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Molcajete: smooth or rough? How big is big enough?


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My nephew is becoming a serious cook and he’d like a molcajete.  I’m seeing lots of conflicting advice about smooth granite (less grit) vs rough volcanic rock (tiny glass edges to air pockets increase speed and efficiency of grinding).  And is this something where the bigger, the better, because small quantities can be easily worked in a large version but not the other way round?
 

He lives quite a distance away so shipping is s consideration.

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10 minutes ago, Wholemeal Crank said:

My nephew is becoming a serious cook and he’d like a molcajete.  I’m seeing lots of conflicting advice about smooth granite (less grit) vs rough volcanic rock (tiny glass edges to air pockets increase speed and efficiency of grinding).  And is this something where the bigger, the better, because small quantities can be easily worked in a large version but not the other way round?
 

He lives quite a distance away so shipping is s consideration.

Do you know what he'll be primarily using it for? 

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The big ones ARE heavy so on-line with free shipping ;)  I relegated my molcajete to use as an attractive way to display avocados  and citrus in the kitchen. For actual pounding and grinding, pastes I like my big Thai granite one. I got it at Home Goods or TJ Max years ago. So cheap my sister got one and schlepped it back to Sydney. I may have had a touristy Mexican one ex brought back from Cabo - but I did all the seasoning prep tricks and it still had residue. 

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I searched and found at least one of those topics but the comments about smooth vs rough and size were scattered through a more diffuse topic. I was still left with these key questions. I believe he will be using it for sauces, including salsas and guacamole, but not only those. I'm not 100% sure on what he is most into because I haven't shared kitchen time with him in ages, since I was the cook and he the small helper (sigh).

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31 minutes ago, heidih said:

The big ones ARE heavy so on-line with free shipping ;)  For actual pounding and grinding, pastes I like my big Thai granite one. I got it at Home Goods or TJ Max years ago. So cheap my sister got one and schlepped it back to Sydney. I may have had a touristy Mexican one ex brought back from Cabo - but I did all the seasoning prep tricks and it still had residue. 


Free shipping sounds good.....but it also feels wrong because I'm here in LA, land of abundant goods from Mexico. 

 

The Thai ones look easier to tip over than the big tripod molcajetes--but maybe that doesn't really matter?  I've had lousy experience with my attempts at mortar and pestle but they were small and I was trying to use them for spices so maybe it was always doomed to fail. 

 

And by residue--you mean still stony grit?

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Based n what you know or surmise I'd still go with the Thai granite. The Japanese ridged one for sesame seeds is a specialty thing, and salsas and guacamole don't need ridges. It is really more your upper body and the pushing and sliding motion that creates pastes or blends  Unless working with hard ingredients to make spice pastes like Robin describes here https://eatingasia.typepad.com/eatingasia/2008/04/the-balinese-da.html  - in my opinion you don't need roughed up surface. The inside of granite one not hy*per smooth, you can feel rough on your finger but not ridges.  not a big ticket item so I would just get him a general purpose one and let him play. I can't reach mine (stuck behind lawn tractor w flat tire) but like this one but mine is taller - one in middle  https://forums.egullet.org/topic/19519-mortar-and-pestle-–-the-topic/?do=findComment&comment=2073443

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8 minutes ago, Wholemeal Crank said:

Did it!  Got a granite molcajete.  Shipping by Amazon.   And a “good” used copy of Oaxaca.

Diana Kennedy's Oaxaca al Gusto?  It is a beautiful (heavy in weight) book. More inspirational than to cook from for me, We almost had her here for a Q & A back then with valiant efforts by @rancho_gordo but she is a stubborn lady who'd had a bad interview elsewhere. I applaud your fostering of the cooking interest. 

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