Instant Expert: Why Every Kitchen Needs a Mortar and Pestle

Want big flavor? Ditch that food processor for the tried-and-true mortar and pestle.

They might look archaic (and within reason — people have been using them for 5,000 years), but a mortar and pestle are a super useful and age-old kitchen tool that will elevate the way you cook. Why? These seemingly simple tools are the key to big flavor. Not to mention they have a way of really connecting you with the food you're cooking. It's surprisingly refreshing to grind up spices yourself than relying on a machine. We swear that once you try one, you won't ever look back.

What it is: Just in case you're not in the know, a mortar and pestle is basically the precursor to the food processor. And unlike your handy electric appliance, this manual tool puts you in complete control. So you can be as heavy or land-handed as you need to be to be and you won't have to worry about a gadget pulverizing those delicate herbs or accidentally creating an undesired consistency.

What to make with it: The options are seriously endless. Use it to grind up whole spices for customized dry rubs or seasonings, to make fresh guacamole or salsa, flavor marinades and dressings. It's also great for crushing garlic, because sometimes giving it a smack with a knife just isn't enough.

Here are a few recipes to try:

How to actually use it: You'll find that there are two different types of mortar and pestles on the market, ones made out of wood and ones made out of stone. Wood is a good choice for dry ingredients, like spices, while stone is best for wet ingredients like garlic, marinades, herbs, etc. There are also two methods for using the tool — pounding and muddling. Pounding helps to break down a substance, while muddling is good for grinding and releasing flavor.


Jamie Oliver has a great video breaking it all down:

Are you sold? Nab your own mortar and pestle at Williams Sonoma, Le Creuset, Sur la Table or World Market — then get cooking!


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