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Best material for mortar and pestle?

Experienced dismal failure using a wooden mortar and pestle to grind fennel seeds, rosemary, garlic etc. into a paste for dry rub. Fennel seeds in particular would not yield. What's the best material/brand for this handsome, Slow Foodish kitchen tool?

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  1. In my experience stone is the best material.

    1. Stone as well... The wood has too much 'give'. The marble too smooth so things go flying everywhere (Don't ever try to grind coriander or any round spice in a marble mortar!!). I adore my Molcajete.

      Sadly, a good Molcajete is hard to find these days. They are made with lava rock, which has huge pits and breaks down too easy. Even the ones at Crate and Barrel which look promising on their website had big pits... Bad for grinding, bad for sanitation!! :P

      I got mine at a Mexican Supermarket. It was the only one with a smooth solid surface and it seasoned beautifuly. I get no stone or grit at all! The thing is, it's not pretty. It's a big bowl of rock, but for what it does, I'll take it...

      --Dommy!

      1. I have 3: the largest Thai granite mortar and pestle that I could find is my main workhorse for not only Thai preps but a lot of other cusines as well. This one is indispensible. Very smooth and non-porous interior. I just picked up a large Lao clay mortar and wooden pestle for Som Tum and I'm not sure what else. I have had a small white porcelain lab m & p for years that I use for very small quantities of spices etc.

        3 Replies
        1. re: sel

          Where did you find the one you use the most..the granite one???

          1. re: ruffhouse

            They are available at all Thai markets and most Chinese markets. I think I got mine at the linked place below. I have seen them at non-Asian stores and web sites on occasion but always at inflated prices!

            -----
            Bangkok Market Retail
            4757 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA

          2. re: sel

            I have a molcajete and think I'd rather have one of these huge Thai granite jobs.. especially a rather deep one. In the molcajete my liquids keep becoming part of stone instead of part of my dinner. It's still great for hard, dry items but nonporous is definitely the way I'd go.

          3. I picked up an amazing one - also amazing cheap and amazingly heavy - in our local Little India.

            If you have any Indian stores near you, I would check there.
            Stone / Granite all the way.

            1. I have a marble one with ridges inside that I bought at Bridge Kitchenware (they have a website) - I love it, and far better than the Dominican wood one that my husband held onto for years.