Quality grinding: 4 best mortar and pestle sets
Grinding anything from spices to bigger-than-I’d-like pills with a pestle and mortar is a favorite pastime of mine. It feels like a form meditation sometimes.
Bonus points for me if it’s a granite set: there’s something enchanting in the semi-porous, heavy build of granite pestle and mortars.
However, I can’t emphasize how important it is to get the material you like to work with. Case in point – a few months ago I gifted this famous Jamie Oliver set to my father.
It’s a designer work of art and to me, the best mortar and pestle ever. Solid, wide enough, 2-cup capacity of ingredients. So I thought pops will love it too.
Nope! Turns out he hated the porous surface, the weight and the overall feeling of it. Once he got his hands on a wooden mortar and pestle, however, he was happy.
Me? I’d never use a wooden set, because it feels too light to me. Same as porcelain!
You probably have your own preferences too. That’s why I’ve picked the best mortar and pestle sets with a catch: one for every material they can be made of. Let’s start with the comparison chart and reviews before we move on to some general tips.
The 4 best mortar and pestle sets [reviews]
1. Best granite mortar and pestle:
Jamie Oliver’s designer set
You won’t be able to find a better quality granite mortar and pestle set currently. I’m dead-serious. There’s a reason this granite beauty bears Jamie Oliver’s name. It’s a designer piece of art, but what really matters is how sturdy and spacious it is.
The mortar is larger than other sets here – its inside width is 4 1/8″ which means a very generous 2-cup capacity. If you decide to use it as a mortar and pestle for guacamole, you can easily get 2 avocados inside. A 2 1/4″ depth is also accommodating, as it’s better than a lot of other, more shallow sets.
If you do a lot of grinding, that’s your pick. Its overall size, paired with the thick walls and solid, balanced construction guarantee no ingredients slipping out and easy grinding. I like the heavier build as it leads to zero moving around. Some steel sets can get frustrating due to them gliding across surfaces when you grind too strongly with them.
You can choose between a polished or unpolished granite design. I prefer the unpolished one, as it feels rougher and more natural, in a way. Keep in mind that with the unpolished version, the inside can get quite porous.
This means you have to take more care of cleaning it, as spices, dust from pills or other materials might stick to the pores. Also, remember to not use soap here due to the exact same reason.
A good warm water rinse and letting the granite mortar and pestle set air dry afterwards is enough.
2. Best marble mortar and pestle for grinding spice:
PriorityChef’s solid marble set
Marble is more polished and to some – more stylish and refined. PriorityChef’s surpasses others with its construction quality and convenience of use.
I have to warn you: this is a smaller stone mortar and pestle set. It’s perfect for grinding spices, but forget about guacamole or bigger batches of ingredients here. This marble beauty is way narrower at a 3″ diameter, though it’s comfortably deep.
So if you need a flatter, wider surface, you won’t find it here. On the other hand, you get a heavy, balanced material similar to Jamie Oliver’s set. No slipping out, no moving around the kitchen countertop.
Marble isn’t as porous as granite, so washing does get a bit easier here. You can use soap and then rinse well, or just get a damp cloth and clean it up after usage.
Easy to clean and deep? This looks like a recipe for the best mortar and pestle for pesto to me. Indeed, a lot of people seem to have gotten pretty good pesto results with PriorityChef’s product.
The elongated, slim design also allows this to be quite the great mortar and pestle if you want to grind some bills or medications. Usually these can be tricky to grind, but the higher marble walls will keep them inside without an issue.
3. Best wooden mortar and pestle set:
Ironwood Gourmet’s acacia wood
I’m seriously considering getting this for my pops, though I’m worried I might spoil him if I do so. Acacia wood is a thing of beauty: its texture and color patterns make the set a true interior design masterpiece.
Of course, what we judge here is its usefulness. As you know, wood mortar and pestle is very lightweight and adds a cheerful vibe to any kitchen. This one is also smaller, having only a 1-cup capacity.
The reason? It’s pretty shallow at just 2″ depth and a little below 4″ of inside diameter. Once again, you’ll want to skip on mashing avocado here. For herbs, nuts or spices though, this is a beautiful set to have.
The wood won’t suffocate the spice aroma. On the contrary, I’d argue this set will bring the most out of your fragrant ingredients. I want to turn your attention to the pestle’s design here – it’s very ergonomic and a pleasure to look at.
A note on cleaning this: don’t ever wash it in the dishwasher, or let it soak. Both will ruin the acacia wood elegance. Instead, gently wash it with soap and rinse with warm (not too hot!) water afterwards.
4. Best stainless steel mortar and pestle:
StainlessLUX 2.25-cup set
This one is a rather huge set, with good width and depth. If you plan on grinding a lot of stuff, you might consider it as your best cooking sidekick.
The mortar isn’t weighted steel (unlike the pestle), so it’s both lightweight and stylish. Now, steel can be easy to move around, but not this one. Why? Because it has a rubber gasket bottom that holds it in place. I can’t emphasize how important of a touch that is!
That said, you still get the famous smoothness of the steel mortar and pestle sets. Ingredients will be more slippery to grind than granite or marble, for example. As the walls are higher, however, there shouldn’t be issues with that.
A versatile 2.25-cup set, this one is great for anything from spices to guacamole. It should also perform well as a mortar and pestle for pesto, but I’d prefer a stone surface for that.
Good news about steel is that it’s ridiculously easy to clean. The absolutely non-porous surface won’t have spices or dust (from pills for example) sticking to the mortar. You’re getting a sparkly clean tool in no time.
Last remark is that unlike heavier, porous surfaces, steel might require more efforts when you’re grinding things. There’s just not that much of a “resistance” like the granite porous mortars. This means you might need to grind more aggressively, with more motions, to achieve proper results.
Why should you use a mortar and pestle set
(and what for)
Herbs and spices are very delicate. Their aroma and flavors can fade away in the blink of an eye if you’re not careful how you prepare them (or add them to your meals.)
With a lot of the usual electric grinders, you’re losing out on spices’ true nature: rich essential oils, irresistible flavors and the same scent that makes or breaks a tasty dish.
Hand-grinding can not only be fun, but also draws out the fullest potential of herbs, spices and other tasty ingredients. And a mortar and pestle set is the best thing to get your hand-grinding action going.
Also, some kitchen appliances can be extremely frustrating to clean after usage. Especially if it’s something as fine and delicate as spices, or stubborn chunky liquids. It’s way easier to rinse mortar and pestle, especially the non-porous kinds.
Generally, you can use a quality mortar and pestle set for:
Crushing herbs, spices or roots
Preparing tasty hand-grinded guacamole (crushing avocados)
Presto making your own pesto!
Crushing bigger pills/medications to fine dust (applies to dog medications too)
What’s the best material for mortar and pestle?
Purely subjective. As I mentioned, I loved granite (Thai granite too!), but pops adores wooden sets. It all depends on your preferences, how heavy you like your set to be, and what do you plan to use it for.
Stone mortar and pestles are divided into granite sets or marble sets. They are way heavier, have the best balance to them, and are heavy-duty plus quite durable.
You can use them for practically anything, and there’s quite a few deeper, more spacious models with a 2-cup+ capacity.
The downside is cleaning them up, especially if they’re unpolished. The porous surface means ingredients sticking to these small holes. You also can’t use soap with granite (or at least shouldn’t do it), as it can latch to the pores and ruin your next grinding sessions.
Wooden sets are very light and still so-so durable. They’re great as stand-alone interior design pieces, but can fade in time if you don’t use oil to freshen up their appearance.
These are particularly great for herbs and spices and create a very natural, organic vibe. It makes sense: imagine grinding roots in a stylish acacia wood mortar and pestle. Stylish!
Wood is also relatively easy to clean, as long as you remember to ban it from the dishwasher area. Soaking it in water will directly compromise its integrity, so avoid that at all costs.
Stainless steel is polished, slick and can be very stylish. However, it also scores high on the slippery factor, which might make things frustrating for some people.
For some reason, I also feel it’s a little bit too…fabricated in a way. I mean, mortar and pestles to me are a return to a more primitive, nature-connected part of our life. Polished steel kind of ruins my immersion, though this is a personal preference.
Porcelain or ceramic mortars and pestles are very fine, very delicate, and will suit your porcelain dishes perfectly. That said, they’re not a great choice if you want to do some serious grinding. They’re just too fragile!
On the upside, a lot of these can be put into a dishwasher so you skip on cleaning them manually.
In other words, there’s no single best type of mortar and pestle. To me, it’s a granite vs marble mortar and pestle sets, but that’s just because I love how hard and balanced of a material stone is.
Others like my pops prefer sets like this one:
Seasoning mortar and pestle when you use it for the first time
Working with such delicate ingredients like spices and herbs calls for a careful setup so you get the best out of it.
When a mortar plus pestle set is shipped to you, it’s not fully prepared to embrace the aroma of the ingredients you’ll be grinding. If you season it, you’ll improve your grinding results. To do that, follow Jamie Oliver’s directions:
Rinse your mortar and pestle with clean water and let it air dry for a bit.
Grind some white rice inside after that.
Throw away the rice, and repeat until the rice stays white, without other color nuances.
Add a few cloves of garlic (3 or 4), mash them with the rice.
Add a teaspoon of cumin, with some salt and pepper mixed too.
Grind the whole blend of ingredients and then discard them.
Rinse your set thoroughly and allow it to air dry as a finishing touch.