Mesquite and Hickory: When to Use Them!

Sep 17, 2018 | Blog

Grilling with wood gives you a unique opportunity to give your food a flavor that just can’t be achieved with any other type of heat source. The level of smokiness and the flavor of your meat will depend on the type of wood you choose, so this is obviously a very important decision. Hickory and mesquite are both very popular options with very distinctive flavors, so let’s compare them.

Hickory

The Taste

Hickory has quite a strong taste compared to apple or oak, but it’s definitely milder than mesquite. It gives a sweet, fruity, fragrant smoke. Most people like the taste, but for some, it can still be too strong. In this case, mix it with oak or other milder woods.

When to Use

Hickory is probably the most versatile wood used in barbecue. It compliments all meats, but it’s still quite heavy, so it’s strong enough to be used with larger cuts of meat. Hickory goes perfect with beef and pork, but it can be used with chicken too, and even fish. One thing you should definitely try is a hickory smoked chicken, seasoned with some olive oil, black pepper, paprika, and thyme.

Mesquite

The Taste

Mesquite is most popular in Texas, where it’s abundant and it’s probably the strongest smoke wood out there. Because it’s so strong, it can easily overpower the taste of your food, but if used right it results in an amazing flavor that can hardly be compared to anything else. If you are new to mesquite, it’s best to use it sparingly, combined with hickory or oak.

When to Use

Mesquite, on the other hand, has a very strong taste unlike any other and it goes only with certain types of dishes. The only case where you can safely use mesquite alone is with robust chunks of red meat, like briskets. However, small quantities of mesquite in combination with other, milder smoke woods can be used to complement almost any dish. To cook a perfect mesquite smoked brisket, rub it with spices of your choice and leave to rest for 12-24 hours before cooking.

Conclusion

There are people who use mesquite exclusively for any type of barbecue because of its unique taste. However, if you are just trying it out it’s best to start with a large cut of beef. Hickory, on the other hand, goes best with pork, but you can’t really use it incorrectly as it goes with everything.

Getting the perfect taste with mesquite requires some skill and experience, but with hickory, it’s super easy to get amazing barbecue. Mesquite also burns hotter and longer than most other smoke woods and produces a really thick smoke. Because of this, it is sometimes first reduced to coals and then used for grilling. Both hickory and mesquite can be soaked in water for a couple of hours before cooking in order to burn slower and smolder. This produces thin blue smoke that everyone is after.

Lastly, there is a lot of space to experiment with combinations of different types of wood. You can find the right combination only by learning from experience, and everyone should try both hickory and mesquite at least once.

References

Billy Stewart

Chef and Reviewer for Barbequesmoked.com

Barbeque Smoked

Sign up for new recipes and reviews every week