Molcajete Vs. Mortar And Pestle: What's The Difference?

If you're thinking about adding a mortar and pestle to your arsenal of kitchen tools, you might be wondering which version you should buy. After all, there are just about as many versions of the ancient tool as there are countries today. A good mortar and pestle can help you do all kinds of things from grinding spices and nuts to making pastes out of ingredients like garlic, chiles, and ginger (via Bon Appétit). The tool can truly open up a whole new avenue of fresh and handmade cooking.

But in order to do so, you need to understand the differences between the various types of the tool. Mortar and pestles can come in a ton of different materials. You can find them made of different stones like marble and granite, cast iron, volcanic rock, wood, and even metals like brass (via Epicurious). It's actually the material, as well as the design that sets a molcajete apart from other mortars and pestles.

What to look for when buying a molcajete or mortar and pestle

A molcajete is traditionally made out of one piece of basalt, though some are made with concrete and pieces of volcanic rock today (via Grindiit). Similar to cast iron, the volcanic rock will season the more you use it too (via Epicurious). Another specific characteristic that sets molcajetes apart from mortars and pestles is that the bowl tends to have three legs that raise it from the countertop slightly. Other than the material and the additional legs on the mortar, molcajetes are otherwise simply the Mexican version of a mortar and pestle that's often used for salsa and guacamole.

Regular mortars and pestles are made with a bowl that has a wide mouth and a miniature club that you use to grind ingredients. Good mortars and pestles for beginners are made with stone because they are heavy and can easily grind a wide variety of ingredients, but the smooth surface is easy to clean, according to Epicurious. Other materials can be more difficult to use and clean. Wood must be washed and dried immediately after use and more porous materials like the volcanic rock can have wider gaps that could make it harder to grind smaller ingredients. So, consider what you cook most often and how you want to use your mortar and pestle before buying one.