Using hard woods to flavor bbq meat is as much an art as a science, although there is a fair amount of science involved too.
Choices of woods vary from Apple to Cherry to Peach or Pear and from Hickory to Oak to Maple or Pecan. I've never tried Mesquite, but I'm not sure it would be my cup of tea anyway. I cut my bbq teeth on Hickory, but I've also used Apple, Cherry and Oak from time to time.
I use a hardwood lump charcoal for cooking (Royal Oak brand is readily available in my area) and add "chunks" of seasoned hardwood for smoke flavor. I've found that less is more most of the time. It's pretty easy to oversmoke bbq meat. A word of caution--a couple chunks of wood is really all that's needed to produce a pleasant bbq flavor that's pleasing, but not overbearing.
Based on all accounts, Hickory wood is the most commonly used seasoning wood for bbq restaurants. Take a drive near any bbq restaurant worth it's salt in the southeastern part of the country and odds are, you'll notice a strong smell of Hickory smoke.
Several of my contest friends from Florida have been using Pecan, Oak and even Peach on the bbq circuit with great success. The fruitwoods are a little more forgiving and provide a milder flavor with less chance of over smoking.
But, if you're like me you'll take what I say as one man's opinion and with a proverbial "grain of salt". Half the fun is experimenting with various types of woods to arrive at your own personal favorite.
View the previous article in the Better Barbecue series