chapter V

when baking, follow directions.. when cooking, go by your own taste.. ~ Laiko Bahrs

how to prep your mortar & pestle

in Asian countries, the mortar and pestle is a pair of very important tools in the’s usually made/carved out of a single block of natural stone..

mortar & pestle in different materials, photos taken from image bank

there are also those made of porcelain, marble, granite, brass, metal and solid wood..

my Lao-style mortar & pestle

in Thailand, a Lao-style clay mortar with a really deep bowl and a long pestle made of wood is common..

a molcajete (mortar) and tejolote (pestle), photo taken from image bank

in Mexico, the Hispanic society uses another version called the molcajete, which is used to prepare guacamole and pesto..

the mortar is usually round in shape but there are also pieces which are square, but with round inner bowls..these are normally sold as ‘designer’ pieces in some shops specializing in kitchen tools and utensils, and are always more expensive than the normal round ones because of their unusual square shape..

traditional mortar stone & pestle, photo taken from image bank

my mom owns a traditional style mortar stone and pestle, passed down to her from my late grandmother..the mortar stone is a flat stone bed, and comes with a really big pestle to use with..

the mortar is a bowl where food is placed in it and the pestle is used to grind and pound or pulverize the food into fine powder or wet’s best to use mortar and pestle made of natural stone as it’s more hardy and can stand heavy and excessive pounding..the wooden version is okay for mixing pastes and sauces but is not advisable to be used for heavy duty food pulverizing as it might crack easily, plus it’s highly absorbent and needs to be treated with food-safe mineral oil occasionally..the porcelain version is suitable for grinding spice mixes into powder and is often used to grind medicine too..however, it stains easily and is also not for heavy duty usage..

new granite mortar and pestle

before putting the newly purchased mortar and pestle to use, you’ll first need to smooth out the gritty and abrasive surfaces and season it..i recently bought a new medium-sized set to replace my old small-sized one..i got tired of having to pound and grind kerisik in several batches at a time so i purchased a new set made of granite from Jusco..along with a few pieces of sandpaper..

yes, you heard that right..i used sandpaper to smooth out the rough and gritty outer wall of the granite mortar bowl and don’t have to go through the sanding process if your mortar and pestle are already smooth and not abrasive when you touch it..but for those that are made of granite especially, this step is advisable as you don’t want to end up injuring yourself by scraping your skin against the rough surface while handling the mortar and clean the inner bowl, i used uncooked rice grains..the result? really smooth to the touch and non-abrasive surface..lastly to season the mortar bowl, i ground some wet and dry spices in it.. i’m really pleased with the ready-to-use mortar and pestle now..

cleaned and seasoned

How to Prep Your New Mortar & Pestle Before First Use

  1. first, get some sandpaper. 2 grades are used- coarse and fine. the coarse one is to even out the gritty surface and the fine one is to further smooth it out.
  2. lay out some newspaper on the floor and place the mortar and pestle on it. the sanding process can get very dusty and you don’t want stone dust all over your nice floor.
  3. sand the outer part of the mortar and also the pestle,  first with coarse sandpaper, followed by the fine sandpaper. the result should be really smooth and non-abrasive surface.
  4. next, pour a handful of uncooked rice grains into the mortar bowl. grind the rice grains using the pestle until fine. throw away the ground rice.
  5. repeat the grinding process until the rice grains are completely white and doesn’t contain any gritty bits from the mortar bowl, which makes it greyish in color.
  6. clean the mortar and pestle with water and mild soap. leave it to air dry.
  7. pound some wet and dry spices, salt and sugar into a fine paste. leave the paste to stand in the mortar bowl for about half an hour. then, discard the ground paste and clean both the mortar and pestle with warm water and mild soap.
  8. voila! your mortar and pestle is properly cleaned and seasoned~

Mortar and Pestle on FoodistaMortar and Pestle




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12 comments on “how to prep your mortar & pestle

  1. J.
    Sunday ~ June 22, 2014

    love you blog!! question( hope its not too nebbish) Fine with all the step above until “wet and dry spices” what do you mean? can u give me an example( its my first M&P set and can’t wait to use it

    • whytevee
      Sunday ~ June 22, 2014

      no question is too nebbish :D
      dry spices – fresh herbs, seeds, nuts, etc that have been dried. you can find these at the spices section of the supermarket. can come in forms of whole spices, whole/chopped leaves, or powdered. these dry spices keep really well in an airtight container, away from light. example – (whole spices) cinnamon bark, cloves, star anise. (leaves) bay leaf, rosemary, thyme (powdered) turmeric, coriander, fennel

      wet spices – generally fresh produce that are used as spices in cooking. example – ginger, onions, garlic, lemongrass, etc.

      for curries, we pound/crush combinations of wet spices to a pulp using the mortar and pestle to create a paste which is sauteed/fried in oil until fragrant at the beginning of the cooking steps for curries. if the recipe calls for dry spices, it’s usually dried whole spices that are crushed to powder using mortar and pestle, or to make life easier, pre-packed dry spice powders
      for stir fries, instead of using a knife and cutting board, you can use a mortar and pestle to pound garlic, onions or ginger to a desired texture (minced paste or lightly pounded coarse texture)

      hope this helps, and have a great day~! :D

      • J
        Sunday ~ June 22, 2014

        Awesome!!! Helps a million :) So just do a quick pre-treat so to speak. Perfect & makes sense, Thank you for the prompt follow up ;)

        • whytevee
          Sunday ~ June 22, 2014

          no problem. have fun using your mortar and pestle!

  2. Sharon Thompson
    Monday ~ July 8, 2013

    I just bought a new Natural Stone mortar pestle and am reading several instructions online for seasoning. Yours is similar, but the others do not recommend using soap as it will cause the food to taste soapy. That makes sense to me, so thought I would pass that along.

    • whytevee
      Monday ~ July 8, 2013

      hi sharon,

      i specified using MILD soap (hand wash, light detergent, etc), and it’s only part of the prepping steps.. further usage after doesn’t really require cleaning with soap, but it’s really optional.. i’ve cleaned mine with warm water and a bit of hand wash a number of times (esp after using it to pound dried salted fish or meat jerky), and honestly, it doesn’t really make much difference, but that’s just from my own experience of using it.. the food will taste soapy only if the mortar or pestle is not properly/thoroughly rinsed after cleaning it with soap and there’s soap residue stuck on either tool.. :)

  3. Pingback: Anonymous

  4. Pearl
    Friday ~ February 24, 2012

    hi, tks for the advice. can you recommend where you buy food grade mineral oil?

  5. muthabrnam laji rabindranath
    Wednesday ~ June 15, 2011

    dear friend i love to have a granite stone and pestle the round one. iam from india. i stay in the city chennai.though we have stones they are not like yours.yours is polishedand looks good.iwant one how much will it be in indian currency. do you have any body in chennai thru whom youcan send me one.ican understand the difficulties if you have to sendone… this is my long time wish to possessone thankyo u laji

    • whytevee
      Wednesday ~ June 15, 2011

      hello laji! actually i personally prefer stone ones as they’re hardier..granite ones chip easily if pounded too, i had to use sandpaper to polish its surface..

  6. kimberlycun
    Wednesday ~ May 25, 2011

    i didnt know i can season my pestle and mortar. i was wondering why mine is so rough and gritty, unlike my mom’s. thanks for the tips…gonna go out to get some sandpapers.

    • whytevee
      Wednesday ~ May 25, 2011

      yup..must clean and season it first, especially a newly bought one..or else, when you grind and pound food in it, there’ll be bits of grit in the food..

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This entry was posted on Monday ~ May 23, 2011 by in tips & tools and tagged , , .



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