Mortar And Pestle Uses

Mortar And Pestle Uses To Improve Your Culinary Skills

Ian Mutuli
Updated on

If you are reading this article, chances are this is not your first encounter with a mortar and pestle. Instead, you probably have a mortar and pestle set that is not up to standard, forcing you to reach out to your food processor when working with wet or oily ingredients.

A mortar and pestle is a kitchen staple, so don't be surprised when you own more than one set. This handy duo is your best friend for crushing garlic, whole spices into a fine powder and even when you need to make guacamole for breakfast.

Knowing how to use a mortar and pestle set properly is key to achieving your desired results. For example, if you often find spices flying off the countertop while grinding or end up with a paste or powder that is not consistent, this could be a sign that you are not using your set the right way. But, not to worry, we will get into mortar and pestle uses later in the article.

If you don't already own a mortar and pestle in your kitchen, or you want to get an upgrade, it may be challenging knowing exactly where to start. There are many different types of mortars and pestles, making it a hassle to choose one. Fortunately, we will cover the different types below, recommend our favorite sets as well as share a buying guide with you to get you started on your search.

What Is A Mortar and Pestle Set?

As obvious and cultural as it may seem to some, it is not uncommon to wonder what a mortar and pestle is. This set comprises a sturdy bowl(the mortar) and a cylindrical tool(pestle) that work together to crush and grind dry, wet or oily ingredients.

Unlike a spice grinder that also does the same job, mortars and pestles retain the natural flavor and aroma of ingredients, whether grinding spices or preparing medicines. For this reason, this set has remained a favorite among home cooks and chefs in their culinary adventures.

You will find mortars and pestles in various designs on the market, from metallic to marble and wooden. These sets are aesthetically pleasing while remaining functional, hence the need to have your set resting on the kitchen counter for when the recipe calls for it. In addition, if you are short on counter space, you are better off trading your spice grinder for this handy duo.

What Are the Benefits of Using A Mortar and Pestle?

  • It allows you to enjoy various flavors in your food. This is because crushing and grinding spices and herbs releases the aroma, essential oils, scents, and flavors you wouldn't get while using a food processor.
  • Your food will be more tasty and creamy as the different flavors marry each other to create a new flavor. In addition to the aroma, using a mortar and pestle set retains the original color of herbs and spices, which looks deliciously good in your food.
  • A mortar and pestle gives you total control of your grind texture and size. This is important when making different recipes that need a course grind or fine powder.
  • If you prefer to use freshly grounded ingredients in every meal, a mortar and pestle will allow you to crush or grind a tablespoon of spices or herbs. Unfortunately, this size is unachievable with a spice grinder or a food processor, forcing you to store the remaining pesto in a jar.

Let us get into the different types of mortars and pestles.

Types of Mortars and Pestles

The various types of mortar and pestle sets available on the market will be characterized by their materials. Below, we will look at each type and share our favorite picks for each type.

1. Stone Mortars and Pestles

a). Marble

A marble mortar and pestle is not only visually appealing on your kitchen counter but also quite functional. However, since it is nonporous, you have a rigid base to crush nuts and seeds, like fenugreek seeds that require heavy pounding.

It is important to note that marble is available in two forms, polished and unpolished. Therefore, you want to opt for an unpolished marble for your mortar and pestle since it is abrasive and easy to clean. Unfortunately, marble is susceptible to staining.

i). Sagler Mortar and Pestle Set
Sagler mortar and pestle set Marble Grey 3.75 inches...
  • Pestle mortar for crushing foods and pills
  • Pestle and mortar easy to clean nice looking Marble
  • Granite mortar and Pestle hand washing recommended
  • Mortar & Pestle Dimensions: 3. 75 inches diameter x 2 inches...

This small marble mortar and pestle is perfect for grinding things like garlic, herbs and ginger to prepare dressings or sauces. It is durable and will not chip or crack while you're making guacamole or chutney. In addition, you can use it to pulverize spices. Buyers raved about the durable construction and how handy this small set is, especially if you are short on counter space.

ii). Laevo Mortar and Pestle Set
Mortar and Pestle Set Marble - 5.6 Inch, 2.2 Cup -...
  • ????Reversible mortar and pestle - The only on a market. It...
  • ????Wonderful gift for Christmas or birthday! Easy to use kitchen...
  • ????Get bonus items today - Buy now and get your wooden spoon and...
  • ????Value set that will last all natural and eco - friendly set....
  • ????Risk-free warranty - ensures your satisfaction. In case of...

This marble set has an aesthetic design that will blend well with your kitchen aesthetic. The material is very durable, so that you will prepare meals on it for years. This Laevo mortar and pestle set is definitely worth all the hype. The pestle is double-sided, which helps to prevent flavor contamination as you work with different ingredients. In addition, the mortar is reversible to offer a large and smaller bowl if you want to ground small amounts.

b). Granite

Granite is another popular pick when it comes to stone mortars and pestles. Being heavy, long-lasting and robust, granite withstands heavy pounding without chipping or cracking. It is also nonporous, so you know no spices will seep into the set when preparing your mix.

Granite mortars and pestles will either come preseasoned, or you will need to do the seasoning yourself. In addition, the abrasive texture of this stone makes it perfect for crushing garlic and grinding spices, nuts and seeds.

i). ChefSofi Mortar and Pestle Set
Sale
ChefSofi Mortar and Pestle Set - 6 Inch - 2 Cup...
  • A kitchen must-have: Mortar and pestle set (mortero de cocina -...
  • Versatile tool: Take advantage of your brand new stone motar and...
  • Effortless use: This ChefSofi stone mocajetes motor & pedestal...
  • Quick cleaning & zero kitchen messes: As granite is inherently...
  • Satisfaction guarantee: We want you to be absolutely elated with...

This ChefSofi mortar and pestle set features unpolished granite, making crushing very easy. The rough texture does the hard work for you when dealing with spices and tough nuts. The mortar is heavy, durable, and has a non-slip base, immovable when used. In addition, it is big enough to accommodate generous salad dressing and guacamole servings. Furthermore, its aesthetic design will have you leave it on the kitchen counter for everyone to see.

ii). HiCoup Mortar and Pestle Set
Sale
HiCoup Mortar and Pestle Set - 6-inch, Large,...
  • Multipurpose: Create an aromatic symphony of flavors using a...
  • Stone: This sturdy pestle and mortar features a granite,...
  • Easy to Clean: A smooth exterior makes washing this granite...
  • Well Made: Experiment with your favorite flavor combinations...
  • Gift: Whether it's guac o' clock or time to surprise your...

This mortar and pestle by HiCoup also boasts unpolished granite, so you know your work will be relatively easier. The construction is heavy, sturdy and durable, so it will not slide as you're pounding or crushing. The downside to this set is that it may be challenging to get all the ingredients from the crevices. However, it is dishwasher safe to ease cleaning.

2. Metal Mortars and Pestles

Metal mortars and pestles are pretty popular for their grinding technique. Often made of two metals, a stainless steel or brass mortar and pestle is perfect for when you want a coarse grind. For example, this could be when crushing cardamon pods or coriander seeds and you don't need a fine powder. However, if you are not dealing with whole spices, a different set will serve you better.

Tera Stainless Steel Mortar and Pestle

Sale
Tera 18/8 Stainless Steel Mortar and Pestle with...
  • SOLID RUSTPROOF MATERIAL: Both pestle and mortar are made of food...
  • DURABLE AND STABLE: Made of solid metal, the pestle feels...
  • FOOD-SAFE: Because stainless steel does not hold residue or...
  • MESSY NOT: Translucent lid allows you to gauge your strikes and...
  • ALL YOUR GRINDING NEEDS: This grinding setup will accommodate...

Unlike the marble and granite sets above, this stainless steel mortar and pestle is odor-resistant and rustproof. It has a smooth surface that makes getting all the ingredients out and cleaning relatively easy. In addition, this specific set comes with a lid that helps catch spices while pounding. You will also limit the spice dust in your kitchen with the lid. Finally, since it is stainless steel, its durability is not questionable.

3. Wood Mortars and Pestles

A wooden mortar and pestle set is less common compared to stone and metallic sets. However, since it is light, this set is excellent for making pestos or pastes that don't require heavy pounding. In addition, since wood is light on the hands, you will get away with applying less pressure while mixing the ingredients. Unfortunately, wood is porous and wet ingredients may seep into it.

Naturally Med Wood Mortar and Pestle

Sale
Tera 18/8 Stainless Steel Mortar and Pestle with...
  • SOLID RUSTPROOF MATERIAL: Both pestle and mortar are made of food...
  • DURABLE AND STABLE: Made of solid metal, the pestle feels...
  • FOOD-SAFE: Because stainless steel does not hold residue or...
  • MESSY NOT: Translucent lid allows you to gauge your strikes and...
  • ALL YOUR GRINDING NEEDS: This grinding setup will accommodate...

If you are looking for an alternative to stone and metal, this olive wood mortar and pestle is an excellent pick. Since olive wood is a hard material, you are guaranteed to last you years with daily use. The mortar and pestle set is also odor resistant and does not stain, thanks to the dense nature of olive wood. In addition, this set is a gorgeous statement piece for your kitchen when placed on the kitchen counter.

4. Ceramic Mortars and Pestles

These sets are more on the affordable end and suitable for light pounding. You could opt for a ceramic mortar and pestle in place of a wooden one for making pastes and pestos. However, it would help if you were careful since applying too much pressure will crack and break the set.

Leetoyi Mortar and Pestle

LEETOYI Porcelain Mortar and Pestle, Ceramic Herb...
  • [New design]-The size is 4.6" L * 2.5" H. This is the best...
  • [Ceramic material]-Unlike wooden materials, ceramic materials...
  • [Practicability]-Easily picked up with one hand, The porcelain...
  • [Different occasions]- You can use it as a housewarming gift. At...
  • [Fun]-Enjoy the fun of grinding and exercise children's patience

This ceramic mortar and pestle by Leetoyi has a cutout on the mouth to allow you to pour out ground ingredients. The material is durable and does not mold, unlike wooden mortars. The interior texture is rough and unpolished. This helps to fasten the grinding and crushing process. In addition, you will love the overall design of this set.

5. Mexican Molcajete

This mortar and pestle set originates from Mexico. Although it is porous, it seasons with use similar to a cast-iron skillet. In addition, the texture allows for better crushing and grinding of spices, nuts and seeds.

i). Vasconia Molcajete Mortar and Pestle

Sale
Vasconia 4-Cup Granite Molcajete Mortar and Pestle
  • AUTHETNIC TOOL FOR GRINDING: Enjoy an authentic, hands-on tool...
  • LARGE CAPACITY FOR GRINDING: The beautiful granite Molcajete has...
  • THE IDEAL GRINDING TOOL: The smooth interior is an ideal grinding...
  • EASY TO CLEAN: Do not place in dishwasher, for best results hand...
  • DIMENSIONS: Overall dimension: 3.4 H x 7.9 W x 7.9 D inches,...

The Vasconia granite Mexican Molcajete is excellent for dips, spices, guac and other ingredients. Its design allows seamless use in the kitchen to a table serving piece. This Molcajete has a wide base, making grinding herbs like mint leaves very effortless. In addition, cleaning only requires handwashing and leaving it to dry.

ii). Festmex Molcajete Mortar and Pestle

Genuine Handmade Mexican Mortar and Pestle, Molcajete...
  • ???? Genuine Hand Carved in Mexico from Natural Volcanic Stones...
  • ????️The volcanic stone provides the ideal grinding surface for...
  • ????Molcajete(Mortar) measures approx. 8-1/2-inch diameter by...
  • ????️The package includes a card with easy instructions on How...
  • ????️If for any reason you're not happy with your purchase,...

Handcarved from volcanic stone in Mexico, this Molcajete is perfect for making guacamole, homemade salsa and chile. You can also use it to grind spices for cooking and baked goods. In addition, you will be amazed at how easy it is to clean and season it.

How Do You Choose the Best Mortar and Pestle Set?

1. Material

Having discussed the different types of mortars and pestles based on the material, the choice of whether to settle for a brass mortar or a wooden mortar will depend on your preference and needs.

2. Size

A smaller-sized mortar and pestle is great for crushing garlic, ginger, herbs and spices. However, you will need a bigger bowl for recipes like hummus, pesto, guacamole and salsa. Ideally, you want to consider your intended purpose before determining your ideal mortar and pestle size. In addition, if you are unsure about this, you could go for a large mortar and pestle set since ut can also carry out the functions of a smaller one.

3. Shape

The mortar and pestle shape defines the ease of grind and final texture. For example, a round bowl allows you to grind everything in it, while a shallow mortar increases the surface area for grounding. In addition, a cylindrical, deep and narrow mortar would be difficult to reach with the pestle.

The pestle shape is also essential to look at. Ideally, a good pestle should be long enough to crush, pound and grind ingredients without getting into contact with the mortar rim. It is also important that the pestle base used for crushing is wide. This helps increase the surface area for crushing and grinding spices.

4. Cleaning Process

When it comes to cleaning, mortars and pestles are sensitive in that they retain scents depending on the porosity. For this reason, it is advisable to stay clear of dish soaps when cleaning the set. Often than not, rinsing with warm water alone will suffice. In addition, you can add lemon to remove any stains left behind. Furthermore, some dishwasher-safe mortars and pestles help ease cleaning.

How to Use A Mortar and Pestle Properly

The first thing to note is that a mortar and pestle is more suitable for crushing, grinding and pounding. This could be anything from whole spices, chilies, herbs and even medication. However, it is best to stick to your food processor for blending, pureeing or chopping recipes.

Below are steps on how to use your mortar and pestle set the right way.

Steps:

  • Go through the recipe to see if it calls for a paste or powder. You will need to prepare either before they are needed.
  • Assemble all your ingredients and place them in the mortar. As a rule of thumb, do not fill the mortar past 1/3, resulting in an uneven grind. Instead, you could work in batches or add more ingredients as they crush and break down.
  • Work with the pestle to achieve your desired consistency. To do this, hold the mortar to the base with one hand and the pestle in your other hand. You want to gently twist your ingredients around and against the bottom and sides of the mortar. Ensure that you grind evenly so that all ingredients are crushed. In addition, mix and mash everything using the pestle until you have achieved your desired texture.
  • Finally, you could add your grind to your food and store any leftovers. When storing, use a jar with a tight-fitting lid and label the date and important details. Next, store the mixture in a fridge or cupboard, depending on the ingredients.

Grinding:

Grindin is more applicable with spices. This could be when cooking baked goods or specific recipes. The texture can be coarse, medium or fine.

  1. Add your ingredients
  2. Hold the mortar on the base and the pestle in a different hand
  3. Press the round pestle end into the ingredients and against the bottom and the sides of the mortar.
  4. Apply pressure and stop when you reach your desired consistency

Pounding:

Pounding is best for tough nuts, large seeds or spices.

  1. Start with a bit of grinding for the ingredients that crush fast
  2. Use the broad end of the pestle to pound. Use short strokes to pound effectively and fast
  3. You can place your hand on the mortar's mouth to catch ingredients that want to escape
  4. You may need to incorporate a little grinding to attain texture

Crushing:

If a recipe calls for crushed ingredients rather than ground ones, the ingredients need to be half intact.

  1. Pour your ingredients into the mortar
  2. Hold the base and the pestle in your other fist
  3. Roll the pestle on the ingredients just enough to crush and burst them. Do not apply too much pressure to avoid grinding
  4. Continue until all ingredients are well crushed

Conclusion

Adding a mortar and pestle set to your kitchen arsenal allows you to unlock a world of aroma and flavor when cooking and in your food. However, using this set in the wrong way may hinder this experience. Applying varying pressure and motions as the recipe calls is key to achieving the desired texture. We hope that this guide is will be helpful when grinding, pounding and crushing new flavors into your meals.

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.