Hickory vs Mesquite Comparison: Final Answer To The Long Debate

Hickory vs Mesquite, which one is the better option seems like a never-ending debate. These two are among the most common types of wood used in BBQ smoking. If you’re familiar with smoking meat, you’ll know for sure that the use of wood can majorly affect the deliciousness of the meat. In this topic, Bourbon O will discuss the pros and cons of both Hickory and Mesquite wood.

About Hickory’s flavor profile

Hickory is listed as a medium-strength type of wood. When burned, this wood gives off a smoky and nutty taste, and some may find it bacon-like. The smoke created by hickory wood is intensely fragrant, vaguely sweet, and hearty. If you ever had the chance to try the Southern BBQ in traditional style, you’ll be able to tell immediately if it’s the taste of hickory smoke.

However, hickory wood’s flavor profile is considered too strong, especially for those who are smoking BBQ for the first time or have only tried cooking with pecan or applewood before. If you overuse Hickory, it might produce a mild bitter taste in your meat.

It’s best that you only combine a small amount of Hickory with fruitwoods to reduce Hickory’s pungent and strong-flavored smoke. You also need to avoid overcooking the food while using Hickory for smoking.

When burned, hickory wood gives off a smoky and nutty taste and some may find it bacon-like
When burned, hickory wood gives off a smoky and nutty taste and some may find it bacon-like

Read also:How Long To Smoke Ribs at 250 Degrees? Smoking Ribs Guide

About Mesquite’s flavor profile

Mesquite imparts the strongest smoky taste among the woods used for BBQ smoking. That’s why this type of wood needs to be mixed with milder woods like fruitwoods to reduce the intense flavor. This type of wood burns quite fast, producing a lot of sparks and smoke while burning.

Whether you’re an amateur or experienced BBQ master, be extremely cautious when smoking with Mesquite. The foods can be easily overwhelmed by the strong taste of this wood.

Nevertheless, the right amount of Mesquite will result in an earthy, bold, and defined taste that elevates the deliciousness of your foods.

Mesquite imparts the strongest smoky taste among the woods used for BBQ smoking
Mesquite imparts the strongest smoky taste among the woods used for BBQ smoking

Hickory Vs Mesquite, which is the better choice?

Just like cooking in general, personal preference usually decides whether Hickory or Mesquite is better when smoking meat. We compare these two types of wood based on some important criteria as below:


Judging on the versatility, Hickory has a bigger advantage than Mesquite does. Hickory pairs well with all types of red meats and pork. However, when cooking veggies, poultry, or fish, it’s recommended to reduce the use of Hickory and combine it with fruitwoods to tone down Hickory’s flavor.

Mesquite doesn’t work well with many types of meat. The best meat types to smoke with Mesquite are lamb, duck, beef brisket, or wild game. If you’re smoking pork, ribs, fish, or chicken, the flavor that mesquite wood produces might be way too pungent and robust.

Color added to the food.

Whether you’re smoking meat with Hickory or Mesquite, the color of the food can also be affected. Nonetheless, Hickory can add a carmine red color to your food, while Mesquite produces a lighter and less rich color.

You might want to find out: Air Fryer Cancer Warning: The Truth About Air Fryers And Cancer.

Burning time

Hickory is also a great selection for low and slow cooking recipes because it has a long burning time and doesn’t produce too much ash.

On the other hand, Mesquite burns quickly and hot. That’s why it’s not advisable to use Mesquite in low and slow cooks. According to seasoned BBQ masters, the beginning or the end of the cooking process are the best moments to add Mesquite.

In other words, high heat smoking is the most recommended method to use Mesquite. However, you should make use of mesquite charcoal as a substitution for mesquite wood. Mesquite charcoal lasts quite a long, and the flavor isn’t as strong as mesquite wood.


With its high versatility, Hickory is more commonly used by the majority of people. Whereas Mesquite is less accepted as its amount of lignin is 4 times higher than that of Hickory. Lignin can have a significant impact on the final smoke flavor of the food. And the high amount of lignin that Mesquite contains makes it easier for the food to be over-smoked.  


Hickory vs Mesquite – it all comes down to your personal preference
Hickory vs Mesquite – it all comes down to your personal preference

Best food pairings for Hickory vs Mesquite?

These two types of woods can be combined together. A mixture of Hickory and Mesquite can result in a perfectly balanced flavor that is bolder than Hickory yet lighter than Mesquite. The flavor remains earthy but sweeter and more mellow.

Nevertheless, it’s not always a good idea to mix Mesquite and Hickory. You might want to try this method only if you have long years of experience in BBQ smoking. In addition, it’s also important to consider the types of meat you’re smoking before blending these two kinds of wood.

A rule of thumb that you should never forget is to choose the types of wood based on the intensity of the meat. Always use mild woods for light meats and stronger woods for heavier meats

As mentioned earlier, Hickory is the perfect choice whether you’re planning to smoke pork or bacon. This type of wood also adds a more sophisticated flavor to chicken and highlights the sweetness of beef. Hickory pairs well with thighs, drumsticks, or other dark meat cuts.

Mesquite is mostly used when smoking hearty cuts of beef. The most ideal partner for Mesquite is undoubtedly brisket. You can also combine Mesquite with weaker woods to bring out the deliciousness of pulled pork.

Don’t get too caught up when it comes to the long controversy about Hickory vs Mesquite. It’s best that you make use of these woods in a versatile way, depending on what food you’re dealing with. Both Hickory and Mesquite have their own strengths and weaknesses. If you have time, experiment with each type of wood in your own way and see which one is more ideal for you. And don’t forget to share the results with Bourbon O!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.