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So, Do I Need a Mortar and Pestle?


Liza
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So...watched CathyL crush garlic, rosemary and other gorgeously scented aromatics in one and got to thinking: I've used an ersatz plastic cutting board, since I am the dishwasher , but could a mortar and pestle help? Does it work better than a knife when rosemary and garlic are concerned? Notes: I have no dishwasher other than myself and minimal storage.

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Yes, Liza, you need one. I wash mine by hand, by the way.

For pureed garlic, I prefer the mortar to a knife. And it's the best way to crush seeds (cumin, mustard, coriander...). You could do without it, but I really don't think you should have to.

If I were buying one today, I might get the vitrified ceramic kind rather than the marble.

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The Southeast Asian stores in Chinatown have very heavy clay ones that work great -- they're very deep so things don't fly out at you. Also, the Mexican ones made of volcanic stuff are good, although you have to season them first.

Mortar and pestle is fun to make aioli in, adding oil drop by drop. Also fun to make Thai curry pastes, pounding everything up, or pounding roasted garlic and chiles for salsa.

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Liza, great question, as I was just looking at an ad today for a mortar & pestle and wondering the exact same thing.

What I've wondered about them, is after crushing the garlic and spices in them, do they wash up well so that no remaining scent of garlic or other remains? The ones I've seen look like some kind of porous rock (volcanic rock?) that made me think the garlic or curry scent would permeat through and never leave. Can they go in the dishwasher?

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BH, my Thai granite mortar and pestle is easy to clean (it tends to take on colors easily, but doesn't hold flavors); I just use water and then brush it with a juiced lime half. I've put things like garlic and shrimp paste in it and subsequently used it for more delicately flavored items and not noticed any contamination.

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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Here in Japan I use a suribachi (Japanese mortar and pestle), this is slightly different than the others in that it is grooved on the inside. I have been thinking recently that during my upcoming trip to the States, that I want to buy a mortar and pestle, any recommendations? volcanic vs granite vs marble vs ceramic, should I not bother and stick with my suribachi. It really works great, it is just when I am making certain pastes, it can be hard to clean. The worst think I ever made with my suribachi? I accidentaly bought coffee beans instead of the pre ground stuff (in my days before my coffee mill) and tried to "grind" them in my suribachi. Definitely not recommended! :raz:

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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So...watched CathyL crush garlic, rosemary and other gorgeously scented aromatics in one and got to thinking: I've used an ersatz plastic cutting board, since I am the dishwasher ™, but could a mortar and pestle help? Does it work better than a knife when rosemary and garlic are concerned? Notes: I have no dishwasher other than myself and minimal storage.

Liza,

What a great thread. It is an essential for any kitchen. At least one of them. And I have at least 5 that I can see as I glance into the kitchen.

A medium sized one would hardly take any space and works very well for many different things and cuisines.

It is great to powder things finely with some effort and coarsely for those special times when you need a coarsely ground spice powder.

They wash well in the sink.. and as Mamster said... the stone ones have a great weight and while they may absorb color, they lose any smell. And lime and lemon halves that have been used for their juice make for a great cleansing rub.

I encourage all my culinary students and any friends that ask me for such advice to go buy one.

You will use these for a long time.

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I have a granite morter and pestle that is a well used piece of equipment in my house. Essesntial for making many dishes from grinding up cinnamon sticks into wonderful aromatic powder ( much better than the pre-ground stuff ) to cardamom pods.. best thing out.

Definately a must have for any keen cook/chef :smile:

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I have a granite morter and pestle that is a well used piece of equipment in my house. Essesntial for making many dishes from grinding up cinnamon sticks into wonderful aromatic powder ( much better than the pre-ground stuff ) to cardamom pods.. best thing out.

Cardamoms are best ground in a mortar and pestle. And I love using my granite one for grinding cardamom. Maybe a habit I have for I would see Panditji using a granite one when I was a child to grind these seeds into powder form for desserts. :biggrin:

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The great advantage to having one is that you can buy all of your spices whole. Whole spices last longer. Cumin is soooo much  better when freshly ground.

I love the scent of freshly ground toasted cumin!

My mortar is white marble. I would really like to have a suribachi or molcajete also, for the extra grinding power of the rough bowl. Vitrified ceramic, like this one from the PCD catalog, is supposedly dishwasher safe.

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Ok, so I use an electric coffee grinder (which has never, ever seen coffee) to grind up my whole spices and herbs. I freely admit it isn't as romantic as a mortar and pestle, but isn't it just as effective?

Clean up is a breeze with just a couple pieces of crusty bread.

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I have two, one like the Mamsters (some sort of green volcanic rock) and Mable Italian one. The Italian one has wooden pestle which is great for making garlic sauces or mayonaise. The South-East Asian one is great for more heavy duty work. I also like the marble version because the originals were made out of the mable capitols of collapsed roman buildings, so I like to think that it was great that after the demise of the Empire, people sat around and made spicy sauces.

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Yes, you need one. At least. I have suribachi of varying sizes, a southeast Asian big guy, and some iron mortars for small quantities of spices.

I'm generally against kitchen gadgets.

This isn't like a gadget. It's like a knife. Pretty basic.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Yes, you need one. At least. I have suribachi of varying sizes, a southeast Asian big guy, and some iron mortars for small quantities of spices.

I'm generally against kitchen gadgets.

This isn't like a gadget. It's like a knife. Pretty basic.

So well said! As always... Thanks Jinmyo for your sage advice.

Mortar and pestles are very different from a coffee grinder. I have those two. 2 in fact... I actually have grinders that get completely dis-assembled for clean up after I have used them. Coffee grinders never clean up perfectly... not after you have had them for a while at least... I am yet to see a friend that has them clean....

They also do not grind as perfectly for the different recipes as you can with a mortar and pestle.. there are certain sauces and dishes where you want only a desired amount of fine powder and some coarsely ground spices. This you can do in a mortar and pestle, but cannot achieve with a spice grinder.

I use the spice grinder/coffee grinder for those occasions when I need a fine powder and in bulk. It is fine for that alone.

The rest of the time, I use my mortar and pestle.. and I have many of them like Jinmyo, and like knives that are essential to cooking in my kitchen.

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I guess it's beyond me-tooism at this point, after all these estimable responses, but I will anyways add--yes, mortar & pestle.

Mine is blacky-greeny solid granite, bought at a tiny store years ago when the Consort and I were rooting around amidst the then-burgeoning wonders of our Little Saigon, and the very nice man who sold it to me that day said, encouragingly, "Many people like." (Instantly became a popular catch-phrase among us, for nice things people like.)

And, Liza, at that time I had less-than-zero storage space, no dishwasher, and really, just about no money, either. Just exactly the kind of cook who, historically, the world over, needs and uses a mortar & pestle the very most.

Mmmm all the classic mortar & pestle sauces spread out in potential before you...lovely to contemplate.

Priscilla

Writer, cook, & c. ● #TacoFriday observant ●  Twitter    Instagram

 

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A mortar and pestle take you into a different time scale where you do a job until it's done, without looking at your watch. You pay attention to what you're doing, stop and scrape bits back into the hollow that have crept up the side, feel the texture with your fingers. The final result has not had violence done to it -- it has been slowly worked to the perfect state for its purpose and has not passed beyond into anonymous powder or sludge. To paraphrase John Cage on the subject of Tibetan chant: if you're bored, maybe you haven't been doing it long enough.

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John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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Lest it go unnoticed by some, Jaaaymaaay has a big old granite rig prominently displayed on the counter of his groovalicious kitchen, and, AND, I saw him use it the other evening, grinding up stuff with which to coat lamb shanks prior to browning and braisification.

Priscilla

Writer, cook, & c. ● #TacoFriday observant ●  Twitter    Instagram

 

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Cor, pukkha!

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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