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Mortar and pestle

I'd like to buy a mortar and pestle, as every so often I run into recipes that tell me to either grind spices in it or to bash garlic and something into a paste. This tool comes in lots of sizes and lots of materials. Any thoughts on a good, basic size and material?


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  1. Look for one that doen't have a faux-coating. The ones that look like marble are often just stone with a veneer (on the outside of the bowl and on the pestle). These look nice in the store, but the veneer flakes off. This is a case where the more plain looking ones are probably better.

    Look for a good solid one. It should be a little heavy. Size-wise, if you're just doing small batches of spices, pepper, etc., one about the size of your fist is good.

    1. I have a smooth marble one (it's actually marble, it's not fake marble) that fits my fist into the bowl. It is a REAL workhorse -- I grind everything from pesto to curry paste in that thing.

      I have one other, a molcajete, that I use for salsas. It just works better for me for salsas, where the rough igneous rock can rip into roasted chilies, onions, etc.

      I don't wash mine with soap -- I use salt instead, because I found that soap worked its way into the rock, and then out of the rock into whatever I made next -- ick.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Das Ubergeek

        That explains why when I go to this certain mexcian restaurant their salsa has a chemical taste!! My friends like the place so I'll go along, but I can't stand the salsa for that very reason. This makes so much sense.

      2. I've got a soapstone one that is functional and pretty.

          1. I, too, have a marble mortar and pestle (real marble) that I received as a gift ages ago. It does the trick, but it's honestly more decorative than anything else. When I finally tire of this one, I suspect I'll pick up a nice ceramic apothecary style set. The most important things, by far, are that the set be about 2 cups in volume and have a rough bottom to the bowl.

            1. Go to a thai/chinese grocer and get a granite one. They are very cheap there. I got mine for $17 and it's probably too big for what I need!

              1 Reply
              1. re: jefpen2

                yes, in general there are lots of cheap, but good quality supplies at asian groceries. better than target.

              2. Look for Mason Cash. I've had one for years. Cooking.com might have them. Or you might do a google search.

                1. I have a ceramic set from the restaurant supply store for around $8.00.

                  1. I got a granite thai one from a seller at amazon.com, and I've been very happy with it.

                    1. Ceramic ones are available at all price points from beaautiful Mason Cash to generic ones at restaurant supply houses as well as professional quality at pharmaceutical companies.
                      The ceramic is just coarse enough to aid the grinding, unlike marble, but the ceramic still cleans easily and does not hold odors. The pure white color lets you see that it is clean. You can put it into the dishwasher.
                      They are available from very small to quite large - if you want to make a big batch of pesto by hand, for instance.