Buying Guide for Mortar and Pestle Sets
Why should you buy a mortar and pestle set?
The taste of freshly ground spices and herbs is hardly comparable to the shakers of dried ones at your grocery store. While you may not use a mortar and pestle for every meal, it can make a favorite dish even better with the addition of fresh herbs or a custom spice blend. Food tends to taste better when you put more work and love into it, doesn’t it?
Mortar and pestle sets can be used for more than grinding spices and herbs. They’re also helpful when crushing up medicine to make it dissolve into food for kiddos, pets, or those who struggle swallowing pills. You can also whip up a killer batch of guacamole, pesto, or curry paste in a mortar and pestle. You can even grind your own flour in one, though that can be pretty labor-intensive if you want a large quantity. In the end, a mortar and pestle set can help you feel more involved in the cooking process and help you create super flavorful spice blends, sauces, or dips.
What should you consider when shopping for a mortar and pestle set?
- Size: Some mortar and pestle sets are smaller and mostly intended to use to crush herbs or pills. Others come in larger sizes, which allow you to crush larger batches of your herbs or prepare sauces and dips to share. Think about how you plan to use your mortar and pestle and choose accordingly. If you’re not entirely sure, opt for a larger one to be safe.
- Pestle Shape: The pestle is the club-like piece that you use inside the mortar to do the actual grinding and stirring. Most pestles are cylindrical in shape with a rounded top and bottom, making them easy to grip and roll around. Try to find one that looks comfortable to hold and use; the thickness can vary quite a bit by model, so you may want a thinner pestle if you have smaller hands. Some handles may also have indented, flared, or tapered grips to help you hang onto them more securely. And keep in mind that wider-bottomed pestles tend to be more effective at crushing ingredients than thinner ones.
- Material: Mortar and pestle sets come in a variety of materials. The firmer and more durable the material, the better; you don’t want something that’s going to wear down over time when exposed to constant grinding and pounding. Granite and basalt are often the more authentic options, but you can also find them in marble and stainless steel, which are also excellent choices. Ceramic is an option, too, though it’s less durable. Textured stone will need seasoning to keep dust and debris from coming into food, but that rough surface will remain and help to break down ingredients for your dishes.
What does it mean to season your mortar and pestle before use?
Much like a cast iron skillet, a mortar and pestle set needs to be seasoned before use. Since many mortar and pestles are made from a rough finish of granite or basalt, seasoning them ensures that rock, dust, and debris from the mortar’s material don’t get mixed in with your food or spices.
Generally, the best way to season your mortar and pestle is with raw rice. Rinse both pieces of the tool in warm water, add a small handful of raw rice grains to the mortar (white rice is best) along with a tablespoon of water, and grind the rice with the pestle until it’s in powder form. You’ll start to see any dirt or debris get mixed in with the rice powder as you grind it.
Dump out the fully powdered rice and repeat the entire process with a fresh handful until all of the debris is gone. (If you don’t want to waste rice, you can use some extra warm water in its place.) The process will likely take a while but varies depending on how rough the material is. And be sure to never use soap when rinsing, seasoning, or washing your mortar and pestle– since they’re usually made of fairly porous materials, it’ll absorb both the soap and its scent.
Our Picks for the Best Mortar and Pestle Sets
HiCoup Mortar and Pestle Set
This premium set stands up to versatile use and is easy to clean.
Pros: This non-porous granite and stone mortar and pestle set is gorgeous to display and doesn’t hang onto smell or flavor after each use. Use it to enjoy the enhanced taste of freshly ground spices and herbs (without the stone material hanging onto the scents for too long, thanks to the granite’s less porous nature), or mix and serve homemade dips and sauces. This set is extra easy to clean, and the weight is heavy enough so that it doesn’t slide around during use but not so heavy that it’s burdensome to use.
Cons: This set requires seasoning before use, which is standard, but the texture is not as smooth as it looks in pictures, so it’ll likely take a bit longer to season than you’d expect. The mortar is also a bit too small to use as an effective serving dish for larger groups or families.
Bottom Line: While this mortar and pestle set is a bit heavy and clunky, its weight is highly effective in helping to grind herbs and spices for your favorite dishes. The bowl is nice enough to double as a serving dish for a night in on your own with your significant other, but it may not be the best option if you like to host parties fairly often.
Gramercy Kitchen Company Marble Mortar and Pestle Set
The rough interior and smooth exterior provide the best of both worlds when it comes to using a mortar and pestle.
Pros: This marble mortar and pestle set has a sleek and elegant look while still performing according to tradition. It’s a beautiful set to display when you’re not using it. The smooth exterior is both comfortable to hold and easy to clean, while the interior surface of the mortar is unfinished and rough, providing the perfect surface for crushing and mixing herbs and spice mixes. This will also make your hands or pestle less likely to slip as you’re grinding your ingredients. There’s a non-slip pad on the bottom of the mortar to prevent it from sliding around as you use it and reduce the risk of leaving scratches on your countertops. It also comes with a complimentary garlic peeler and an optional downloadable recipe book if you want some ideas on how to use your new kitchen tools.
Cons: This set is on the smaller side, making it most useful for spices and herbs rather than dips or as a serving bowl for parties. And the ridges on the interior may require an additional tool or extra scrubbing in order to clear away every bit of spice or herb when cleaning.
Bottom Line: If you want to crush up your own fresh herbs to make spice blends, this is an excellent option. Its small size won’t take up much space when it’s not in use, it’ll look great on your kitchen countertop, and the ridged interior makes it that much easier to grind. It is best reserved for smaller parties and households.
Vasconia 4-Cup Granite Molcajete Mortar and Pestle
Serve your best freshly-made party dip for a crowd with this mortar and pestle set.
Pros: If you tend to need large quantities of your freshly ground herbs or your made-to-order guacamole or salsa, this mortar and pestle set might be perfect for you. It can hold 4 cups of ingredients while you mix or mash, so you don’t have to portion out ingredients to do it several times. The unique shape of the pestle allows you to be comfortable and effective while grinding and mixing. And the granite surface is unpolished, making it easier to grind herbs or crush ingredients, especially given the extra wide, broad-headed pestle.
Cons: This set is quite heavy and may pose difficulty for some people to use. If you have mobility issues or limited use of your hands, you may want to opt for a set that’s a bit more lightweight. The shorter sides also make it more likely to spill your herbs or dip as you’re grinding or mixing.
Bottom Line: This mortar and pestle set is an eye-catching piece that can not only grind or mix large quantities of ingredients but can also double as a serving dish for a crowd or large family. Just keep in mind that the size makes it heavy to use and clean.
Tera 18/8 Stainless Steel Mortar and Pestle with Brush
This set gives you all the fun and flavor from grinding without the unwanted dust or residue.
Pros: This set is made from food-grade stainless steel, so you can be sure that everything you crush, grind, or mix in this bowl remains safe for human consumption. The stainless steel material means it is rustproof and won’t be damaged when used with acidic foods like lemons or vinegar. In addition to the mortar and pestle, this set also comes with a brush to help you get the powdered residue off of the steel grooves. This set even comes with a lid that has a cut-out for the pestle to keep fine powders or herbs from spilling over the mortar’s edge. There is a pad on the bottom to help it stay in place during use.
Cons: This is another smaller set that can’t be used for mixing large quantities of dips and sauces. It’s best for single servings or grinding pills than foods like guacamole or salsa. The sleek interior surface and pestle also make it harder to crush and grind items, especially seeds, so it’ll probably take longer overall to grind your ingredients.
Bottom Line: This mortar and pestle set fulfills several versatile needs in the kitchen since it’s heavy-duty and easy to clean. It comes with everything you need to crush pills or grind herbs easily. While it does these jobs very well, it can’t handle large quantities since it’s on the smaller side.
Cooler Kitchen EZ-Grip Silicone & Porcelain Mortar and Pestle
This modern mortar and pestle set is dishwasher safe and has a fantastic grip.
Pros: If the idea of seasoning or careful maintenance makes you nervous, turn to this modernized option. This mortar and pestle set is made of high-quality porcelain that is non-porous and thus won’t hang onto smells or bits of herbs. While it will still require some seasoning, the smooth interior won’t take as long to season as its rock-based cousins. The pestle has a silicone grip for comfort and is easier to hold onto. The base of the mortar is silicone as well to keep it from sliding around during mixing. Perhaps most conveniently, it’s the rare mortar and pestle set that’s dishwasher safe.
Cons: While this is the perfect size for small ingredients or quantities, you won’t be able to do a large batch of spices and dips. It’s also a bit softer and not as heavy-duty as other models that are made from stone or metal, so it’ll wear down faster.
Bottom Line: This set is an excellent option for someone looking for convenience. The porcelain and silicone materials remove a lot of nerves and guesswork for beginners but deliver on the benefits. This is a nice choice if you plan to occasionally use a mortar and pestle for crushing herbs and medicine, but it won’t hold up as well to heavy and frequent grinding.
Adding a mortar and pestle to your kitchen cookware can enhance the flavors of your favorite meals. Whether you mix up your favorite dips for a party or grind your own spices for an intimate dinner, a mortar and pestle set is versatile and fun to use. Check out our suggestions to elevate your cooking.