Mortar and pestle
Simple in design yet versatile in use, the mortar and pestle is a popular piece of kitchenware that has been in existence for millennia. It allows users to grind, crush and pulverize contents, such as grains, spices and even some fruits and vegetables.
These durable tools are made from various materials and may serve an aesthetic purpose as much as a functional one. Our favorite is this granite option by HiCoup Kitchenware, though there are many from which to choose.
What to know before you buy a mortar and pestle
The mortar is a sturdy bowl that ranges in depth and width, while the pestle is an equally strong handheld instrument, often rounded at one end. The combined design allows the user to exert an amount of force to create their ideal consistency and results.
Unlike a grinder or blender, using a mortar and pestle is a manual operation. Many users prefer this option, and some recipes benefit from it. You can use a mortar and pestle to grind fresh herbs and spices, chopped nuts or even crush pills. It can be a muddler for cocktails or used to create pastes or dips, like hummus. Perhaps the most widespread use is making guacamole, as you can easily mix in ingredients while smashing the avocados to the ideal texture.
Mortar size is measured by its diameter, which informs the capacity as well. Smaller options are about 3 inches in width, while larger models may run up to 8 inches. Consider what you’re frequently making and for how many people. For spice grinding, a smaller option will do. But if you’re making sauces and sides, opt for a mid-range or larger mortar. Keep in mind, though, that as size increases, so does weight, and these durable tools are pretty hefty.
In some cases, depth will vary, but that usually indicates the mortar should be used for a specific task. For example, deeper mortars may be more slender, best for spice grinding. Shallower, wider ones are better for mashing dips and sides.
What to look for in a quality mortar and pestle
Mortar and pestles are made from various materials, which will influence longevity, price and aesthetics.
- Granite: Among the most popular options, this durable and rough-looking material is ideal for grinding and pulverizing. However, these tend to be heavy, expensive and require seasoning ahead of its first use.
- Stainless steel: These options are helpful for those with a modern kitchen aesthetic. They are durable as well and set up for longer-term use. They tend to be cheaper and are simple to clean.
- Wood: For those who want a more natural look and feel, wood may be a good choice. They aren’t as durable and may absorb oils and odors over time, so they are best used for the same task. However, they’re lighter and easy to use.
- Porcelain: These offer a certain aesthetic while maintaining durability and ease of use. However, the slippery surface may make smaller items harder to pin down.
- Ceramic: These may be less common, but ceramic tools are helpful for smaller tasks. They are durable yet somewhat porous, so it’s advised to be careful with what ingredients you use.
You want to make sure the base of the mortar is solid and stable. When so much force is being exerted, the base needs to resist moving around, lest an accident occur. Some have thicker, broader feet, while others may be narrow. A stabler, broader foundation is best for grinding smaller, more silent items where force is needed.
How much you can expect to spend on mortar and pestle
You can find a quality, medium-sized mortar and pestle set for $15-$20 made of most materials. Granite will be the most expensive option, with larger models running higher in price.
Mortar and pestle FAQ
How do I clean my mortar and pestle?
A. It’s recommended to wash your mortar and pestle by hand, although some stainless steel options may be dishwasher safe. Be sure it’s thoroughly dried before storage. Avoid using excessive soap on porous or rough materials, as the smell and taste may linger.
Is there any risk of cross-contamination when using a mortar and pestle?
A. If you’ll be using a mortar and pestle for various tasks, such as crushing pills, grinding spices and making dips, you may want to invest in more than one model that suits the specific tasks. Wood or ceramic options may hold on to odors, while stainless steel models are better for dealing with moist ingredients. Granite offers versatility, though at a price.
What’s the best mortar and pestle to buy?
Granite mortar and pestle
What you need to know: A beautiful and durable mortar and pestle made from natural granite that is easy to use and operate.
What you’ll love: It’s a rugged, long-lasting mortar and pestle that allows for tougher grinds as well as easy mashing. It’s simple to clean, dishwasher safe and includes a lifetime warranty.
What you should consider: This model is heavy and requires seasoning before use.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Porcelain mortar and pestle
What you need to know: This affordable mortar and pestle option is made from porcelain that offers easy use with a modern aesthetic.
What you’ll love: This low-price option has a deeper mortar allowing for easier, mess-free usage, while its compact size provides easy storage. It’s also dishwasher safe.
What you should consider: Some customers voiced concerns about durability as the porcelain may chip.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Stainless steel mortar and pestle
What you need to know: This option is durable and compact. It’s ideal for easy and reliable grinding and crushing.
What you’ll love: It includes a clear lid to protect against messes and the stainless steel is easy to clean and requires little care. It has a stable base that doesn’t take up much room.
What you should consider: It lacks the size for sides and dips.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Anthony Marcusa is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.
Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.