Hickory Vs. Mesquite: Which Should You Use For Best Results?

Deciding the type of wood for smoking your meat is among the toughest decisions anyone new to grilling can make. With the many choices available, it is no surprise if you get overwhelmed. However, hickory and mesquite are very common woods to consider in your options. So, which should you use for the best results?

Hickory’s medium-intensity smoky flavor makes it the best option for smoking pork. Nonetheless, it works well with beef and chicken. Mesquite, on the other hand, has a very strong smoky flavor, and it is best used with beef cuts, specifically brisket. Some people love mesquite but do not like it overpowering their meat. In this case, you can use it together with your favorite mild flavors.

This article will help you understand which wood you can use for the best results. Keep reading with me to educate yourself more about hickory and mesquite.

Hickory vs. mesquite wood chips


Hickory normally has medium strength in smoke flavors, enabling it to impart a generous amount of smoky flavor to your foods. Even though hickory does not have a distinctive flavor like apples, it is known to leave its stamp on the meat, such as bacon.

The hickory leaves your meat with a flagrantly intense sweet smoke that you can easily recognize as it is unique among the rest. 

However, you should know that hickory is not the best option for people who have never tried it. Therefore, if you are preparing a meal for guests, ensure they have used it before and like it because it can be overwhelming for the first time. 

What does it taste like?

The smoke is savory but also sweet. Hickory enriches your meat with an amazing deep sweet color than what you can get when using mesquite, whose coloration is not much deeper than any barbeque lover would want theirs to be. For example, bacon smoked with hickory has become very famous today and people’s choices. This is because it adds a smoky flavor that directly complements the robust meaty taste of bacon. 

Also see: The Best Woods for Smoking Chicken: [Best Options Explained]

Moreover, hickory does not affect the flavor of food even if it is over-smoked, and thus nothing to worry about when using it.


Mesquite is so easy to recognize. Even someone who has never used it before will recognize it immediately after they take the first bite of the food. Why do you think this is possible? Because mesquite is one of the strongest woods to use in smoking, its strength recommends that it be used in smaller amounts. It is recommended to combine it with other mild flavors, such as pecan and apple, to reduce the robustness of its flavor.

Beginners experimenting using mesquite should be very careful because even the smallest amount overwhelms your meat ingredients. Even experts are very careful with this flavor because they know its ability. Use mesquite when using the slow and low cooking method because it burns hot and fast. It works excellently for high-heat grilling.

What does it taste like?

 Mesquite produces a rich, spicy, earthy flavor when used sparingly in smaller portions. That is why we insist on using it sparingly, especially when you are starting. In addition, it adds some coloration to the meat cuts. Using mesquite, the only trick that can help you smoke without challenges is to use it selectively, as it burns fast and hotter than the other smoking woods. Thus, it can be easily overused or stay on fire for a long time, leading to a bitter taste that is not desirable in many cases.

Its properties are complicated, making it necessary to plan before using the wood. However, meat and food that take less cooking time are the best options to use with mesquite because they will be out of the grill before the wood overcooks, imparting its bitter taste.

Hickory liquid smoke

Hickory liquid smoke is made from distilling actual hickory smoke. Therefore, you should expect the same taste and flavor as when you could have used hickory wood or chips. The liquid smoke is normally concentrated, thus varying the smoky flavor you expect in the foods you smoke. It does not contain any colors, fats, or salt, thus making it a good choice for your other marinades, as it only focuses on adding a smoky flavor.

Mesquite liquid smoke

Mesquite liquid smoke is also made from concentrated actual mesquite smoke. Use mesquite liquid smoke with beef cuts due to its robustness. Mesquite liquid smoke also does not contain fats, salt, or colors.

Which wood is best for which types of meat?

Hickory and mesquite are popular among BBQ lovers and diners. However, if you are a beginner, you still determine which wood goes best with a particular wood. Here is what you should know


Bacon is the first top meat choice you can smoke with hickory, and if you have been keen, you will always find bacon and hickory paired together. It also smokes pork to perfection, adding deeper dimensions to the meat. Thus if you want a rich flavor, consider smoking pork shoulders or any other part of pork with hickory.

Due to its versatility compared to mesquite is used in a wide range of meats and foods. Although bacon and pork make it to the top of the list, it also goes well with all red meats. However, it is also perfect for poultry, vegetables, and fish, but if only used in smaller portions or mixed with fruitwoods such as apples. To remember, hickory burns clean and long.


It is the best option for red beef meat, and mesquite goes well with the type of meat that needs more time. Beef cuts like the brisket will be the greatest accompaniment with mesquite because it is strong and can completely soak in the smoky flavor without being overpowering. Also, this wood easily discolors meat, thus making it ideal for dark red meat. Mesquite tends to be too powerful for pork, fish, poultry, and ribs. Again, this wood barely adds color to your food because it tends to be lighter but not rich.

Can hickory and mesquite be used together?

Yes, the two can be mixed and used together. This way, you will end up with a blend lighter than mesquite and stronger than hickory giving an earthy sweet mellow taste. However, not everyone can mix the two. Ensure you are experienced and know how to combine the two to bring out the best blend of tastes. First, know the food intensity to match it with your blend intensity before doing anything else. For instance, if you are up to smoking light meat, get mild wood and for heavy meat, get strong wood.

Final Thoughts

Hickory and mesquite are the two most used woods for smoking barbeques. They both have their strengths and weaknesses. Therefore it is better to know which works best with what before you go into action. For beef and strong cuts, use mesquite, but hickory is the best option for vegetables, pork shoulders, chicken, and even ribs.

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