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April 04, 2023 8 min read


If you're someone who enjoys cooking with herbs and spices, you've likely used a mortar and pestle at some point. These kitchen tools have been used for centuries to grind and crush ingredients into a fine paste or powder. While they can add a unique depth of flavor to your dishes, you may be wondering if they're actually safe to use. In this guide, we'll examine if mortar and pestles are food-safe and share some tips on how to best use them in your kitchen.


Are Mortars and Pestles Food Safe?


 using mortar and pestle on spices

Credit: Envato Elements/ LightFieldStudios


The mortar and pestle is a popular kitchen tool for grinding herbs, spices, and other ingredients, but its safety can depend on the material it is made from. 

Traditional mortar and pestles are commonly made from materials such as stone, marble, granite, or ceramic, which are non-reactive to acidic or alkaline ingredients, making them generally safe for food preparation. Glass, stainless steel, and wooden mortar and pestles are also safe to use.

Alternatively, certain metal mortar and pestles made from materials like lead, steel, cast iron, copper, or zinc, can pose potential health risks. These metals may release harmful chemicals into your food, get rusty, or alter the flavor of your food when in contact with acidic ingredients.

To be sure that your mortar and pestle sets are safe to use, buy from trusted brands that offer certified food-safe products. This certification indicates that the product has undergone testing and meets specific safety standards for food contact materials. 


Types of Food-Safe Mortar and Pestles 


Types of food safe mortar and pestles


Now that you have learned about which mortars and pestles are safe to use, here’s a detailed overview of each type to help you pick the best option:


1) Wooden Mortar and Pestles


Wooden mortar and pestles are ancient cooking tools that have been used in many cultures for centuries, especially in Asian cuisine. They are traditionally made from hardwoods like teak, oak, or maple and are loved for both how useful they are and how aesthetic they look.

The best part about wooden mortar and pestles is that they are lightweight and easy to handle. This makes them ideal for grinding small quantities of spices, herbs, and nuts, as well as for preparing pestos and other sauces. Also, unlike stone or ceramic mortar and pestles, wooden ones are less prone to chipping or breaking, making them more durable over time. 

However, because wood is not as hard and dense as stone or ceramic, wooden mortar and pestles may not crush the ingredients as finely. But you can get around this by using a bigger wooden mortar and pestle or by grinding your ingredients in smaller batches.


2) Stone Mortar and Pestles


Stone mortar and pestles are often seen as the most traditional and authentic type of mortar and pestle. These tools are typically made of materials such as granite, marble, or volcanic rock, and are highly valued for their durability and ability to grind ingredients to a very fine texture. Additionally, since they are typically heavier than wooden or ceramic mortar and pestles, they are more stable and less likely to move around during use. They are also resistant to scratches, stains, and odors, which makes them easy to clean and maintain over time.

However, stone mortar and pestles can be more expensive than other types of mortar and pestles, and they might need a bit of care to keep them looking and working their best. Even so, their long-lasting nature and great grinding ability make them a popular choice for anyone looking for a reliable kitchen tool.


3) Ceramic Mortar and Pestles


Ceramic mortar and pestles are a popular choice among many cooks and chefs. They're usually made from glazed or unglazed ceramics, like porcelain or earthenware. They work great for grinding spices, herbs, nuts, and making sauces or marinades. The best part is, because they are non-porous, they're easy to clean and won't hold onto odors or flavors from previous uses.

However, ceramic mortar and pestles can be more fragile than stone or wooden ones, and they may chip or crack if dropped or mishandled. The quality and craftsmanship can also affect their price, making them potentially more expensive than other types of mortar and pestles.


4) Glass Mortar and Pestles


Glass mortar and pestles are a newer addition to the market and have quickly become a popular choice for home cooks who like a modern look. They’re usually made from tempered glass or high-quality lightweight glass. Due to their material, they’re easy to clean and don’t absorb any flavors. The best part is that you can see the texture and consistency of what you're grinding because they're transparent. This is especially helpful when grinding ingredients like herbs or seeds. However, since glass is more fragile than other materials, they’re more likely to crack or shatter.


5) Stainless Steel Mortar and Pestles


Stainless steel mortar and pestles are a popular choice for modern kitchens. These tools are typically made of high-quality stainless steel, which makes them durable, long-lasting, and resistant to rust and corrosion. They can also be used to grind acidic ingredients without the risk of staining or damaging the surface. Moreover, they’re dishwasher safe, making them easy to clean and sanitize.

However, because they have a smooth and non-porous surface, they might not be the best choice for crushing tough or fibrous ingredients. In these cases, you might need to use more muscle or switch to a different kind of mortar and pestle.


Which Mortar and Pestle Should You Choose?


 types of mortar and pestles

Credit: Envato Elements/ Vell


If you're looking for a versatile and durable mortar and pestle that's food-safe, consider getting a stone mortar and pestle, such as one made of granite. Granite mortar and pestles are tough and heavy, which makes them perfect for crushing hard ingredients like peppercorns and seeds. They’re also non-porous, which means they can be easily cleaned and sanitized. Plus, they look great, making them a great addition to any kitchen decor. The best part is, you can find them in different sizes, shapes, and colors to match your needs and style.


How to Ensure the Safety of Your Mortar and Pestle


 brown mortar and pestle

Credit: Envato Elements/ klenova


Maintaining safety in the kitchen is crucial, especially when using tools such as a mortar and pestle. To ensure the safe and efficient use of your mortar and pestle, follow these tips:


1) Clean Thoroughly 


To keep your mortar and pestle in good condition, it's crucial to clean it properly after each use. No matter what material your mortar and pestle are made of, warm soapy water and a scrub brush should do the trick. Be sure to rinse it well to remove any remaining soap and then dry it completely. Wooden mortar and pestles require extra care. Avoid soaking them in water and instead wipe them down with a damp cloth and dry them immediately after use.


2) Sanitize Regularly 


Keeping your mortar and pestle clean is important to stop bacteria from spreading. You can sanitize it in a few ways, including wiping it down with a vinegar and water solution or putting it in the dishwasher (if it's dishwasher-safe). Just be sure to follow any instructions from the manufacturer to make sure your chosen cleaning method won't harm your mortar and pestle.


3) Avoid Overheating


To protect your mortar and pestle from damage, it's essential to avoid exposing them to sudden changes in temperature. This can be particularly harmful to materials such as stone and ceramic. Overheating these tools can lead to cracks, chips, or other damage that can affect their performance and longevity. If you need to grind hot ingredients, consider using a different tool that is designed for that purpose. This way, your mortar and pestle will stay in good condition for a long time.


4) Avoid Cross-Contamination


Grinding various ingredients in the same mortar and pestle poses a risk of transferring flavors and odors from one ingredient to another. So, it's best to clean the mortar and pestle thoroughly between uses, especially if you're switching from pungent ingredients like garlic to delicate herbs like basil. If you can, it's even better to have separate mortar and pestles for different ingredients to avoid any contamination altogether.


5) Check for Cracks and Chips 


Cracks or chips in a mortar and pestle can trap food particles, bacteria, and other contaminants, which can cause food poisoning and other illnesses. Also, small pieces of a cracked mortar and pestle can break off during use and end up in your food, posing a choking hazard.

To make sure it’s safe to use, inspect it carefully before each use. Run your fingers over the surface to feel for any rough or uneven spots. If you do notice any damage, stop using it immediately and get rid of it safely. Do not attempt to repair a damaged mortar and pestle, as this can compromise its structural integrity and increase the risk of contamination.


Best Practices to Follow When Using a Mortar and Pestle


 mint leaves in mortar and pestle

Credit: Envato Elements/ Wavebreakmedia


To maximize the effectiveness of your mortar and pestle, follow these best practices:


1) Season the Mortar and Pestle


If you've got a new mortar and pestle, it's a good idea to season it first. This makes it easier to grind ingredients and keeps food from sticking. To do this, grind a small amount of rice or salt in the mortar and pestle until it turns into a fine powder. Repeat this process several times until the powder is free of any debris. After seasoning, rinse the mortar and pestle thoroughly with warm water to remove any remaining particles. Finally, make sure to dry it completely before using it to prevent any moisture from causing damage to the material.


2) Use the Right Size


Picking the right size mortar and pestle is really important for grinding or crushing ingredients properly. Choosing the wrong size can lead to overcrowding or ineffective grinding. This can cause food to spill over and create a mess, making it difficult to work with. Alternatively, using a mortar that is too small can make it difficult to grind or crush ingredients, requiring you to repeat the process multiple times, which can be time-consuming.


3) Use Gentle Pressure


When you're using a mortar and pestle, remember to go easy on the pressure. If you use too much force, your ingredients might fly out, which can be messy and result in wasted ingredients. Also, using too much force can also cause the mortar to crack especially if it’s made of delicate materials like glass. To avoid this, start by pressing lightly and gradually increasing the pressure as needed when grinding ingredients.


4) Hold the Pestle at the Right Angle


To use a pestle safely and get the best results, it's important to hold it at the correct angle to avoid accidents. Holding the pestle perpendicular to the mortar can cause it to slip out of your hand and lead to injury. Instead, hold it at a slight angle, and use a circular or grinding motion to crush or grind the ingredients. This way, you stay in control and apply the right pressure evenly, ensuring that the ingredients are ground or crushed uniformly.


5) Use the Right Pestle for the Right Mortar


While it’s fine to mix and match your mortar and pestle, using the wrong one can cause damage to your tools. To prevent this, make sure to use the appropriate pestle for the type of mortar you have. For example, a wooden pestle may be better suited for a soft material such as ceramic, while a metal pestle may be better suited for a harder material such as granite or marble.




The mortar and pestle is a timeless kitchen tool used for grinding and crushing a variety of ingredients. However, safety is of utmost importance when using these kitchen essentials, which is why it’s crucial to purchase them from reputable manufacturers and follow the best practices when using them.

For those in search of a top-notch granite mortar and pestle, Pepe Nero is a great option. Our durable and high-quality product is perfect for grinding and crushing herbs, spices, and more. Whether you're looking to add some extra flavor to your cooking or simply enjoy the process of grinding your ingredients by hand, our mortar and pestle are sure to become a trusted kitchen companion. Shop with us today.

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