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Mortar & Pestle Recs?

In my ongoing effort to de-tech my life, I've decided to replace my electric spice mill with a mortar and pestle. I'm interested in hearing from other CHs as to what they use, including size, shapes, base material, etc. (I have a porous stone mocajete already, so we can omit those).

I'd like to buy one that will last and satisfy me for the duration. Thanks.

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  1. http://importfood.com/mortarpestle.html

    I've got one of each of the 3 smaller ones. I gave the middle one to my mother. These are better then anything I've seen locally where I travel.

    1. Get a big granite one like Sid Post points to. Prices are best, probably, at an Asian market with cookwares. I got mine at a Thai market in WA and brought it home as carry-on to Indiana, close to 20 lbs!

      Although you might suppose that grinding spices is work for a small mortar, in fact the bigger bowl and the extra weight of the large pestle make all the difference between easy grinding and wrist-busting grinding. Especially if you want to finely grind seeds. Don't throw away your electric mill until you see what it takes to turn cumin or coriander to actual power by hand.

      10 Replies
      1. re: Bada Bing

        Good advice, Bada, especially on not tossing the electric spince grinder just yet. I dare say cracking black peppercorns by hand can be, well, tough, depending on the degree of crack you want. Those heavy duty granite morters are quite heavy, do a good job, but don't drop 'em!

        I have a lighter weight 20 oz Le Creuset mortar and pestle. I've dropped it a few times and it didn't break. It has an unfinished interior for a rougher surface and better grinding and mashing. I should mention I don't use it for grinding hard spices, cracking peppercorns, or cumin or coriander, just herbs, garlic and that ilk. I still keep my electric spice grinder at the ready.

        http://www.amazon.com/Creuset-Stonewa...

        1. re: bushwickgirl

          The big plus for a M&P is that it is easier to use for small quantities. Cleanup for an electric one is enough work that I only use if for large quantities (tablespoon or more).

          The main problem with peppercorns in a M&P is that they jump around, so I have to target them individual for the initial crack. Same goes for allspice. Cumin is one of the easier spices to grind in M&P. M&P is also better for moist spice mixes. The other tool that complements these two is a mini food processor (accessory to immersion blender).

          1. re: paulj

            Yeah, cumin is not so bad in a M&P. Coriander seed, however... And then there's bay leaf (which thankfully is not often powdered)!

            1. re: paulj

              All true, and in defense of cumin & me, my wrists aren't what they used to be.;-(

              I have been known to take larger quantities (1 cup or more) of peppercorns, wrap them tightly in a cloth napkin and smash them with a heavy mallet on a hard surface; works well for butcher crack.

          2. re: Bada Bing

            Bada: Hey, I'm in Seattle. At what Thai market did you get yours? Thanks!

            Anyone had mortars of different materials and can opine vitreous vs. granite vs. iron?

            I like that Thai granite square one, but it looks pretty shallow. Anyone have?

            Thanks to all.

            1. re: kaleokahu

              I got it south of you, at the Hong Phat Market (1107 College Ave, Lacey, WA, near Olympia).

              I imagine that there must be some sources closer to Seattle (which is where I wish I lived!).

              1. re: Bada Bing

                Bada: Thanks. Lacey's a bit of a jaunt. Uwajimaya's pretty close, they're the Asian big store around here. If you don't mind me asking, what did you pay for the 20-pounder? Any guess on the bowl diameter? Thanks again.

                1. re: kaleokahu

                  I honestly don't recall what I paid, but I am pretty sure it was about $25. I saw at the time that mail order was very expensive with these things, which is why I lugged it carry on.

                  The diameter is about 6" from the interior top lip across to the other side. The walls are at least an inch thick, so the exterior measurements would be much larger, like 9". It's a good size. You can make a great batch of pesto in it, which is the most space-hogging application that I encounter.

                  1. re: kaleokahu

                    Re. Uwajimaya: if you live south of Seattle or to the north, 99Ranch (Ca/Chinese), HMart (NJ/Korean) and HT Mart (Vietnamese) are challenging Uwajimaya for size and selection.

                    1. re: paulj

                      paulj: It took me awhile to make it to 99Ranch as you suggested. They had 6- and 8-inch granite models in a greenish granite. $18 and $21, respectively. Very stable and HEAVY. Was gifted the larger one as an early birthday present.

                      I'm glad I got the larger one, because the pestle is long enough to grasp with the entire hand, and grind away, whereas the smaller one would've been more like a finger-grip for me--more hand fatigue..

                      Thanks for the tip!

            2. I like this one: http://www.amazon.com/Typhoon-Cast-Ir...

              Bit on the expensive side but works very well. seems to take less effort than the stone ones as the interior has just the right surface.

              1. I have had one of these for 30+ years. I had no idea they were so pricey, but I have really liked it.

                http://www.decuisine.co.uk/cookshop/k...

                1. Mine is this but in black marble. used more than 8 years. Very heavy. I like it a lot because it is stable and it is not too large.

                  http://www.amazon.com/Fox-Run-4-Inch-...

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: hobbybaker

                    I have one just like this, and have had it for over 20 years. For a small amount of a spice, I can grind to a powder in this in much less time than it takes to get the coffee grinder down, and I think the results are better too.