One of the most important tools in our kitchen is the mortar and pestle. These tools have actually been around for thousands of years now, dating back to 35,000 BC. Although they are commonly used in the kitchen for cooking, the mortar and pestle are also used for several other purposes such as masonry, pharmacology, and alchemy. Depending on the type of mortar and pestle that you own, they can also give a dramatic flair to your overall kitchen décor.
The mortar and pestle are often used for cracking peppercorns and some herbs and spices. They are also used for crushing medications for humans and pets. Sure, there are food processors and spice grinders that can be used for the same purposes, but you could miss out on the subtler flavors that will come out of your spices when hand grinding them using the mortar and pestle.
Many times, a high-quality mortar & pestle could outperform their electric counterparts especially in terms of convenience, clean up, and ease of use.
So, let’s take a look at some of the best mortar and pestle in the market. Let’s also find out how to effectively use this kitchen tool, and cover some of the most important things to take into consideration when buying the best mortar and pestle. To further help you with your search, we’ll also review some of the best-rated models in the market.
What’s a Mortar and Pestle?
A kitchen tool that has been around for thousands of years, the mortar & pestle is mainly used for preparing ingredients by crushing and grinding them into pieces or into powder. Aside from being used for cooking, the tool is also used in pharmacology, masonry, and alchemy applications.
Despite the fact that there are now electric spice grinders and food processors, a lot of people would still use the mortar & pestle because they believe that the food will be more flavorful if the ingredients are processed manually. Some world-renowned chef believes that subtle flavors can only be achieved through hand grinding. Other reasons why many people would still choose the mortar and pestle is because it’s easy to use, easy to clean, and very convenient.
Why a Mortar and Pestle?
Grinding the herb fibers instead of chopping them, while releasing its essential oils, aroma, and flavor, is what really gives the curry and chili pastes the distinct flavor that you cannot get if you are going to prepare the ingredients with the help of a food processor or an electric grinder.
This is especially evident if you’re going to use highly fibrous spices for your cooking, as well as aromatic roots, like garlic, lemongrass, ginger, kaffir lime peel, and galangal. While these spices are dry to look at, they are actually loaded with oils and fluids and the only way to reduce them into a moist paste is by grinding them.
In order to get the full flavor and aroma of a crushed herb, the mortar and pestle are necessary. What happens if you ended up grinding a lot of herbs and spices in just one single recipe? Although they have to be used quickly to achieve the most flavors, these home ground spices can be possibly kept in jars and containers for use in the future.
Designed and manufactured by a famous kitchenware specialist from the UK, the Cole & Mason mortar and pestle is a well-polished 7-inch model made from granite. It’s highly durable and can take care of all your crushing and grinding needs in the kitchen.
Cole & Mason designed the mortar and pestle in such a way that it can optimize the surface in between the pestle and the mortar, thereby improving pounding and grinding. As a result, more flavor and aroma will be released from the herbs and spices that are being pounded.
Another smart feature that the mortar & pestle have is the manner in which its heavy weight is disseminated among three sections, which holds the entire weight of the mortar at the midsection resulting in an outstanding balance. The mortar or the bowl holds well and stable enough even during the most extreme pounding process.
The interior of the Cole & Mason mortar is slightly rough, making it suitable for both dry and wet mixes. On the other hand, the long and durable pestle is comfortable to hold and makes full contact with the herbs or spices, while keeping them steady while being pounded.
The pestle weighs 1-¾ lbs., while the mortar is at 13.5 lbs. Moreover, the mortar is deep and generous enough to handle plenty of herbs or spices. It’s 7.5 inches high and has a diameter of 5 inches. The depth of the bowl is 3.5 inches. As for the pestle, it is 8 inches in length and has a narrow and broad end, which makes pounding so much easier.
Made from a superior quality granite material, the Cole & Mason mortar and pestle has a sleek finish, making it a great choice for a stylish and functional mortar and pestle.
- Made from superior quality black granite.
- Sleek and stylish.
- Mortar is deep enough
- A bit expensive
If you’re in need of a stylish mortar and pestle for your kitchen, the Marble Mortar and Pestle from Juvale would be a great choice. Made from a black marble material and decorated with some gray accents, this is no doubt, one of the best-looking mortar and pestles in the market. It looks very elegant and attractive and can certainly add some flair to your kitchen shelves.
The Juvale marble mortar and pestle have a nonporous finish, which means that the flavor and aroma of herbs and spices will not be compromised since it will not be absorbed by the tools. Furthermore, the mortar has a diameter of 4.5 inches and is 5 inches high, which means that it’s generous enough to handle a good number of herbs and spices. On the other hand, the pestle is 5.25 inches long and the diameter is 1.5 inches.
- Made from a durable black marble material.
- Very elegant and stylish.
- Has nonporous finish
- Could chip after extreme grinding
- The pestle is not that long
For maximum extraction of flavors, the Health Smart Granite mortar and pestle would be a great choice. It’s handcrafted from a natural granite material and shaped ergonomically giving it a more elegant look. To allow for easy pounding and grinding, the interior of this granite mortar and pestle is textured. The exterior is smooth, which means that it’s gentle to use.
The mortar’s diameter is 5 1/8 inches and is about 3 inches high. Its pestle is about 5 inches long and heavily constructed to handle rigorous pounding and grinding.
- Made from high-quality natural granite
- Textured interior
- Smooth exterior
- Both mortar and pestle are heavy.
Made from a highly durable natural stone material, this mortar and pestle will provide you with a great grinding and pounding experience in the kitchen. Its solid construction gives you a peace of mind, so you can concentrate more on preparing delicious food in your kitchen.
Having a diameter of 4 inches and a height of 3 inches, the mortar has just the right size. It’s also available in different colors so you can choose something that matches well with the overall look and décor of your kitchen.
- Solid construction
- Available in different colors
- Stone could crack after heavy pounding
- A bit too small
The Molcajete Spice Grinder is a very stylish mortar and pestle made from the US. It looks very good and can go well with any kitchen design. The product is perfectly crafted, and the mortar has a generous size, having a diameter of 8 inches. Furthermore, it’s made from a nonporous finish, which ensures that the mortar or pestle will not absorb the oils extracted from the herbs and spices. The base part of the mortar functions well enough to keep it stable and steady during the process of grinding.
- Stylish and elegant design
- Available in two sizes, 6 and 8 inches.
- Stable and steady pounding.
- The interior texture is a bit rough
- Large and heavy
Home Basics is one of the leading brands of household products and are known for producing high-quality kitchen tools, including mortar and pestles. This stylish looking mortar and pestle is made from a natural bamboo material. It has a smooth finish, allowing you to extract maximum flavor and aromas from herbs and spices. The top diameter and height of the mortar are 4.5 inches. It’s a great choice for preparing and cooking flavorful meals in the kitchen.
- Stylish mortar and pestle
- Smooth finish
- Very affordable
- Could easily develop molds
- A bit smaller than an average sized mortar and pestle
This mortar and pestle have the perfect combination of style and durability. It’s made from porcelain, giving it a classy look, so it can also serve as a decoration for the kitchen. The set includes three different sizes of mortar, the 4.5-inch, 3.5 inches, and 2.5. Each mortar also comes with its own pestle. It’s beautiful and smooth neutral white finish blends well with the rest of your kitchen utensils that are made from porcelain.
- Dishwasher safe
- Looks classy and elegant
- Available in 3 different sizes
- Easy to clean
- It could break very easily
- Not ideal for heavy pounding
If you want an elegant mortar and pestle that’s made of marble, the Fox Run Mortar and Pestle would be a great choice. Aside from having great functionality, it can also make for a perfect centerpiece in your kitchen countertop. Made from a durable and scratch-resistant marble, this product is expected to last for a long time even with regular use. The mortar has a diameter of 4 inches while the pestle is 5 inches long. With its smooth finish both inside out, you won’t have to deal with particles sticking into the sides after pounding or grinding.
- Classy design
- Made from durable and scratch-resistant marble
- Smooth finish
- A bit too heavy.
This mortar & pestle from RSVP is designed to make preparing ingredients easier and more efficient. It’s a stylish kitchen tool made from a high-quality and durable white marble with a smooth texture. With its classy and elegant look, the product can also be displayed on your kitchen counter or shelf.
The smooth finish of the mortar and pestle means you’ll not have to deal with any herbs and spices sticking on the sides when grinding or pounding, measuring 4.5 inches in diameter, the mortar is just roomy enough to handle up to 10 cups of spices or herbs. The pestle is 5.5 inches long. It’s heavily constructed to allow for the effortless crushing and grinding of even the toughest ingredients. Thanks to its smooth finish, cleaning this mortar and pestle is so easy with the use of a damp cloth.
- Elegant look
- Made from durable and smooth marble
- Smooth texture
- Easy to clean
- The pestle is not too durable and could get broken in time
If you need a mortar and pestle that can easily crush and grind herbs and spices, this Casa Maria mortar and pestle would be a perfect choice. Its mortar is 8.5 inches wide and roomy enough to handle a good number of herbs and spices. With its pure granite construction, the product is solid enough to withstand the daily grinding. It’s highly resistant to scratches and could last for many years to come. Above all, it’s very easy to clean, as it only requires wiping it with some damp cloth.
- Roomy mortar and could accommodate plenty of ingredients
- Solid and durable construction
- Highly resistant to scratches.
- Easy to clean
- Weighs more than 14 pounds, which is a bit too heavy.
The History of Mortars and Pestles
As mentioned above, the mortar and pestle have been around for thousands of years now. In fact, historians have found early versions of these kitchen tools that date back to 35,000 BC. But one of the most interesting things about mortar and pestle is that they have barely changed since that time. The modern version of the mortar and pestle that’s commonly found in various kitchens now is almost similar to the mortar and pestle that was discovered in the Tehuacán Valley of Mexico about 6,000 years ago. And although the overall composition and appearance of the tool have barely changed, the uses of the tool have changed a lot.
Nowadays, some of the world-renowned chefs have been using mortar and pestles to pound herbs, spices, and nuts. But if what was written in the Book of Exodus is true, then mortar and pestles have been used by the Israelites in the 6th Century BC for grinding their manna. In fact, there’s an Egyptian medical text that dates back to the 1550 BC, which talks about doctors using the mortars & pestles in producing ointments and tincture. There is also evidence showing some Italian apothecaries using the tool around the 14th and 15th Century.
There are some historians who argued that the mortar and pestles played a more important role in the community of medicine than in the world of culinary. As a matter of fact, they have still left their mark, as evidenced on those graphical images of mortar & pestle used in some pharmacies, including Walgreens. While modern pharmaceutical companies are no longer using a mortar and pestle to grind your medicines, the image is still very symbolic up until today.
What to Look for When Buying Mortar and Pestle
Ideally, you should choose the type of mortar and pestle that’s made from a highly durable material. If possible, avoid those that have overly rough and porous surface since they are so difficult to clean up. Moreover, those that have very smooth surfaces can make grinding very slippery and could squirt the food particles out of the mortar.
Before you make a purchase, you should take time to do your research and determine how you’re going to use the tool. If you want to create tapenades and pastes out of it for the upcoming dinner party that you are hosting for a group of friends, then choose a set of mortar & pestle that has a bigger capacity. The mortar should have a deeper well, so it could adequately accommodate a good amount of ingredients.
On the other hand, if you’re going to use the mortar and pestle for crushing medications at least once a day, you can opt for the smaller model.
It’s very important that you choose the mortar and pestle according to your personal preferences and needs.
A mortar that’s deeply rounded can help to keep the ingredients from jumping out, while the shallow ones may not be able to contain the ingredients well. You should also choose a bowl with enough durability and strength, especially at the bottom weight. That way, it will remain stationary no matter how much pressure you will apply to it.
Choose the set that has a matte or slightly pebbled finish, so it will create enough friction allowing you to easily grip the tool when grinding. However, it should also be easy to clean.
When looking for the best mortar and pestle to buy, choose the set that has a pestle with the right size. Its base should be curved gently, and it must be broader than the tip. The pestle that has a wide girth is often more comfortable to handle. Moreover, a broad base is necessary in order to keep the ingredients to stay in the bowl.
You should also consider the overall weight of the mortar and pestle. A large mortar & pestle that’s made from granite should be able to push 20 pounds of ingredients, and this can be difficult for some other mortar and pestles to handle. The overall dimensions and measurements are also very important for your mortar and pestle.
Try to look for a mortar and pestle that has a felt pad around its base. Otherwise, you can glue the felt pad yourself. Having a felt on the base of the mortar means it’s easy for you to slide the tool off your countertop without damaging the surface.
Materials and Cleaning
Most of the mortar and pestle that’s made of stone, either marble or granite, are often durable. They are heavy, yet they can be finished to a matte surface to withstand the heavy pounding. If you ever find a chalk at the bowl as a result of the machining process, consider seasoning it with rice before you use. Pour over some dry white rice to the mortar and pound until such time that it becomes powdery. Remove the rice and repeat the process until such time that the mortar will be chalk-free. Rinse with water and wipe dry.
Wood is a good-looking material for a mortar and pestle and it’s a great choice if you need something that you can also display at the kitchen counter or shelves. However, there are some wooden mortar and pestles that can’t withstand the rigorous use in the kitchen, especially for heavy-duty pounding.
- Clay and Porcelain
Clay and porcelain are great materials, but they also have their own shortcomings. Clay is porous and is fairly fragile, so it may not be able to withstand the heavy pounding. On the other hand, porcelain is lightweight, yet it’s highly prone to breakage. But the good thing about porcelain is that it looks good and can be possibly washed in a dishwasher.
There are also mortar and pestles that are made from stainless steel. They look sleek; however, their surface is slippery and will make the ingredients you are grinding to jump out. The only good thing about these mortar and pestles is that they can be easily washed.
Heft – Depending on how you intend to use the kitchen tool, a heavy and solid mortar and pestle would be a great use since the weight and construction can do a lot of work for you.
Bowl Depth – In most applications that require the use of mortar and pestle, a deeper mortar is often a more preferred choice since it prevents the food from spilling out of the bowl while you are pounding away.
Texture – The texture of the bowl will be a big factor in the tool’s ability to grind. However, too much texture could make it extremely difficult to clean, which can be a hassle.
Importance of Size and Shape
Aside from the material, another important thing to consider for your mortar and pestle is the overall size and shape, and most especially its weight. The overall internal capacity of the bowl will determine how difficult or easy it is to grind the ingredients. A small bowl would be enough to give you a smooth paste due to the limited space available for the ingredients to move around.
If you plan on producing up to 6 ounces of paste, it’s a good idea to choose a larger size, having a depth of at least six inches.
A good mortar is something that has enough depth and has a rounded shape so as to contain the ingredients well. It’s also important for the mortar to have a stable base in order to keep it from toppling down especially during heavy pounding.
Some pestles that are being sold in the market today are narrow and rounded, which causes the ingredients to jump out during pounding. The most recommended pestle is something that has a broad and gently rounded base. If you’re going to use the mortar and pestle to grind a good amount of spices, then you might be better off using a spice grinder.
How to Use Your Mortar & Pestle Set
The mortar and pestle may not be an ideal tool if you need to ground something into powder or paste. Some of the most common ingredients that the mortar and pestle are used for are whole spices, peppercorns, nuts, seeds, aromatic roots, fresh herbs, rice, leaves, legumes, and sea salt. The tool is also used for non-culinary purposes and that is for crushing medicines. Anything that requires grinding or crushing for baking or cooking should work well in the mortar and pestle.
Here are more tips when it comes to using the mortar and pestle for the kitchen:
- Read the recipe for instructions on the proper way of grinding our pounding the ingredients. Some recipes would require that the ingredients be made into a powder or paste. Others would also require that the ingredients are first prepared ahead of time before they can be used for cooking or baking.
- Prepare your ingredients. You need to measure the ingredients well before you pour them into the mortar to start grinding. Avoid pouring more than 1/3 full of the ingredients into your mortar. Doing so will make it difficult for you to grind or process the ingredients. You always have the option to add more at a later time.
- Apply the pestle to achieve the desired consistency. Steadily hold the mortar at the base using your one hand and use your other hand to handle the pestle. Hold on to the pestle firmly and twist around the ingredients in the mortar. Push them against the sides and into the bottom. Grind the ingredients evenly and crush them well using the pestle until such time that you achieve your desired consistency.
- Measure the ingredients that you need to use the recipe you are cooking. If you have processed more than the required amount of ingredients, store them in a jar and seal with a tight-fitting lid. Don’t forget to label and put a date on the jar. Store in a cool and dry place.
Grinding is necessary for the spices that will be added to sauces, baked goods, and other dishes. The spices are either ground to coarse, either medium or fine consistency. Grinding is often necessary for spices added to sauces, baked goods, and some other dishes.
For much larger spices or seeds, including tough nuts, a firm yet gentle pounding is necessary in order to crack open the hard shells.
For recipes that require ingredients that need to be crushed instead of ground, then they have to be totally crushed or pulverized.
Just like with any kitchen tool that you own; the mortar and pestle are very useful in preparing delicious foods in your kitchen. The tool makes cooking and preparing food more convenient and easier. However, given the wide varieties of mortar and pestle that are being sold in the market now, it’s important to take your time in looking for the right product to buy.
Of all the mortar and pestles mentioned above, the Cole & Mason Mortar and Pestle is the best choice. This tool is highly durable and can be relied on whether you are grinding, pounding, or crushing ingredients. What’s more, it looks very stylish, so you can simply display it on your shelf or counter if not in use. It can make your kitchen look even more sleek and stylish. While it may cost more than the other mortar and pestles in the market, investing in the Cole & Mason mortar and pestle is definitely worth it.