Confession: I don't own a mortar and pestle. When I first got really jazzed about a career in food, I bought a steel alloy one from Kalustyan's, but it quickly rusted after a roommate used it and washed it with water, setting it out to dry. Then it collected dust. I moved it once and then eventually gave it away.
For the past six years I've been using a variety of implements instead of a mortar and pestle from coffee grinders to the stub of my ice cream scoop against the sides of a soup bowl. Is it time? I surveyed our staff and found only three of the twelve surveyed actually uses theirs regularly. And yet I still want one... Answer our survey then click through for our staff's Mortar & Pestle quotes.
I have a Japanese mortar and pestle, called a suribachi and surigoki. I use it for crushing spices, and making pastes for sauces (umeboshi plums, garlic, etc.). But to tell you the truth, I mostly bought it because I thought it was pretty.
- Nora M.
I also bought a mortar and pestle (Mint Full Contact) because it was pretty. But I don't use it much at all. If I need to grind spices or make a paste I use an electric grinder.
I also have the lovely Mint Full Contact mortar and pestle. Well, just the mortar. I used it a lot for spices until the pestle rolled off the counter and broke. Now I sometimes use the end of a French rolling pin!
I have a pretty large marble one. And I'm actually surprised at how much I use it... especially if I need a lot of fresh black pepper, I'll use it rather than my pepper mill, or for spice blends for roasts. I like it much better than a coffee grinder, which I always find difficult to fully clean; it's hard to rid it of the residue from spices, and always smells of what was ground last.
- Nora S.
Mine is a Mexican-style molcajete that I bought for $8 at the Maxwell Street Market in Chicago. I don't really use it because it's gritty and gets sand in my food, but I need to season it properly so I can put it to use. I did a post last month about how to season it with rice.
Don’t have one. Keep thinking I need it, but then I never feel at a loss…
I have one - I think it’s made of marble. To be honest, it mostly sits on my shelf and I forget to use it much of the time. I use it to muddle ingredients for drinks more than anything else!
I have a beautiful olivewood one that I bought on High Street in London and I never use it. I have a green marble one that my mom gave me and keep on a ledge and use only to crack coriander for chili.
We have one. It is made from olivewood, and actually was Joe's since before we even met in 1997! We us it almost every day for grinding peppercorns, toasted spices and nuts, smashing garlic and salt, garlic and anchovies, smashing wasabi peas. We have even made herb salsa in it. It is definitely one of our most used kitchen utensils.
I have a ceramic unglazed one from the Conran Store. I use it periodically for spices, but not that often.
- Aaron of AT:NYC
I don't have one but I'd like one. I use a coffee bean grinder to grind my spices at the moment.
I have a white ceramic one (Sophie Conran) which I love for grinding spices and making small batches of pesto. (I don’t have an electric grinder—very unplugged!) In the past, in different, much larger kitchens, I’ve used the suribatchi and the Mexican molcajete with equal pleasure. I like mortar and pestle’s a lot. I like how they’re such an ancient and universal kitchen utensil and I like the physicality of them. And the thump thump thump sound as opposed to the whine of an electric grinder. Clearly, I am a mortar and pestle romantic.
(Mortar and Pestle image at top of post by Flickr member gifrancis licensed for use under Creative Commons)