Mesquite Wood For Smoking
Whether you are new to the smoking game or you have been in it for years, you probably do not need anyone telling you that there is an endless amount of possibilities out there. Not only can you smoke certain meats with traditional woods, but you can mix certain woods together and create a flavor profile that will be unmatched or unlike anything you’ve ever tried before.
All that aside, it is likely that you’ve been hearing mesquite wood getting a lot of praises as of late. Heck, just walk into any grocery store, check out the meat section, and you’ll see that many manufacturers already a wide selection of mesquite-styled meats.
While this might be the easy route, there is nothing more rewarding than smoking your own meats. However, before you can do just that you need to truly understand everything there is to possibly understand about mesquite wood, the foods it works with, and the flavor profile that it has to offer.
Heck, it might not even offer what you are looking for, but given its versatility, this is highly unlikely. Whatever the situation is, this is exactly what you are going to discover below.
A Bit Of History On The Wood
There is no denying that mesquite is widely popular today. As was mentioned above, you can walk into just about any grocery store or sit down at any restaurant, and you’re going to see that they offer something mesquite-inspired. Well, before mesquite-grilled became a common descriptor it was a tree that was considered somewhat of a nuisance.
That’s right, it was nothing more than a scraggly little tree that grew in the southwest and was considered a pain in many farmer’s butts. In fact, there are still many ranchers and farmers today in West Texas that feel this very same way. Luckily, this is how smoking and grilling with mesquite came about. People decided to take a bad situation and turn it into a good one.
The relationship with mesquite started during the post-Civil War era. This was a time when much of South and West Texas was nothing more than cattle grazing ground. As the livestock populations proliferated, they actually helped the seed-bearing mesquite pods spread.
It was the animal’s languid movement across the land that strengthened the durability of the tree’s roots and root system. The animals were attracted to the trees because of the beans that they dropped.
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This was especially true for younger animals. As the root systems got more and more trampled, they strengthened themselves as a defense mechanism.
They become so strong and widespread that they become a major problem for farmers. The area was already drought-stricken and when you have a major root system spread across the land sucking up what little water there is, it creates a pretty volatile situation.
You combine this with the fact that the tree was still growing, and it was choking off valuable acreage at every corner. At one point, it was estimated that nearly 10 million acres of Texas was covered with mesquite trees.
To make a long story short, farmers started bagging up mesquite chunks and started pawning them off as an excellent wood for barbecue. Selling wood at the time was a novel idea, but it quickly took hold and this is how Texas became so associated with mesquite-inspired flavors.
The Characteristics Of Mesquite
Mesquite is without a doubt one of the most abundant and widespread woods in Texas. However, it is still a unique wood that gives off a lot of unique characteristics. This is just one of the many reasons that it works so well for grilling and smoking. Mesquite wood is one that burns hot and fast, but while it is burning, it produces an incredible amount of smoke that gives off an intense earthy flavor.
Unfortunately, it is also a wood that takes a long time to cure. In fact, it can take anywhere from nine months to a year for the wood to properly cure and be ready for smoking. That being said, it does have the ability to be tamed. This makes it a go-to option when it comes to quicker cooks.
Another thing to note about the wood is that it is extremely high in lignin. Lignin is the very component of wood that combusts and produces smoke. This is exactly why you’ll find that mesquite is so smokey.
It is full of lignin! It is also pertinent to know that mesquite wood emits sparks as it burns. This means that you’ll need to be extra careful when cooking with the wood. Never leave your area unattended for too long.
Offers A Different Presentation
You already now know that mesquite is a truly unique wood in its own right. However, it just doesn’t stop there. The wood is one that can do wonders for your food. Not only will it imbue it with magical flavors, but it is going to give it a presentation that is off the charts.
That’s right when you smoke your meats with mesquite they are going to come out colored. Hickory and oak can offer the same kind of profile, but you’ll find that it is mesquite that offers a much lighter look. This is excellent when it comes to a professional presentation.
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The Flavor Profile
By now, you probably already know that mesquite is going to offer the heaviest smokey flavor of any smoking wood, and this is all in part thanks to its high content of lignin. When cooked with meats, it’ll give your food an intensely bitter flavor. In fact, it probably offers the most intense flavor of any wood that you’ll find available on the market.
However, there is one downside to this wood, and that is that it tends to burn through rather quickly. This means that if you plan on doing a lot of smoking with mesquite, you are going to need a good amount of wood. Most people opt for mixing mesquite with other lighter woods to help drown out the intense flavor.
Best Meats For Mesquite
Mesquite is probably the best wood for smoking dark meats because they are the only ones that can really stand up to the strong flavors produced by the wood. Brisket, wild game meat, duck, lamb, or Tex-Mex barbacoa would be perfect examples.
That being said, there are some people that will mix it up with vegetables and steaks as well.