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How to Choose the Best Mortar and Pestle for Your Kitchen

How to Choose the Best Mortar and Pestle for Your Kitchen

Every home cook and chef needs a mortar and pestle within arm's reach in their kitchen. No other tool can smash and grind ingredients like a mortar and pestle, releasing oils and aromas that were previously hiding behind cell walls and within minuscule fibers. 

But when you’re shopping for a mortar and pestle, there is a plethora of options. They can come in multiple shapes and sizes, can be made with an endless variety of materials, and can be connected to different culinary traditions from around the world. 

Cookly Magazine has an in-depth look at how to choose the best mortar and pestle, but let’s go through the major points so that you’re ready to grab the right one for you. 

Size of the Mortar

The first decision is what size you need. This answer depends on what you plan on using the mortar for and of course, how much space you have in your kitchen. If you think you’re just going to crush and grind single ingredients, a smaller mortar might be all you need. Throw a few black peppercorns in, quickly grind them down, then cover your food. If your mortar plans call for more ingredients, if you’re making a sauce or paste, or even if you don’t want ingredients flying out, a bigger mortar might be necessary. Something around a 3-cup volume should be sufficient to handle most of your needs.

Shape of the Mortar

For most uses, an evenly round bowl shape is the best options. This way, no ingredients can hide from your pestle as you swirl and crush. There are certain types of mortar and pestles with a variety of shapes but these are usually for specific uses. Cylindrical mortars or even flat mortars are examples of these individual-use options. Another feature with mortar shape is the possibility of bumps or other protrusions to help holding the mortar as you use it. While not necessary, some cooks might like this feature. 

Material of the Mortar and Pestle

While shopping, you will find numerous materials used for mortars and pestles. First, avoid weak materials such as wood (for the mortar), ceramic, or light metals. These will not withstand the daily use. The most commonly used mortars are made from solid stone materials like granite, marble, or volcanic rock. Often, the pestle will be made with the same type of stone but there is uses for having a softer wood pestle combined with a stone mortar. 

The Most Common Types of Mortars and Pestles

There are a few types of mortars and pestles that have withstood the test of time and are still used today, for good reason. One of the most popular is the Thai granite mortar and pestle. This is probably the most versatile variation, handling the rough smashing of hard ingredients and the grinding of tough materials like chili skins. Whether your grinding spices or making pastes and curries, the Thai granite mortar and pestle is ready to get the job done. 

Another popular, and arguable the most beautiful, option is the Italian marble mortar with the olivewood pestle. The white marble with the wooden pestle sticking out is an aesthetic look that would be warm and inviting in any kitchen. This variation of the mortar and pestle is perfect for pestos. With no hard ingredients needing smashed, the wooden pestle smoothly breaks down the basil and other leafy greens while swirling it will emulsify the pesto into a creamy final product. 

Beyond these two, most people will recognize the Mexican molcajete. Made from a volcanic rock (usually basalt), the molcajete makes an incredible guacamole and is the perfect serving dish for any fiesta. 

No matter which option is best for you, adding the mortar and pestle into your arsenal of tools will expand your abilities in the kitchen deliciously!

Cookly Magazine is your online source for exploring the world of food. Whether you are travelling to new locations or exploring new tools and recipes in your kitchen, Cookly is ready to help you taste the world. 

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