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November 06, 2023 5 min read

Mortar and pestles are essential tools that have been used for centuries in various applications, from preparing food to grinding medicines and cosmetics. In this blog, we'll explore the different materials available for mortar and pestles and help you choose the safest and most suitable one for your needs. Let's dive right in.


What Are Mortar and Pestles?


hands holding mortar and pestle with mashed spices inside
Credit: Envato Elements/ Wavebreakmedia


A mortar and pestle are simple tools used for crushing and grinding ingredients. The mortar is a bowl while the pestle is a heavy cylindrical-shaped object. To use them together, you need to place the ingredient you want to grind in the large mortar bowl and then apply some elbow grease as you press and rotate the pestle onto it until you achieve the desired texture.

A search of ancient Egyptian and Maya archives has revealed that mortar and pestles have been around for thousands of years. These tools were primarily used to grind spices, grains, and herbs, and even to make medicines from natural ingredients. They were also highly regarded by the ancient Greeks and Romans for their ability to improve the flavor of food.


The Best Mortar and Pestle for Food Preparation


granite mortar and pestle with green leaves inside
Credit: Envato Elements/ merc67


When it comes to food preparation, the choice of material for your mortar and pestle can impact the flavor and texture of your dishes. The most popular materials include:


1) Thai Granite Mortar and Pestle Set


Thai granite mortar and pestles are known for their durability and sturdiness. They offer excellent resistance to staining and odor absorption, making them ideal for grinding spices, crushing hard ingredients like pine nuts, and making curry paste. Granite's natural texture also helps in efficient grinding.


2) Marble Mortars


Marble mortar and pestles are aesthetically pleasing and a great choice for light-duty grinding tasks. They are best suited for softer ingredients like garlic, fennel seeds, and herbs. However, they can be prone to chipping or cracking if used too vigorously.


3) Stainless Steel Mortar and Pestle Sets


If durability and easy maintenance are your priorities, stainless steel mortar and pestles are an excellent choice. They are resistant to staining and corrosion, making them ideal for grinding both dry and wet ingredients. Another option is brass mortar and pestles.


The Best Mortar and Pestle for Medicine


white porcelain mortar and pestle with pill inside
Credit: Envato Elements/ lightzone


In the field of medicine, precision and purity are of utmost importance. The choice of material for a mortar and pestle should reflect these requirements. Common options include:


1) Porcelain Mortar and Pestle


Porcelain mortar and pestles are non-reactive and easy to clean, making them suitable for pharmaceutical compounding and herbal medicine preparation. Their smooth surfaces prevent the retention of particles and help maintain the purity of the substances being ground.


2) Glass Mortar and Pestle


Glass mortars and pestles are transparent, allowing for visual monitoring of the grinding process. They are often used for preparing liquid medications and homogenizing samples in laboratory settings. However, they may not be as durable as other materials.


The Best Mortar and Pestle for Cosmetic Use


granite mortar and pestle with roses petals inside and rose products outside
Credit: Envato Elements/ Olena_Mykhaylova


When crafting cosmetics, precise blending and texture is essential. Consider the following options:


1) Ceramic Mortar and Pestles


Ceramic mortar and pestles offer a balance between durability and texture. They are suitable for grinding ingredients like clays, herbs, and essential oils for cosmetic formulations. The textured interior helps in achieving the desired consistency.


2) Wooden Mortars


Wooden mortar and pestles are sustainable options for cosmetic use. They are gentle on natural ingredients and can be an excellent choice for those looking to create eco-friendly beauty products. However, they may not be as durable as other materials.


How to Use a Mortar and Pestle


hand holding mortar and pestle on blue wooden table
Credit: Envato Elements/ LightFieldStudios


Using a mortar and pestle effectively is all about technique. Here's a simple guide to get you started:


  • Start by cleaning your mortar and pestle spice grinder thoroughly with warm water and mild soap, especially if it's new. If you have wooden pestles and mortars, you can skip this step.
  • Place the ingredients you wish to grind or mix into the mortar.
  • Hold the pestle firmly and grind the ingredients using a circular motion, applying gentle pressure. For better results, start with light pressure and increase as needed.
  • Continue grinding until you achieve the desired consistency. For coarse results, grind for a shorter time; for finer results, grind longer.


How to Maintain Your Mortar and Pestle


white marble mortar and pestle displayed on marble countertop
Credit: Envato Elements/ MPPLLC45


Taking proper care of your mortar and pestle is essential to ensure its longevity and continued effectiveness. Here's how to keep your chosen material in excellent condition:


1) Clean After Use


  • Rinse the mortar and pestle with warm water immediately after use to prevent residues from drying and sticking.
  • Use a soft brush or sponge to scrub away any stubborn particles, but avoid using abrasive materials that could scratch the surface.
  • For tougher stains, you can create a paste of baking soda and water and gently scrub the surface.


2) Season Your Mortar


  • Some materials, like stone or clay, benefit from seasoning before use. To do this, grind a handful of rice or salt in your mortar to remove any residual dust and smoothen the surface.
  • Rinse thoroughly and let it dry before using it for your intended purpose.


3) Ensure Proper Storage


  • Store your mortar and pestle in a dry and cool place to prevent moisture and humidity from affecting the material.
  • If possible, store the pestle separately to prevent any damage or pressure on the mortar.


Safety Considerations When Using a Mortar and Pestle


hands mashing flowers in wooden mortar and pestle
Credit: Envato Elements/ YuliaPanova


While mortar and pestles are simple tools, it's important to keep safety in mind, especially when using them for different purposes. Here are some safety considerations:


1) Avoid Overloading


  • Don't overcrowd the mortar with too many ingredients at once. Overloading can make it difficult to achieve the desired consistency and may cause spillage or accidents.


2) Use Proper Technique


  • When grinding, maintain a firm grip on the pestle, and use controlled, deliberate motions to avoid splattering or spillage.
  • Keep your fingers clear of the grinding area to prevent accidental injuries.


3) Wear Appropriate Safety Gear


  • If you are grinding substances that may release fine particles or dust, consider wearing a mask and safety goggles to protect your eyes and respiratory system.




Mortar and pestles are versatile tools with a rich history of use in various fields. When choosing the best material for your mortar and pestle, consider your specific needs, whether it's food preparation, medicinal use, or cosmetics. By selecting the right material and following proper usage and maintenance guidelines, you can ensure the safety and effectiveness of your mortar and pestle for years to come.

For a top-notch stone mortar and pestle, check out Pepe Nero. Crafted with precision and quality in mind, Pepe Nero's stone mortars and pestles are the perfect choice for your culinary adventures. Shop with us today.

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