The Pestle and Mortar come in two parts, the mortar which is made from wood, metal, ceramic, marble or granite. Ingredients are placed in the Mortar and then you use the Pestle to crush or grind them into powder or a fine paste. Interestingly they have been around since ancient times, in fact, the earliest one found dated 35,000 BC.
It is possible to buy many herbs and spices that are already ground or use a food processor. There are however subtle flavours that come from spices that are hand ground, giving your food that little bit extra. As an example, if you make a curry and use store-bought curry paste, a handmade curry paste that you have ground will taste 10 times better.
You will often find that a decent quality pestle and mortar will function better than a food processor, as they are easier to use, more convenient and a lot easier to clean. I also love the way they look on my kitchen worktop.
Below you will find the best pestle and mortars, as well as a complete guide on the uses, as well as covering what you should look for when deciding to buy a set. At the bottom of the guide, you will find detailed reviews, helping you to find one that is right for you and your needs.
Best Pestle and Mortar 2018
Below are the most recommended sets, click on the name for more information…
- Jamie Oliver Pestle and Mortar
- Andrew James Traditional Pestle and Mortar Set
- VonShef Solid Granite Mortar and Pestle
- H&S Solid Granite Pestle and Mortar
- Savisto Premium Solid Granite Mortar and Pestle
- Cole & Mason Stone Mortar and Pestle
- ProCook Granite Pestle and Mortar
- Juvale Stainless Steel Mortar and Pestle
- Ez-Grip Silicone & Ceramic Pestle and Mortar
Why Use A Pestle and Mortar?
Many people chop their herbs and spices, whereas you should be crushing them. It is crushing them that help to release the flavours and smells, this giving your dishes the extra flavour boost. If you want to increase the depth of flavour in your food, you need to look at effectively crushing/grinding spices.
If you don’t use a Pestle and Mortar, you probably get your jar of spices and add individual ones to your food. By grinding the herbs and spices together, their flavours combine and this results in a paste that simply tastes incredible. As an example, Garlic takes on much more flavour when ground rather than chopped.
Even dry herbs are loaded with liquids, and when ground they become more of a paste.
Do you want to get as much flavour and aroma from the herbs and spices you use in your food? If so, a Mortar and Pestle set is going to be incredibly important. It really can take the taste of your food to the next level.
What to look for when purchasing?
When looking at different Pestle and Mortar sets, there are 5 key things you need to consider.
When looking for the ideal set, you want to go for one that has a deep and wide mortar. This will help to prevent ingredients from jumping and spilling out when crushing them.
When it comes to kitchen equipment, many people will go for the lightest as it is easier to move about. With a decent pestle and mortar, you want to go for one that has a heavier mortar, this prevents it from moving when being used.
As you crush herbs and ingredients, you will be putting a lot of force into the mortar. If it’s too light then this will cause it to move around which could result in ingredients spilling out or making it hard to crush them properly. A heavy one will remain fairly stationary when applying pressure.
3. The Size
Before picking the set you want, you need to think about what you will be using it for. If you cook for a family then you are going to want a bigger one, or else the ingredients will spill out. Although if you are just using it for yourself, a smaller one would be fine.
4. The Finish
The finish of the mortar and pestle is just as important as everything else. You want one that has a pebble or matte finish, as this creates friction so much easier to grip when crushing/grinding. You may find this finish is not covering the mortar but on the well of the mortar and the bottom of the pestle.
5. The Price
Finally, the price is something that you need to consider, luckily most sets are reasonably priced and you can get a great quality one for under £20. I would recommend not spending under £10 as you will often find its made from lesser quality materials and therefore more chance of it breaking. At the same time, you don’t need to spend over the odds to get a very good quality product.
The Different Materials
There are 4 different types of materials, each one has its pros and its cons. Knowing the different materials will help you to decide which type is best to use.
1. Stone Pestle and Mortar
Typically stone sets are more effective and the recommended option, although a little more expensive. These are often made from either granite or marble. They are great for withstanding a high amount of pressure when grinding and due to the matte pebble surface there is plenty of friction to help grind the ingredients fully. Since they are made from stone, they are heavier so you will find them to be much more stable.
2. Wooden Pestle and Mortar
Wood is often one of the more popular types that people buy, although not always the best option. Many people buy these because they look good on their worktop and are more for the visual look than the actual use. These types tend to be too lightweight and therefore cannot be used for heavy duty grinding.
3. Clay and Porcelain
Clay and Porcelain are also very common, often because of the way they look. They look great in a cottage looking kitchen. Clay is fragile, which means you cannot crush the herbs and spices with too much force. The same is said for porcelain but it’s a little more lightweight, so more risk of breakages.
4. Stainless Steel
Steel is naturally going to be able to withstand high amounts of pressure, therefore less chance of breakages. Some kind is a little lightweight so they move often, however, they also tend to have smooth surfaces which means ingredients tend to slip out more.
How To Clean Your Set
It might seem obvious but it’s important to clean your plestle and mortar properly, if you clean them incorrectly then this could result in damage. Below is information on how you should properly clean them, depending on the material.
1. Stone, Wood and Clay
The cleaning of Stone, Wood and Clay sets are not as easy as others, as you shouldn’t use soap. These sets take in the flavour of the soap which will impact on the taste of your powders and pastes.
Instead, you should just rinse them with warm water and make sure to dry them fully, as leaving water could damage the wood. You should never completely submerge them in water. In order to fully clean any bacteria, rub lemon juice in and leave for a couple of minutes and then rinse off with water.
2. Porcelain and Steel
These two are different from those above, these can be washed by using soap or placing in a dishwasher.
How To Use Mortar and Pestle?
If you are looking to grind down spices into a powder or paste, A pestle and mortar are what you want. You might think it’s just a case of bashing down on the herbs, but there is a bit more to it. There are different techniques to be used on different spices or for a different texture.
What can you actually grind down though?
Common ingredients that you will use a mortar and pestle set include;
- Whole Spices
- Fresh Herbs
- Sea Salt
Many people make the mistake of making the paste or powder when they have already started cooking. This will naturally result in rushing to make it and potentially burning what is already cooking. You should, therefore, look through the recipe and make any powders or pastes beforehand.
First of all, add the ingredients into the mortar and begin to grind them down, if you are making a lot then you may need to add additional ingredients once some have been ground down. You should never fill it more than 1/3rd up or you will find it hard to fully grind.
It’s important to hold the mortar steady, place one hand around the base. With the second hand, you should hold the pestle, twist it onto the ingredients so that it presses them against the inside of the mortar. You want to continue grinding until all of the ingredients have been ground up evenly to your desired texture.
The Three Techniques
There are 3 techniques for using a Pestle and Mortar, the method you use would depend on the outcome you want.
When you grind the ingredients, the aim is to grind them down into a powder. You would simply rotate the pestle over the ingredients in a circular motion. Continue with this movement until you get the consistency you want, IE Coarse or Fine.
With this technique, you are basically bashing the pestle down onto the ingredients. You would normally use this method on large seeds, spices or even nuts. Depending on how hard they are, you may need to initial grind them a little and then bash them.
Crushing is very similar to grinding but instead of doing a circular motion, you want to simply roll the pestle over the ingredients. Usually, the result will be that the ingredients are half intact so they have split or burst, instead of being ground.
The Best Pestle and Mortar Sets
There are so many different sets available, all ranging in different materials and different prices. It can be confusing to know which one to get, as you naturally don’t want to waste money. Below are what I think are the best pestle and mortar sets.
1. Jamie Oliver Pestle and Mortar
It is made from stone and weighs over 3 kg, resulting in a durable and sturdy mortar. The set is polished with an unpolished base and unpolished underside of the pestle, making grinding of hard spices a simple task. Whether you are just crushing rosemary leaves, bashing nuts or trying to grind cinnamon sticks.
I like the design of this set as the base has a thinner base, making it easier to hold in place when using. Due to the weight, it would be worth placing a cloth or chopping board under the base to prevent it from scratching your worktop. – Click here to find out more on Amazon
2. Andrew James Solid Granite Mortar and Pestle
One of the things I really like it’s the pouring lip for when you have finished creating your powder or paste. The outside of the set is nicely polished and looks very tradition so it will look great on your kitchen worktop. The inside of the mortar and the bottom of the pestle are unpolished, helping them improve the grinding of ingredients.
Price wise, it is the higher of the proce bracket of just under £20. Personally, I do think this is great value. The set should lasy you many years if you treat it correctly. – Click here to find out more on Amazon
3. Vonsheaf Solid Granite Pestle and Mortar
On the inside and on the pestle it is unpolished to create friction, which helps with grinding up the ingredients. The outside is nicely polished so that it looks perfect on your kitchen worktop.
It is very reasonably priced and some might think this means it’s cheap but it really isn’t. As mentioned its made from solid granite and actually weighs 3kg, making it an incredible kit for a low price. – Click here to find out more on Amazon
4. H&S Solid Granite Mortar and Pestle
Like others when you do receive it may have some granite particles, simply grind plain rice and wipe away with a damp cloth. With an unpolished interior, you will find that it is able to grind even the hardest of ingredients but the polished look on the outside makes it look great. – Click here to find out more on Amazon
5. Savisto Pestle and Mortar
The inside of the mortar is completely unpolished so that you get full friction and therefore be able to grind anything down into a powder or paste. Due to the sturdiness, they even claim that it is able to crush ice.
It has a good diameter at 15.5cm and the weight is just under 4kg, ensuring that you can not only fit a decent amount in but it also won’t move when you are trying to crush the ingredients. Click here to find out more on Amazon
6. Cole & Mason Mortar and Pestle
Due to its size, it is also incredibly heavy at 6kg, which might be too much for some people. The weight will, however, help to ensure that it doesn’t move whilst you are using it.
As mentioned this really is only going to be used by someone that grinds a lot of herbs and spices due to its size. Its worth also noting that it will take two hands to pour it out, which for some could be a bit awkward. Click here to find out more on Amazon
7. ProCook Granite Pestle and Mortar
I like the fact that they offer two sizes, 12cm and 15cm. Therefore you are able to get a size that is more suitable for you and your needs. It is, however, a lot more expensive than some of the other sets, ones that I would probably recommend more.
When comparing it to others, it is also a little lighter but should still be sturdy enough to avoid too much movement when grinding ingredients. Click here to find out more on Amazon
8. Juvale Stainless Steel Mortar and Pestle
Size wise it is fairly small at only 12 cm when compared with alternatives. It is also under 500g so not nearly as heavy as other alternatives. The mortar does have an anti-slip padding on the bottom and looking at other reviews they have said it doesn’t move when using. Click here to find out more on Amazon
9. Ez-Grip Silicone & Ceramic Pestle and Mortar
The look of the design is also very modern, so will suit a lot of different styles of kitchens and look great on your worktop. The base is also covered with a silicon base so that it doesn’t slip and also should scratch your worktop. Click here to find out more on Amazon
There you have it, by now you should know everything you need to know about Pestle and Mortar sets. I hope this guide has helped and answered any unasked questions that you may have had.
Personally, I would recommend going for a decent sized granite set, one that comes with a mortar that is easy to hold and remains sturdy on your kitchen worktop. At first, it might be a pain not being able to pop it in the dishwasher, but I do think the better flavour you get from your herbs and spices it will be worth it!
Please let me know in the comments below if you have any comments or any questions.
Hi, my name is Martyn and I consider myself an Amateur Chef. I love everything about food and this was the main reason I started this blog, to showcase that passion. I started this blog in 2014 with an aim to showcase tasty recipes, restuarant reviews and useful cooking tips and tricks.
Even though I do consider myself an Amateur, I have continued to develop my skills in the kitchen. I am self taught but I do also take part in a number of cooking courses to help learn something new.
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