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How to Select the Best Mortar & Pestle for Your Cooking Needs

If there’s any stone age tool that you need in your kitchen, it’s definitely the mortar and pestle. This kitchen tool, used to crush and grind ingredients, is a worthy addition to your kitchen counter and cooking routine because it will make you a better chef.


Do your eyes glaze over when you reach that point in the recipe that tells you to whip out your mortar and pestle? Dread those words no longer, because the tool’s really not that complicated to use. In fact, it can even simplify cooking by helping you keep your fingers away from oily or smelly ingredients.

Whether you’re getting serious about making curry paste, pesto, guacamole, or simply mashing up some herbs to spread over a roast chicken, a mortar and pestle makes it better because the tool crushes ingredients, which expels all the essential oils and full bodied flavours of anything from a hunk of garlic to a leaf of basil. 

Bear Country Kitchen stocks mortar and pestles made from a variety of materials from several brands. Each material has its own benefits and special uses.


Ceramic: Of all the materials a mortar and pestle can be made from, ceramic options are the most affordable - a great starting point if you don’t have one in your kitchen yet, and want some practice using the tool. Ceramic is lightweight, attractive, and non-porous - but it can crack with aggressive use so it’s best used for simple grinding of spices or making aiolis/pesto. This mortar and pestle from BIA Cordon Bleu is a great ceramic option. 


Wood: Another lightweight and affordable material to choose when selecting a mortar and pestle is wood. It’s also more durable than ceramic and the quietest option of all materials. This Green Bamboo Mortar and Pestle is a great option if you intend to use the tool over and over for the same purpose because wood is porous and takes on the flavours of the food you are crushing. Overtime, this will contribute complexity of flavour to the dishes you make with it. Conversely, if you want it for multiple purposes, you’re better off selecting a non-porous counterpart.


Marble: This marble mortar and pestle will look elegant on your counter top and is a sturdy stone option. It has a smooth texture, making it great for crushing spices or pounding garlic/ginger. It’s also non-porous and won’t absorb flavours. However, it’s not ideal for crushing herbs, nuts, or seeds because these ingredients can slip around on the material. 


Granite mortars and pestles are some of the most versatile and easy to clean. Their weight and rough surface make easy work of a variety of jobs, such as crushing dried chili peppers and spices, and grinding herbs, nuts, and even fibrous ingredients such as kaffir lime leaves and lemon grass.


Cast Iron : Iron’s density is about 3 times higher than marble or granite, so if you want the heaviest duty pestle your best bet is to go with a cast iron option like this one from Le Cuistot.  


Ultimately, nothing can replace the hands-on experience of cooking with a mortar and pestle. The hard earned flavours and aromas it can produce will breathe new life into your cooking routine and are well worth the extra effort. 

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