One of the key activities in the kitchen is crushing and grinding ingredients to be added to food. It might be one of the most ancient techniques too after using fire to heat food or boil water. Hand grinding is a consuming task in the kitchen but for many it is highly satisfying. We’ve looked at some of the current pestle and mortars and its no easy matter selecting the best one !
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What needs to be considered in selecting a decent pestle and mortar ?
- Firstly, think about size ! A mortar is essentially a large bowl which contains the ingredients, be they seeds or spices that need grinding. It must hold enough, especially when you get going with the pestle as you do not need the ingredients flying everywhere.
- Do you need a spout ? The spout is useful when pouring out wet or oily mixes having pounded them up.
- Cleaning. All of these should be washable with just water but some are recommended for the dish washer although it should not really be an issue for any of these recommended types.
- Material is a good second. A robust, well-made and solid bowl which is heavy enough so that it doesn’t move about is a must. Granite or stainless steel are good materials to be considering.
- Price: as always. It must be affordable but not too cheap because that implies poor quality.
Jamie Oliver Mortar and Pestle, Unpolished Natural Granite/Dark Grey, 6 Inch (14 cm)
Unpolished dark granite produces a fabulous grind because there is plenty of friction in the surface of the mortar to a get a really good purchase against the pestle. The pestle is polished but with an unpolished end for exceptional performance. Probably one of the best for spices as the thick walls give such good purchase and lend themselves to some pounding and bashing. Has a large capacity for about 2 cups worth. Copes very well with wet and dry mixes which is why it is recommended for pesto. Looks almost primeval as well which adds some sophistication in the kitchen. Only needs rinsing with water so no soapy water here.
Purchase: Jamie Oliver Mortar and Pestle
HiCoup Kitchenware Granite Mortar and Pestle – Natural Unpolished 6 inch (15 cm)
Very similar in style, make-up and design to the Jamie Oliver version but is claimed by many to be ideal for crushing peppercorns. Easy to clean especially in a dishwasher although all these items can be cleaned in this manner. Many reviewers are pleased with its overall handling and durability. The sides are more vertical which helps retain product better. Whilst quite heavy some of us might find that too much.
Andrew James Traditional Pestle and Mortar Set – Premium Solid Stone Granite – Large 15cm Rustic Bowl with Easy Pour Lip
A top notch granite mortar and pestle but with a pouring spout. This is one I have used for many years and really adds to kitchen processing. Ideal for both wet and dry and being unpolished also provides a resistant surface.
Purchase: Andrew James Traditional Pestle and Mortar
LIVIVO Natural Granite Pestle and Mortar
A rather stylish, sophisticated looking mortar and a club of a pestle. This comes in ‘honed’ and polished granite. The dimensions are probably critical here: 110mm Diameter x 80mm Height. It is a little smaller then some might wish for but it still has reasonable capacity. Other reviewers find it lovely and thuggish for beating spices to a pulp – suggests more going on there than just simple home cooking. The straight sides mean that pieces don’t fly out.
Purchase: LIVIVO Natural Granite Pestle and Mortar
Bekith Brushed Stainless Steel Mortar and Pestle/Spice Grinder/Molcajete
A highly durable, double stainless steel mortar and pestle which is weighty and very durable as all stainless steel generally is. Great for both grinding and mashing with because it also has a non-skidding base although don’t drop it on your foot. It is easy to clean and very durable. The makers claim there is not toxic metal content i.e. no lead or mercury in its make-up although that would be unusual. Stainless steel never imparts any taste to food.