Author Topic: Advice on buying a mortar and pestle  (Read 3887 times)

shelivesthedream

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Advice on buying a mortar and pestle
« on: May 17, 2016, 05:03:34 AM »
I would like to buy a mortar and pestle for a variety of kitchen tasks where a blender is too much but ordinary utensils are not enough. For example, mushing spices together, cracking peppercorns, crushing small quantities of things (e.g. a handful of nuts)... I know mustachians cook frequently and sometimes seriously, and don't like spending money on silly things, so I thought I'd ask for advice before splashing out. If it makes a difference, I have small hands and not a lot of strength.

What material should I get? The internet seems to say granite, but I just thought I'd check. My parents have a porcelain one and it kind of sucks because you can never get a good grip-n-smush action on anything because it's so light and slippery.

What size and shape should I go for? This is what I'm really struggling with. At the moment I'm just dealing with pinches or scant handfuls of things, but maybe I would want to do larger things in the future if I like it, and I don't want to end up buying a whole series. The internet is very divided as to whether a flatter shape or a taller, enclosed shape is better. My guess is somewhere in the middle...? I'm also wondering about the pestle - are some shapes or dimensions better than others?

How can I tell if one is good quality? I'm looking at second hand ones first, but I don't really know what to look for to tell if they will work and last. I'll buy new if it's worth it, though.

How do I clean them? Hand wash as normal or do they need special attention?

hodor

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Re: Advice on buying a mortar and pestle
« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2016, 05:21:38 AM »
Mine is stone (granite?) And big.

I've used small ones and bits fly out and it's harder to crush stuff. Maybe I lack skills as I'm no expert but can't beat big heavy stone IMO

lizzzi

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Re: Advice on buying a mortar and pestle
« Reply #2 on: May 17, 2016, 05:30:43 AM »
I have a stainless steel one that I used for crushing pills. The bowl is four inches across, with some rubber around the bottom (like those stainless steel dog dishes, lol) so it doesn't slide around. The pestle (?) is six and a half inches long. I wanted stainless steel as it is heavy, non-reactive, and non-breakable.

Just realized I'm not really sure which is the mortar and which is the pestle. It's like flotsam and jetsam, or vim and vigor. Which is which? And what is vim? (As I heard a comedian on TV ask once.)

lizzzi

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Re: Advice on buying a mortar and pestle
« Reply #3 on: May 17, 2016, 05:36:48 AM »
Forgot to say that I got mine from Amazon. In checking just now, they have many to choose from. The stainless steel ones are running from $12.00 to $26.00. I thought I spent around $10.00 three years ago, but don't see any stainless steel that are that cheap now. I wash mine by hand, although I think it would go in the dishwasher.

Rezdent

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Re: Advice on buying a mortar and pestle
« Reply #4 on: May 17, 2016, 06:17:06 AM »
I've got four white ceramic ones, from tiny to medium.  I bought from thrift stores over the years for almost nothing.  People often ask where I got my "set".

The good ceramic ones have a rougher finish on the inside. I end up using the middle one for most spices.  I thought the smallest one would be great for that, but in reality I need room for the pestle to work.

These are fairly heavy.  With a heavy pestle, it's easier.  I just rotate the pestle and let the weight do the work.

Someone once gave me a traditional Mexican one made of some sort of stone.  It worked amazing, except some of the stone ground into everything so I couldn't really use it.

ooeei

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Re: Advice on buying a mortar and pestle
« Reply #5 on: May 17, 2016, 07:06:06 AM »
I have a small granite one and almost never use it except for mustard seeds.  Hard stuff like peppercorns just shoot out of it too easily.  Then again, it's pretty rare I need to crush things.  I've heard good things about electric coffee grinders for spices.

MVal

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Re: Advice on buying a mortar and pestle
« Reply #6 on: May 18, 2016, 11:18:28 AM »
Why not just buy a small food processor? No strength needed and you can sometimes get them at Aldi or other places for about $10.

MDM

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Re: Advice on buying a mortar and pestle
« Reply #7 on: May 18, 2016, 08:02:55 PM »
I've heard good things about electric coffee grinders for spices.
+1

E.g., http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00004SPEU/

horsepoor

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Re: Advice on buying a mortar and pestle
« Reply #8 on: May 18, 2016, 08:29:28 PM »
Mine is stone (granite?) And big.

I've used small ones and bits fly out and it's harder to crush stuff. Maybe I lack skills as I'm no expert but can't beat big heavy stone IMO

This.  I bought the Cole & Mason Goliath last year and love it.  Deep enough that the spices don't fly out, and big enough that I can make guacamole and pesto in it too.  Weighs a freakin' ton, but I'm rather Amazonian, so I don't mind.  They do have a smaller model too.  I did break the first pestle, but I think it was just a natural fissure in the granite, and the company sent me another one quickly and no problems since.  I love using it for mashing garlic and ginger, and don't think a smaller one would work as well.

http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/cole-mason-granite-mortar-pestle/?pkey=e%7Cmortar%2Band%2Bpestle%7C14%7Cbest%7C0%7C1%7C24%7C%7C4&cm_src=PRODUCTSEARCH

I also considered a porcelain one that was very highly rated, but was afraid I would break it, since I'm hard on things.  The threat of a broken foot/crater in the floor from dropping the granite one forces me to be careful, and it won't get flung off the counter by accident.  And I do keep it on the counter because it's so heavy.  Would say I use it 2-3x per week.  Pretty much any time I'm doing "real" cooking or want to take out some frustrations. ;)

The porcelain one I was considering was like this, but I think it was a different brand:  http://www.amazon.com/Milton-Unglazed-Mortar-Pestle-6-5-inch/dp/B00509XTRC/ref=sr_1_14?ie=UTF8&qid=1463624767&sr=8-14&keywords=porcelain+mortar+and+pestle


JJsfr

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Re: Advice on buying a mortar and pestle
« Reply #9 on: May 18, 2016, 09:25:58 PM »
I've heard good things about electric coffee grinders for spices.
+1

E.g., http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00004SPEU/

As soon as I got one of these, I don't even remember where I last saw my mortar & pestle. If I think stuff will get stuck in it (like nuts), I just shake it like a cocktail shaker (sort of) while it's blending to mix everything up.

yyc-phil

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Re: Advice on buying a mortar and pestle
« Reply #10 on: May 18, 2016, 09:39:50 PM »
I personally prefer to use a mortar and pestle over the electric grinder, especially that is can be used for both dry and wet grindings, for example to make pestos and other types of pastes (garlic, etc.). I also find the mortar and pestle much easier to clean after each use. We bought ours in a Latin American grocery store and is made of basalt.

JJsfr

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Re: Advice on buying a mortar and pestle
« Reply #11 on: May 19, 2016, 09:30:16 AM »
I personally prefer to use a mortar and pestle over the electric grinder, especially that is can be used for both dry and wet grindings, for example to make pestos and other types of pastes (garlic, etc.). I also find the mortar and pestle much easier to clean after each use. We bought ours in a Latin American grocery store and is made of basalt.

Garlic paste, sure, pound away. But if you're making anything like pesto or hummus of more than one serving size, that goes straight into the food processor.

If you're cleaning out a spice/coffee grinder, a piece of bread will grab all the stuff out of it if it's dry stuff.