Comparing Hickory and Mesquite: Which Wood is Best for Smoking Meat?

Hickory and mesquite are two unique kinds of wood used to smoke meat. There’s always been a battle between hickory vs mesquite about which is the best wood for using in a grill and smoking. Both these woods produces distinctive smoke, which enhances the flavor of the grilled food item. 

A general thing we should know is that not all woods produce distinctive flavors when burnt. Each has its own flavors, some of which might go well along with the food we are grilling, and some may not. This article will find which of these two kinds of wood is better for grilling. 

Hardwood Or Softwood?

hickory vs mesquite

Two different types of wood are available for grilling. Hardwood and softwood are both used for grilling or being burnt for cooking. Hardwoods and softwoods are distinguished by their reproduction process. Hardwoods use seeds to reproduce, and softwoods don’t. Also, softwood produces resin or plant sap, producing acrid smoke while burning. 

The acrid smoke that softwood releases aren’t harmful, but they aren’t helpful either. Often, the acrid smoke smells odd and unpleasant, which only reduces the flavor of our food. On the other hand, hardwood doesn’t release unpleasant smoke. Instead, the smoke that is produced while they are burnt is pleasant and adds an appealing flavor to our grilled food. 

Softwoods are quick to burn and are not best suited for grilling since we want them to burn slowly and for a longer time. Hardwood has the ability to burn for a prolonged time at high temperatures producing pleasant smoke that makes our food delicious. 

So, now the question is, which one is hardwood, hickory, or mesquite? The answer is that both hickory and mesquite are hardwood. This makes both of them fit to be used as fuel for grilling. Hickory is the hardest hardwood. Mesquite is the top-class hardwood that surpasses most hardwoods and is much denser. 


Hickory is a common wood found throughout North America and in some areas of South Asia. It is used along with another common wood found in North America: oak. Both of these woods are hardwoods and has the ability to burn at high temperature slowly for a long time. 

The flavor of hickory smoke is very consistent and strong. The wood is considered to be medium-thick would. However, it produces one of the strongest flavored smoke. That is why it is used along with oak and not individually. We don’t want our grilled foods to be over-flavored with hickory’s strong smokey flavor. 

Many say that the flavor of hickory is similar to what we have in smoked bacon. It has a salty and bacon-like flavor which goes well with pork. It has a savory flavor that can be used along with apples and cherries too. If you are cooking with hickory for the first time, use the wood scarcely because of its strong and versatile flavor. You don’t want your meat or grilled foods to be over-flavored by the wood’s smoke. 


hickory vs mesquite

Mesquite is found in South America. The exact opposite region where hickory is commonly found. It is abundant in Texas, USA. Around 70% of mesquite hardwood is found in Texas. It is also found in other regions of the world, like India, Australia, and Puerto Rico. 

It is another hardwood-like hickory that produces an intense and strong flavor; when used excessively, it can cause the meat to go bitter. However, when used in moderation, it is one of the best flavors you can have in your grilled foods. 

The wood is so dense and rich in nitrogen. When ignited, it is known to produce brief sparks, which is appealing. Also, due to excessive nitrogen present in the wood, it will catch fire quickly. It also produces a savory flavor which is often very sharp and intense. It might be the best choice to use as fuel in your grill in moderation. 

Which Is The Best? Hickory vs. Mesquite

Both of them are well flavored hardwoods that can burn for a long time at a higher temperature. But when it comes down to an ultimate decision, hickory is the best out of the two. Hickory is the battle’s winner mostly because of its versatility more than its flavor. 

Hickory can be used with other woods to produce distinctive flavors. They can be paired up with any other wood and any food. On the other hand, mesquite can’t be used with other common woods. Also, mesquite best suits duck, lamb, red meat brisket, and wild game, which are rare meats that are grilled. 

Hickory is suitable for almost all kinds of meat, like pork, red meats, and even vegetables and fruits. The intense flavor is common in both kinds of wood. But hickory is suitable for almost all kinds of BBQ foods. Hence, hickory is the best wood to fuel your grills. 

Can You Mix Mesquite And Hickory?

hickory vs mesquite

Mixing mesquite and hickory will be a good idea as they produce distinctive, delicious flavor while burnt along. The flavor would be savory and less earthly, which is the perfect combination for all kinds of BBQ foods. But make sure that mesquite’s quantity is significantly less than hickory. 

The best combination for beginners or someone trying out this combination for the first time is mixing oak, hickory, and mesquite. Oak should be the majority hardwood, and next should be hickory. Followed by mesquite, we will get the perfect flavor for all kinds of BBQ meats. This combination is not advised for BBQ fruits. However, it won’t harm for you to try that too. 

A final suggestion is that hickory is the best out of the two of these hardwoods. However, it is much better to fix them up instead of using them individually. Using them with other fruitwood would be a wise choice too.