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Mortar & Pestle: Best Material?


origamicrane
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hi there

i'm in the market to buy a pestle and mortar and was wondering what is the best material for one????

Wood? porcelain? metal? marble?

as a friend said wood ones tend to absorb the flavour and smell of the herbs being grinded and metal ones can also impart a metallic taste to certain herbs? is this true?

i'm looking at typoon P&M's :smile:

http://www.typhooneurope.com/dept.asp?dept_id=16

i like the look of the porcelain one as its quite cheap too, under a tenner :laugh:

any insight would be much appreciated :)

"so tell me how do you bone a chicken?"

"tastes so good makes you want to slap your mamma!!"

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My father is a pharmacist and at once point had to use mortars and pestles for actual mixing/something or other of the drugs. He has always sworn by marble as well, and all of the ones I saw around the house that weren't just decorative items were always marble.

He don't mix meat and dairy,

He don't eat humble pie,

So sing a miserere

And hang the bastard high!

- Richard Wilbur and John LaTouche from Candide

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I recently purchased a thai granite version like the one here: http://importfood.com/thaicookware.html . I picked mine up at an Asian cookware store in San Francisco where they are about half the price seen on the above site. It is very heavy and I feel like I can pound it as hard as I want with no fear of breakage (except for maybe my counters :smile: ) which is handy when trying to break down woodier items like lemongrass. I have also used it succesfully for pesto, spice grinding, curry pastes etc..

Nathan

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I would defenitly go with this. They are heavy, sturdy and will last forever if not dropped. Use it for almost any of your pulping, grinding and crushing needs (including spices). The marble ones are a little too light and delicate. You can also find these at your local Asian grocery store and save on the shipping fee.

Elie

edit: i guess Nathan P. beat me to it. Oh well, you have two votes for it now.

Edited by FoodMan (log)

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

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contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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if granite was easily accessible i think that would be my first choice too. i remember kiewie was telling me about it on the malaysian board..

i love marble and it suits my purposes, but that mofo above looks like it can take anything. granite is way harder than marble.

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I would defenitly go with this. They are heavy, sturdy and will last forever if not dropped. Use it for almost any of your pulping, grinding and crushing needs (including spices). The marble ones are a little too light and delicate. You can also find these at your local Asian grocery store and save on the shipping fee.

Here is vote three. I have had the marble and when it broke, I bought the granite one pictured. I like the texture of the insides. It seems that it "grips" what you are pounding better than the marble.

For lab type stuff many years ago, we used to have heavy porcelain, unglazed on the inside. I haven't seen those in years.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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I agree with fifi. The texture of the granite is better than smooth marble in my opinion. And, as everyone's already stated, it's heavier and stronger than marble.

There are a few porcelain ones still kicking around in the cookware stores but I've only seen those used for RX purposes.

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Another vote for the Thai job, for all the reasons above, the texture of the bowl is perfect, and you can seroiusly hammer on them. I use an old coffee can plastic lid to cusion the thing, fits the bottom of mine (2 1/2 cups capacity, I think?) perfectly.

Very sexy on the counter, too.

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Guess you dont need any more votes but I've had the same Thai granite one for over a year now and definitely think it beats the marble M&P at my mothers house. I'm never afraid of breaking it and like Nathan, I use it for powdering, pulping, making pesto, thai curry pastes and it works very well for all these purposes.

-worm@work

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Check the selection at Fantes

here

I have several of different materials.

I have a large brass one, made in Turkey, which is my favorite. I found it at a middle eastern grocery for $15.00.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Check the selection at Fantes

here

I have several of different materials.

I have a large brass one, made in Turkey, which is my favorite.  I found it at a middle eastern grocery for $15.00.

I notice you don't mention your Thai granite m&p.

Get one, thank eG.

[edit] Cripes the granites at that site are 4 3/4", toys.

:laugh:

Edited by Samhill (log)
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I use an old coffee can plastic lid to cusion the thing, fits the bottom of mine (2 1/2 cups capacity, I think?) perfectly.

Now that is truly inspired.

Mine has an inside diameter of about six inches. I am thinking getting a bigger one. Perhaps a lid from a bigger coffee can? :rolleyes:

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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I notice you don't mention your Thai granite m&p.

Get one, thank eG.

I do have a granite one (green) that is fairly large (8 inches across) and a smaller black one (both bought at the Phillipine market here in town). Two porcelain, Mason Cash, one quite large the other medium, (both from England). A lava rock molcajete 8 inches in diameter, a large wooden M&P mostrly for decoration. The brass one I mentioned, for pounding hard spices such as star anise, cloves, cardamom, etc. I also have a thick glass laboratory one and a small agate one that has a pestle that is shaped like a mushroom which I use for grinding pills for my dogs.

I also have two of the Japanese suribachi bowls. I have been collecting these over the years, trying to find one that worked better than those I had.

Actually I find one works well with some things, others work better with others.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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I think andiesinji has said it best. Different m&ps for different purposes. I just find that the granite one works pretty well for anything that I want it to do. That doesn't mean that the others are perfectly fine, and sometimes superior for a specific job.

Why not get several? They are really pretty sitting on the shelf.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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well looks like its pretty conclusive the granite one it is.:)

yeah the glass ones seem a little unsafe but they do look good :)

and thinking about it now the porcelain one might be quite fragile too.

okie dokie off to the chinese supermarket for me this weekend.

thanks for all the help :)

cheers

"so tell me how do you bone a chicken?"

"tastes so good makes you want to slap your mamma!!"

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so is that where people are finding granite ones?

the asian markets?

I have seen them in the various Asian markets in my town. We have the Phillipine market, a Thai market, a Korean market and next door in Palmdale an Indian market. We also have a middle eastern market here in Lancaster and I shop there quiite often as they also carry a good selection of Indian items. The large brass M&P I bought there holds 24 oz liquid measure.

I have had no problems with the large porcelain Mason Cash M&Ps breaking. They are quite sturdy and I just set them on a piece of the rubber shelf liner to keep them from sliding on the work surface.

I like the size of the big one because after I mash the herbs, and such I can use it as a mixing bowl to add most of the remaining ingredients.

see here

Often I am working with large quantities when I am composing an herb and spice mixture for canning and the large one will hold everything. If I limited myself to one of the smaller ones I would have to make multiple mixtures with the possibility of omitting something in one or the other.

I use the glass one for grinding oily seeds as it is much easier to clean than the others.

Both the molcajete and the large metate I have were purchased in Mexico. You have to be careful in buying these because some are only made for decoration. You have to be able to see if it will hold water because some of the volcanic rock is so porous that water will pour right through it.

Buy one and test it as soon as you get it home and if it is too porous, i.e. will not hold water for more than a couple of minutes, take it back.

You then have to "season" it by grinding multiple batches of dry rice and very coarse salt in it to knock off the loose bits or you will have gritty bits in your teeth. It takes a fair amount of work to get one of these in good condition for use but they are worth it.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Depends on what they are to be used for. The european marble types with wooden pestles are fantastic for making emulsuion type sauces, but suck for spice grinding. The Thai stone ones are good for pounding/grinding spices but they are realtively smooth on the inner surface and may not me ideal for some purposes.

Whatever you decide, my advise would be to get biggest one you can find. You can grind small amounts in a large mortar, but it is a pain in the arse to make curry pastes etc when the ingredients slop over the sides.

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Depends on what they are to be used for. The european marble types with wooden pestles are fantastic for making emulsuion type sauces, but suck for spice grinding. The Thai stone ones are good for pounding/grinding spices but they are realtively smooth on the inner surface and may not me ideal for some purposes.

Whatever you decide, my advise would be to get biggest one you can find. You can grind small amounts in a large mortar, but it is a pain in the arse to make curry pastes etc when the ingredients slop over the sides.

I forgot to mention that I use the Japanese suribachi like this

for grating ginger in large amounts.

The inner surface with its ridges works so well and you do not lose any of the ginger juice as one does with the little flat things that are difficult to hold onto if one has arthritis in the hands as I do.

Edited by andiesenji (log)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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I have one of the cheap grey marble units and the bottom inside of the mortar is actually quite corase and grinds well. The problem is that the pestle broke after being dropped onto a granite countertop from only 3" - 4" above the counter. Thanks to all for the tips about Asian amrkets - I'll check mine locally for a stone replacement.

By all means avoid the "close-fit" style shown on one of the linked websites. I bought one made of porcelain 'cause iti was so damn stylish and it was completely useless. It might be good for crushing pills but was terrible at crushing spices and not large enough to boot.

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