A mortar and pestle is a very handy kitchen tool. Are you tired of crushing herbs and spices with makeshift utensils like I was? I mashed peppercorns in a plastic baggie with a meat tenderizer. I tried crushing them with a rolling pin on a cutting board and in a bowl using a cocktail muddler. Let’s agree those methods were less than optimal and it dawned on me there had to be a better way. There is, and it’s a mortar and pestle or molcahjete. A mortar and pestle is not only for chemists, but also for cooks! Substitute an apron for the lab coat and the goggles are optional.
When you decide you need one, there are a few things to consider:
- Size: Depending on what you are going to use it for, making guacamole (large), mixing pesto or chimichurri sauces (medium) or just crushing spices (small) will determine the size you need.
- Material: I chose granite for the heft that helps it stay in place and the roughness of both bowl and pestle which helps grind. As a bonus, it creates an aesthetically pleasing thump when crushing spices or when fending off home intruders.
- Pestle: Needs to be large enough relative to the size of the mortar that you don’t end up chasing your ingredients around the bowl. It should also be long enough, that the grip allows sufficient room between your hand and the rim. Ample weight is also important, requiring less effort to crack, grind or pound.
- Mortar: Choose one that is concave and does not have a sharp right angle at the bottom. This will help funnel the ingredients back to the center after each strike and it won’t pile up in a corner.
And just one more thing…
That granite pestle makes a nice deterrent if someone is pestering you in the kitchen!