A mortar and pestle is a classic kitchen tool that dates back to the Stone Age. It can pulverize foods into powders (for example, saffron and pine nuts) or grind herbs and spices into fine pastes and sauces.
It’s used primarily in cooking to prepare wet or oily ingredients such as guacamole, hummus, and pesto (which derives its name from the pestle pounding) and to grind spices into powder. It’s also used by pre-Hispanic Mesoamerican cultures stretching back several thousand years, including the Aztecs and Mayas.
It’s Easy to Use
The mortar and pestle may be a lo-fi kitchen utensil, but it’s one that chefs around the world swear by. The ancient two-piece tool is easy to use and can help you get the mega flavor from your spices.
If you’re unfamiliar with the tool, it’s made up of a bowl (the mortar) and a blunt instrument (the pestle). Press the ingredients into the bowl and twist the grinder against them.
It’s a simple method that helps release all the oils and flavors from herbs and spices. Plus, it’s much faster and more convenient than a knife or food processor.
A mortar and pestle can be used for various tasks, from grinding fresh herbs into an herbal paste to crushing peppercorns for garlic bread. You can even make homemade hummus and almond paste with it!
It’s Fun to Make Spice Blends
If you love to cook, making spice blends in a mortar and pestle is a fun way to add a new dimension of flavor to your meals. These spice mixes can range from a simple Herbs de Provence to a rich Berbere, and you can create them in whatever proportions you desire.
Using a mortar and pestle to make your spice blends will also allow you to use fresh, whole spices rather than powdered ones. Whole spices retain their oils and aromas better, which can be lost in powdered mixes, so blending them yourself is a great way to step your cooking up a notch!
A mortar and pestle are generally made from one of three basic materials — wood, stone, or ceramic. Those made of wood are durable and work well for grinding your spices, but they can stain easily due to their porous nature. This means that the flavor of one sauce can taint your following, and you should clean them after each use.
It’s Easy to Clean
A mortar and pestle can crush and mix ingredients without a processor. But like all utensils, they must be adequately cared for and cleaned after use to prevent them from getting dirty or damaging.
Thankfully, cleaning a mortar and pestle is easy to follow. First, rinse the molcajete thoroughly under running water, then use a soft brush to remove any dirt or debris.
Next, you can wash it with warm water and mild soap. Soap helps sanitize and eliminate any oils or flavors that might have lingering.
But be careful if you have a granite or marble mortar and pestle, as these are more porous than wood. Soap detergent might be able to penetrate the pores and infuse them with soap flavors, which will change the taste of what you’re grinding.
The mortar and pestle is a classic kitchen tool that still makes sense today, regardless of all the trendy options on the market. They’re simple to use, fun to create spice blends, and easy to clean.
They’re also incredibly durable so that they won’t break easily. Plus, they’re lightweight and won’t rust or leave lingering aromas in your food.
A mortar-and-pestle set is an excellent gift for cooks and those who love spicy food. They make it easier to crush chiles and spices into small pieces, and they’re a perfect alternative to sharp knives or machines when you’re pounding things into a paste or powder.
Some mortar and pestle sets come pre-seasoned, which makes them easy to keep up with. Porous stone models, like granite, require some seasoning before their food-safe, but non-porous material ones, such as glass and ceramic, don’t need any scrubbing to prepare them for use.