If one is prepared, there is nothing to stop one. But what is the actual meaning of prepping? First, it involves survival skills. Second, it involves proper gear in a well-packed survival sack. Third of all is the knowledge about particular actions to take to keep surviving in particular situations. Of course, the survival chances will increase if you have weapons on you and the ability to use and take care of them the best way possible. The same goes for other survival tools.
Nowadays, people prefer to buy tools that do not require any effort to use, like duct tape, for one,. However, an outdated set of mortar and pestle remains valuable equipment even today. It was a necessary tool for our ancestors as they did not have the variety of devices we have now. They used natural instruments for cooking such as stones, vessels, and fire to prepare food and fry it. Mortar and pestle were the most crucial devices for food grinding and pounding.
Traditional Mortars and Pestles
Because of the differences in approaches to cooking around the world, there are traditional kitchen tools in every country. Some countries adopted mortars and pestles to their own needs, and it seems impossible to prepare traditional food without special instruments. That is why you should ask local people about the mortars and pestles they use in their country if you like the dishes of particular cuisine and want to cook them by yourself.
For instance, Italian food is full of unique spices, and preparing these ingredients requires special skills and specific equipment. There is a higher probability of achieving a flavor similar to the Italian one in pesto if you use Mediterranian mortar and pestle.
There are more essential mortars and pestles for worldwide gastronomy, and we will describe them below.
1 – Mexican Molcajete for Guacamole and Salsa
Molcajete and tejolote are Mexican names for mortar and pestle, respectively.
They are made of volcanic stone with a porous structure that creates more abrasive particles on the surface of the bowl and pestle. A unique material used in the molcajete and tejolote makes it difficult to purchase something similar outside of Mexico.
Some sellers claim that mortars and pestles made of granite or concrete allow you to cook Mexican sauces of the same quality as traditional ones. Often these offers are just ways to sell goods for producers. However, granite and especially concrete mortars and pestles cannot grind seeds and pepper skin, which are Mexican food ingredients. That is why you should avoid buying these types of tools to save money for more high-quality instruments.
Of course, the most affordable way to get molcajete and tejolote is to travel to Mexico. Nevertheless, there are some excellent products sold in online shops.
- Choosing molcajete and tejolote for guacamole or salsa do not confuse them with other Mexican grinders such as metate. Metate is used for grinding corn as an ingredient for tortillas, and it has a flat and smooth surface by contrast.
In addition to professional instruments, you have to learn the recipe to cook guacamole correctly. You can review the way Mexicans prepare this sauce in the video below.
You can notice that ingredients should be prepared for smashing with pre-charing. Only after this procedure can you use molcajete to grind all products for the sauce.
By thy, ask a seller about the preprocessing of the molcajete as sometimes you need to make additional operations with its surface before usage. Thus, if molcajete was not pre-seasoned, you should use salt or rice to prepare a bowl coat and remove volcanic dust. You can learn how to do this in the video below.
Read more about the characteristics of Mexican mortar and pestle and purchase them on Amazon.
2 – Japanese Suribachi
There is a specific type of mortar in Japan called Suribachi, and it is made of pottery in a unique shape. Japanese pestle Surikogi is usually made of hardwood and is efficient only in a set with Suribachi. Japanese apply Suribachi and surikogi to prepare sesame paste as the bowl of a mortar has several ridges on its surface for better grinding. Ridges allow crumbling seeds and make a fresh paste out of them. These prongs are called Kushi-no-me by local people, so you probably will meet this name if you decide to buy a Suribachi.
There are other ways to implement these traditional Japanese tools in the cooking process. For instance, they apply these instruments for tofu smashing or meat grinding as ingredients of tsukune.
If you want to upgrade your kitchen gear with a Japanese instrument, Suribachi is the best choice for you. It can be applicable for cooking other types of dishes, such as pesto or different sauces. However, it is more efficient when you use tools for their original purpose.
Suribachi and surikogi differ in their size, but I recommend you select medium-size ones. Here is a helpful link to an online shop with Japanese kitchen instruments, including their mortar and pestle.
To the point
Mortar and pestle are parts of the traditions and culture of some countries today. Moreover, they help grind dry spices even for people who do not care about culinary traditions. This is because there are no other tools that can perform this task as perfectly as mortar and pestle set does it.
We devoted this article to this ancient tool for cooking, its history, and its availability on the market today. If you want to know how to choose the best mortars and pestles for your purposes, read this review, and you will find answers to all your questions.
Mortar and Pestle History
For centuries, people have been using tools similar to mortar and pestle sets as cooking is impossible without hand grinding. Hominids created the first mortar and pestle out of stone more than 5 million years ago, and since that time, it has been upgraded a lot. By the way, cooking was not the only purpose of using such an instrument — people used it for making music. The beating of the pestle with a mortar bowl made the first sounds that became symbols of that time. Probably, it was an activity that led to the creation of modern beats and rhythms in songs.
Hominids started to use fire more than 500,000 years ago, the origin of Homo Sapiens took place from 100,000 to 200,000 years ago, agriculture was invented 10,000 years ago. However, people designed the first mortar and pestle even before arising of agriculture. It means that the importance of mortar and pestle for the development of the human species was even more significant than agriculture at that time.
Imagine the timespan between the creation of our ancestors’ first cutting and grinding tools and the production of modern kitchen equipment such as a food processor or blender. These devices were introduced to our lives only in the industrial era, but before this, people managed to cook without them. Even though blenders and food processors do their work quickly and without effort, the procedure’s outcome is not the same as after using a mortar and pestle set.
What are mortar and pestle about?
The idea of mortar and pestle is to grind spices and crush ingredients, and generate aromas and oils out of them. The only drawback of the mortar and pestle is that you should put in a lot of effort and have strong arms to crush any ingredients. I believe that a short physical activity is not tiring for people, especially those who spend their days sitting in the office. Furthermore, investing energy in creating delicious sauces like pesto or curry pastes brings a reward as a tasty complement to many dishes.
The crucial thing you should know about the mortar and pestle is that there are numerous types of these tools, and they differ in the purpose of usage. For example, some of them were invented to grind spices, while other mortars are better for making sauces.
That is why you should understand the differences between types of mortars and pestles and choose the proper ones. Besides, the decrease in the popularity of these instruments caused a massive supply of low-quality products to the market. Therefore, you should know the main characteristics of a good mortar and pestle set when selecting it in a shop.
Features of Mortar and Pestle
Regardless of the type of mortar and pestle you want to purchase, there are the main aspects you should pay attention to:
1 — Material
The most durable and valuable mortars are usually made of stone. As hand grinding spices is a force-required process, using marble or granite mortar and pestle sets is better. These stones are strong enough to withstand pressure and not crush during application. On the contrary, stone mortars made of ceramic can crack because of the force you apply.
Regarding wooden one, it is not recommended to use such a tool for grinding spices as the density of wood is similar to the density of products. Wooden pestles are suitable for cooking some dishes, but mortars are more effective when they are made of stone.
Also, you can find cast iron or stainless steel mortar and pestle sets today, but they are less popular to use. The main advantage of the stainless steel ones is that they are dishwasher safe and easy to clean.
Nevertheless, the quality of the resulting product is much better when you apply more traditional instruments such as stone or wood sets.
2 — Shape
Mostly all mortars are made in the shape of bowls, and this design is practical for all purposes. However, there are many options when mortars have a cylinder shape, making the processor grinding more difficult because of hard-to-reach corners.
3 — Size
You should pay attention to the size and length of the pestle as it influences the process of grinding. For instance, it is hard to use a short pestle when the mortar is deep because you can hurt your fingers easily. At the same time, the width of the pestle affects the quality of pulverizing as a tiny one will just push the product and not grind it.
4 — Coating
Some poor-quality mortars and pestles are polished to make the appearance more attractive and glossy. However, it reduces the quality of pulverizing. That is why you should choose tools with abrasive surfaces if you want them to be applicable.
More factors influence the performance of the mortar and pestle set, but they depend on a particular case. We will describe it all in detail below.
Types of Mortars and Pestles
I distinguish two main types of mortars and pestles available on the market:
Of course, there are more dissimilarities between the tools except for the size but the main characteristic to define the purpose of the mortar and pestle is their size.
Large Mortars and Pestles
As regards big mortars and pestles, I consider them as more universal in comparison to smaller ones. The thing is that they are suitable for both sauce cooking and grinding spices. Large mortar should have a volume bigger than four cups, and the diameter of the pestle has to be not smaller than 8 inches. You should check the size of the tools before buying them, as some producers call their goods large even if they are not bigger than two cups just to sell them faster.
The main reason for the effectiveness of the large mortar and large pestle is their capacity. Such dishes as pesto or Thai curry paste include lots of spices, and you can smash and mix ingredients only using a large mortar and pestle set.
However, material matters as well. For example, I found ceramic mortar and pestle in a museum with traditional items and bought them for cooking. Pestle was big enough for pesto making, and I was sure that I would be able to repeat the original pesto recipe at home. However, I could not achieve the proper consistency and flavor of the sauce, and I understood the reasons for that.
Firstly, pesto includes a lot of ingredients that need to be smashed with a hard object. Even though ceramics is a solid material, I was afraid to put a lot of effort because of possible cracks in the mortar. That is why such stones as granite or marble are more suitable for this task.
Moreover, the width of the pestle’s head was not compatible with the diameter of the mortar. Therefore, the pestle was not big enough, so spices escaped being smashed. This pestle type was more similar to pool cue as it pushed ingredients aside and did not crash them.
You can use ceramic mortars and pestles but for other types of tasks than doing sauces. In this article, we will tell you more about particular models of large mortars and pestles and their possible applications.
Small Mortars and Pestles
Some people think that a small mortar and pestle set is useless in the kitchen and can be applied only to the interior. I can argue that they play an essential role as cooking tools too. For instance, a small two-cup large mortar is perfect for whole spices grinding as they can transform them into a fine powder. Of course, an electric spice grinder can perform this task perfectly, but it takes more time to set the device and clean it after usage than just smash spices with mortar and pestle. It is reasonable to apply an electric grinder only when making a huge amount of powder. Otherwise, it is just a waste of time for additional activities such as connecting it to electricity and washing all the parts of the device.
Small mortars and pestles are suitable for garlic or ginger grinding, pill smashing, and mixing other ingredients. There are much more tasks where you can implement this type of kitchen tool, and it all depends on your comfort with the size of the instruments.
- Pay attention to the material mortar, and pestle sets are made of as it influences the quality and flavor of a resulting product. In this article, you will find reviews on the small brass, stone, and wooden mortars and pestles.
Universal Mortar and Pestle Set
As we told you before, you have to consider the purpose of using these kitchen tools while selecting them. However, one set of mortar and pestle is suitable for almost all tasks — Thai Granite Mortar and Pestle.
This kitchen tool is made of solid granite and has an unpolished interior what makes the pestle able to grind even hard particles of the product. It is perfect equipment for cooking Thai curry paste as well as for grinding dry spices. The heft of the granite pestle is suitable for extracting the full range of aromas, even from dehydrated vegetables. For example, it can destroy fibers of makrut lime or galangal.
We have tested several large mortars and pestles for cooking Thai paste, and we noticed that these tools showed the best result because of the abrasive surface of the bowl. However, the size of the granite pestle is not big enough for the destruction of tiny fibers. That is why you should choose another option if you want to grind such leaves as basilic or others.
It is possible to cook pesto with a Thai granite mortar and pestle set, but Mediterranian kitchen tools can make it better because it is their original purpose. Thai granite mortar and pestle set does not allow the chef to make the creamy texture of the sauce because of the lack of shearing forces. The resulting pesto depends on the time you spend on the pulverization of ingredients. Nevertheless, pesto made with Thai granite mortar and pestle is more delicious and similar to Italian than sauces made with food processors.
One of the main disadvantages of large batches is that their weight is difficult to handle. You should be prepared for intensive work when you use Thai granite mortar and pestle. The effort you put into cooking with these granite mortar and pestle worths it as the final result will pleasantly surprise you.
Explore characteristics of this stone set and purchase it here.
Mortar and Pestle for Sauces
White marble mortar with a wooden pestle is the best combination for creating creamy sauces at home. It is easy to purchase these instruments in the South of Europe but mainly impossible to buy them in the USA. That is why we recommend you order this Mediterranian mortar and pestle online from an Italian shop.
There are various white marble mortars with different kinds of pestles on the website, and your choice should depend on your needs. Marble mortar and olive wood pestle are the best instruments for creating smoothy textures that are important for pesto, aioli, and mayonnaise. By the way, mortars and pestles were the only tools people used for sauce cooking before the invention of blenders and food processors.
Even though a pestle does not look capable of making an emulsified consistency, it works in the same way as a whisk. The oil dispersing to small particles is reached by shearing forces between marble mortar and olive wood pestle. Therefore, if you put enough effort into grinding pesto ingredients, you will get a creamy sauce instead of oily.
The size and width of the hardwood pestle’s head allow you to reach such a result. It has an enormous surface area that shears oil particles during abrasion between pestle and bowl. Moreover, this is just the right size of the wood pestle because it allows grinding tender products such as garlic, basil, or nuts with several strikes. The smaller size of the pestle head requires you to spend much more time smashing this type of ingredient.
As cooking pesto is possible with softer pestle such as oil wood one instead of granite or marble, you can avoid noisy strikes while smashing products. However, the Mediterranian mortar and pestle set is not suitable for Thai curry paste because of the harsh ingredients. A Thai mortar and pestle are more practical to use for this task because of the solid construction.
More to consider
Besides, red chili colors marble mortar to the red when cooking Thai curry paste with a Mediterranian set. It is hard to remove the stains even after several applications. That is why I chose the Thai mortar and pestle set as more universal because it is easier to cook pesto with granite tools than Thai curry paste with marble and olive wood tools.
Firstly, you need to determine the main tasks you plan to do with mortar and pestle before purchase. If you are not a fan of Thai spices and will never grind them with kitchen tools, Mediterranianset is preferable. It provides an opportunity to cook various sauces and use it as a spice grinder for some herbs.
The easiest way to get Mediterranian mortar and pestle is to order it from Etsy online shop. You can find instruments of different shapes and sizes there. Choose the proper one based on your needs or take the medium size, which will be universal. Do not be afraid to invest money into your equipment as I can assure you that you will use these mortar and pestle for years.
Brass, Marble, and Wooden Small Mortars and Pestles
The quality of the smashing process depends on the material, and I proved it with the test of these three small mortars and pestles — brass, marble, and wooden. The brass mortar has a smooth surface without abrasive particles, so that it is hard to grind anything with it. That is why all ingredients were slipping inside the cannon, and it took a lot of time to grind them.
Wooden mortar and pestle sets are not solid enough to smash and mix complex spices. Moreover, the wooden mortar’s inside side is polished, which makes it more complicated to grind the spices. Some tasks can probably be solved only with wooden or brass mortar and pestle, but marble ones are more useful.
We have tested marble mortar and pestle in grinding garlic and black pepper. The result was sufficient, and it was achieved much faster than with wooden or brass mortar. The main explanation for this is the coat of the marble mortar and pestle — they have a rough surface that increases abrasion efficiency. There are many versions of marble mortar and pestle sets on the market, but I used this pair of mortar and pestle.
You have to estimate the frequency of mortar and pestle usage and the primary purposes of their application to select the correct one among a variety of models. Make sure that you choose a universal one for all the tasks you need with these tools.
Best Mortar and Pestle Summary
Once you are ready to buy mortar and pestle not only as a complement to your kitchen counter but as a helpful tool, you should learn the characteristics of various mortar and pestle models. As discussed in this article, a choice of mortar and pestle is a complicated process because you have to know the recipes of the dishes you want to cook. For example, if you’re going to grind spices into the fine powder, you should select a smaller option. However, the preparation of sauces requires a larger volume of the bowl.
Spend some time to the exploration of the possible options and make a reasonable decision. You will not regret your purchase if you make the right choice.
Frequently Asked Questions – FAQ
Should I wash my mortar and pestle?
Yes, you should provide proper care and remove particles of products after grinding spices or food. Wash mortar and pestle carefully with warm water and use only non-aromatized soaps and soaps without synthetic addings as they can leave perfume residue on the surface of tools. This will influence the flavor and smell of the next ingredients you smash with the mortar and pestle. Besides, not all the materials are dishwasher safe. That is why you should check the requirements for cleaning your particular mortar and pestle and wipe clean fragile instruments.
What is a wooden mortar and pestle used for?
The smooth coating of the wooden mortar does not allow to make a creamy sauce with it. The most common task people use wooden mortars and pestles for is grinding dried herbs and spices. As wood can absorb liquids and change its structure, you should avoid smashing wet or oily ingredients with this type of instrument.
How to make a stone mortar and pestle?
The creation of a stone mortar and pestle by yourself is a time-consuming operation. Furthermore, it requires you to have high-level pottery skills. If you want to make marble mortar and pestle, you need to find high-quality material, understand the process of making a proper shape from the stone, and perform a neat operation. Probably it is much easier to select white marble mortar among a wide variety of stone mortars on the market and purchase it.