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September 26, 2023 5 min read

When it comes to grinding and crushing spices, mortar and pestle sets have been a choice for centuries. But with options available in wood and stone, which one should you pick? Let's break down the differences between these two popular materials.


Wooden Mortar and Pestle

 

wooden mortar and pestle on grey table
Credit: Envato Elements/ nblxer

Wood mortar and pestles are made from various types of trees like beech, oak, walnut, olive, or bamboo. They're popular in kitchens because of their smooth, rounded shape and how useful they are for different cooking jobs. Usually, they're made from a single piece of wood, which makes them strong and long-lasting.


Features of Wood Mortar and Pestles

 

Here are some typical features of wooden mortar and pestles:


1) Material


Wooden mortars and pestles have a smooth surface that's good for mashing softer ingredients like fresh herbs, spices, and garlic. They're also less likely to scratch your other kitchen tools compared to stone alternatives. This makes them a safe choice for everyday cooking tasks.


2) Weight


Wooden mortar and pestle sets are lighter than stone ones. This makes them easier to handle, especially if you need to grind for extended periods of time. They're a good choice for people who might find heavy tools difficult to use because of strength or dexterity issues.


3) Maintenance


Wooden mortar and pestles need extra care to stay in good condition. They can get stained and damaged by moisture easily, so it's important to take care of them regularly.


How to Care for a Wooden Pestle and Mortar

 

Here are some simple tips and tricks to keep in mind when caring for your wooden mortar and pestles:

 

1)Wash By Hand


To keep your wooden mortar and pestle in good condition, avoid soaking it in water or using harsh detergents. Instead, gently wash it by hand with warm, soapy water and a soft brush or sponge.


2)Make Sure to Dry Thoroughly


After washing, be sure to dry your wooden mortar and pestle completely. This is important to prevent moisture damage and the growth of mold or unpleasant odors. After drying it, make sure to store it in a well-ventilated area.


3)Apply a Food Grade Mineral Oil


Once every few months, use food-grade mineral oil to keep the wood in good shape and prevent it from cracking. This is especially important if you have an olive wood pestle.


Stone Mortar and Pestles

 

marble mortar and pestle with spices inside
Credit: Envato Elements/ baspentrubas

Unlike wooden mortar and pestles, stone ones are made from a single solid block of stone, usually granite, marble, or basalt. These heavy-duty tools are great at grinding and last a long time. They're well-liked not just because they look nice, but also because of their ability to preserve the flavors and aromas of ingredients.


Features of Stone Mortar and Pestles

 

Here are some typical features of stone mortar and pestles:


1) Texture


Stone mortars and pestles are known for their coarse and abrasive surface, a defining feature that sets them apart from their wooden counterparts. This texture provides exceptional friction when grinding, making them particularly well-suited for hard ingredients such as seeds, grains, and nuts.


2) Weight


A great thing about stone mortar and pestles is how heavy they are. This weight helps keep them steady when you're grinding herbs and spices, reducing the need for using excessive force.


3) Maintenance


Stone mortar and pestles don't stain or get damaged by water as easily as wooden ones. But they can soak up flavors and aromas from the spices you grind, and that might affect your next recipe.


How to Care for Stone Mortar and Pestles

 

Here are some simple tips and tricks to keep in mind when caring for your stone mortar and pestles:

 

1)Wash By Hand


Cleaning your stone mortar and pestle, whether it's a granite or marble mortar, is easy. Simply use warm water and a brush or sponge. Avoid abrasive cleaners that could harm the stone's surface.


2) Consider Seasoning


To prevent the stone from absorbing flavors and odors, occasionally grind a handful of uncooked rice until it turns into a fine powder. This cleanses the stone and keeps it fresh for future use. This is especially useful if you have a Thai granite mortar or a ceramic mortar.


3)Dry Thoroughly


After washing, ensure your stone set is completely dry to prevent mold or mildew from forming. Then, store it in a dry, airy place to make it last longer.


Which One Is Right for You?

 

hands holding marble mortar and pestle with green table
Credit: Envato Elements/ Wavebreakmedia

Now, let's figure out which mortar and pestle set is right for you:


Choose Wood If:

 

  • You frequently use delicate ingredients like herbs and spices.
  • You want something lighter and easier to handle for long grinding sessions.
  • You're willing to invest time and care in maintenance.

Choose Stone If:


  • You often grind tough ingredients like seeds, grains, or strong spices that require a more sturdy and abrasive surface.
  • You value the stability and weight of a heavy-duty tool.
  • You appreciate a tool that can retain and improve the flavors and aromas of your ingredients.

 

FAQ Content

 

Q: Can I use a wooden mortar and pestle for grinding tough ingredients like seeds or grains?

Wooden mortar and pestle sets are better suited for softer ingredients like herbs, spices, and garlic. While they can handle some tougher ingredients, they may not be as effective as stone ones for grinding hard seeds or grains.

 

Q: How do I prevent my stone mortar and pestle from absorbing flavors and odors?

You can occasionally grind a handful of uncooked rice until it turns into a fine powder. This helps cleanse the stone and keeps it fresh for future use.

 

Q: Can I grind wet ingredients in a wooden mortar and pestle?

It's generally not recommended to grind wet ingredients in a wooden mortar and pestle, as moisture can damage the wood and lead to mold or mildew growth. Stick to dry ingredients or use a different tool for wet grinding.

 

Q: How do I know which size of mortar and pestle to choose?

The size of the mortar and pestle you choose depends on the quantities of ingredients you typically work with. If you often prepare small batches, a smaller set (3 to 4 inches) may suffice, while larger sets (7 to 8 inches) are better for bigger quantities.

 

Q: Can I use a coffee grinder to grind herbs and spices instead of a mortar and pestle?

Yes, you can use a coffee grinder to grind herbs and spices, but there are some factors to keep in mind. Coffee grinders are designed specifically for coffee beans and may not be suitable for all types of spices. Additionally, the flavors of different spices can mix if the grinder is not properly cleaned between uses.


Summary


In the battle of wood vs. stone mortar and pestles, the best choice ultimately depends on your specific cooking needs and preferences. Both materials have their advantages and can be excellent additions to your kitchen. So, go ahead, make your choice, and start crushing, grinding, and blending with confidence.

And if you're looking for a mortar and pestle that combines both quality and style for grinding spices and spice mixes, check out Pepe Nero Granite Mortar and Pestle. Our evenly round bowl shape is designed to improve your cooking experience. Shop with us today.


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