generate is a little more powerful than light flavored wood. They are great for smoking pork, beef and even some wild games. Hickory and oak fall into this category.

3. Strong flavor hardwood: These woods have almost an aggressive and bold flavor and are best used for smoking dark red meat like games. Mesquite falls into this category.

This means that though hickory is a strong hardwood, Mesquite is on a class on its own when you talk about the strength of the flavor of their smoke.

Is Mesquite Good for Barbecue

Compared to other woods, using Mesquite for barbecue can be a little stressful because it burns very fast, so you must keep feeding the fire. 

If you want the smokiness and flavor mesquite gives food without having to deal with the stress of feeding the fire continuously, then you can opt for any of these options for making your barbecue with Mesquite:

1. You could Mesquite at the beginning of the cooking so that the flavor gets ingrained into your food, and afterwards, you can continue with other long-lasting woods like oaks or hickory.

2. You can also use other woods to cook your food, and towards the end of the cooking, you can then add Mesquite to finish off the cooking so that the smoke of the wood remains in the good when it is fully cooked.

3. Alternatively, you can burn your mesquite wood into charcoal and then use the charcoal for your barbecue. The advantage of charcoal is that it burns slowly and so can cook your food better. Slow is always better for most foods, especially barbecue. 

4. Another great option of gibbon your barbecue that mesquite flavor without the hassles involved is to go for mesquite flavor liquid or infused salt, which will give your barbecue the same mesquite flavor.

5. If you must do your barbecue with Mesquite, then you could blend the wood with other woods that will dilute the intense flavor of Mesquite with other woods like cherry, apple or even hickory that will reduce the intensity of the mesquite flavor and save you the stress of always feeding the fire.

Is Hickory Good for Barbecue

Hickory is very good for a barbecue because it is a versatile wood used for many cooking purposes. This is because its flavor is moderate and will not overpower your barbecue. 

Secondly, they burn longer and produce clean smoke that will not taint foods, making it good for cooking your barbecue in low heat and slow cook.

What Wood Is Best for Brisket

When you burn different food, you get different flavors and aromas, which get impacted the food.

Brisket is a fancy name for a big cut of beef that could weigh up to 20 pounds taken from the chest of a cattle. 

This meat is quite tough and takes a long time to cook and break down into something tender and delicious.

Smoking is the best way to cook this meat to tenderize them. Here are some of the woods that are great for cooking brisket:

1. Pecans: This wood has a unique and sweet flavor that gives a rich taste to the brisket. Many people blend it with oak or maple so that the meat doesn’t get overly sweet.

2. Maple: This wood has a mild taste, making it a wood that you cannot over smoke. Some people feel it is too subtle for brisket because it gives sweetness to your brisket. Blending it with Mesquite will help balance the flavor of brisket.

3. Apple: This wood gives a mild, sweet, and fruity flavor to your meet. It, however, produces a lot of smoke when it is burnt. When paired with other woods, it will give a perfect balance to the flavor of your brisket.

4. Cherry: Cherry wood gives your food a light smoky taste and a touch of sweetness. This wood is great for smoking brisket, and it also gives a dark red color to the meat surface.

5. Oak: This is another great wood for smoking brisket because it burns for a long time, and its flavor is not too mild nor strong but in between, which is why many people cook their brisket with oak.

6. Hickory: The nutty and bacon taste of hickory makes a delight for cooking brisket. Since its urns slowly, you can be sure that it will cook your meat to become very tender

7. Mesquite: Even though this wood burns so fast, it is still good for cooking brisket; the only problem is that you will have to keep feeding the fire, so it doesn’t die out because Mesquite burns quite fast.


mesquite is a great wood for cooking, and so is hickory; none of them is better than the other, only that they pair well with different foods. 

While Mesquite is good for smoking games and other foods with a strong flavor, hickory will work wonders on your pulled pork, poultry, and other foods.

So go ahead and tantalize your taste bud with the sweet hickory flavour and the nutty and earthy flavor that Mesquite gives and then decide for yourself which you love better. 

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We trust this article helped you the difference between Mesquite vs Hickory Smoke. You may also want to know if Kiln Dried Wood is Safe to Burn?

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