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How to Use a Mortar and Pestle

By Cook's Illustrated Published September 2009

This method for using this ancient kitchen tool will ensure perfectly powdered spices every time.

The key to using a mortar and pestle effectively is circular grinding, not up-and-down pounding. (Pounding is less efficient and scatters ingredients.) Here’s how to effectively grind spices to a fine powder.

Place the spices in the mortar. Steady it with your left hand and firmly press the pestle’s rounded base against the inside of the mortar with your right hand (reverse for lefties). Rotate the pestle, without lifting the head and maintaining downward pressure at all times, until your spices are ground to the desired consistency.