Mortars and Pestles

Published January 1, 2012. From Cook's Illustrated.

We were crushed (so to speak) to learn that our favorite mortar and pestle had been discontinued. But at least we knew what to look for in a new pick.

Overview:

We prefer mortars that hold at least 3 cups, have a rough interior to help grip and grind ingredients, and come with a long, heavy pestle that keeps knuckles from scraping the mortar’s edge. Three models seemed to fit the bill: Two were made of granite and the third of volcanic rock. To test whether these tools could not only pulverize ingredients but also keep them contained at the same time, we tried crushing 1 tablespoon of toasted rice, then a tablespoon of whole peppercorns, and finally a tablespoon of dry tapioca to the consistency of cornmeal in each vessel. The wide, low bowl of  a granite model from Vasconia had us chasing ingredients around the kitchen. And we found that while a moderately rough surface is good, the cavities of the craggy volcanic rock mortar from Imusa were so large that they trapped food particles. Plus, this tool required a 24-hour seasoning process with garlic paste. We got great results from our winner right out of the box. It was heavy and stable, with tall, narrow walls that didn’t let… read more

We prefer mortars that hold at least 3 cups, have a rough interior to help grip and grind ingredients, and come with a long, heavy pestle that keeps knuckles from scraping the mortar’s edge. Three models seemed to fit the bill: Two were made of granite and the third of volcanic rock. To test whether these tools could not only pulverize ingredients but also keep them contained at the same time, we tried crushing 1 tablespoon of toasted rice, then a tablespoon of whole peppercorns, and finally a tablespoon of dry tapioca to the consistency of cornmeal in each vessel. The wide, low bowl of  a granite model from Vasconia had us chasing ingredients around the kitchen. And we found that while a moderately rough surface is good, the cavities of the craggy volcanic rock mortar from Imusa were so large that they trapped food particles. Plus, this tool required a 24-hour seasoning process with garlic paste. We got great results from our winner right out of the box. It was heavy and stable, with tall, narrow walls that didn’t let ingredients escape and a comfortable, heavy pestle that made easy work of any pounding task.

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