Best Mortar and Pestle Set of 2020
As we researched the many options available online, this set was legendary in terms of its regard, but the ChefSofi 6-Inch even exceeded our expectations. With a beautiful unpolished granite basin capable of holding at least two cups and a heavy-duty pestle with a wide bottom, this set was excellent at crushing and grinding anything we tried it on, from peppercorns to avocados. The textured granite makes for great friction when it comes to grinding, and the wide bottoms create a lot of surface area between the granite and whatever you're crushing. This set has a slightly longer pestle, which is excellent for making sure your hand never collides with the bowl. This set was also a great mid-range size, which made it extremely versatile and practical, and the thick granite is very unlikely to break.
The thick, widening shape of the pestle was not the most ergonomic we tried, and the pestle also had no sort of polish, which made for a less comfortable feel. Granite sets, in general, require a bit more maintenance — they need to be pre-seasoned, and washed without soap, which can be a bit tough, as things can get stuck in the ridges; however, if you don't mind a touch more work for a higher level of quality, this set is an amazing all-around option for all your crushing and grinding needs.
The Tara Set is a high-quality granite model at an excellent price. The granite is quite abrasive, so we were able grind herbs and spices very efficiently, and the pestle is wide and heavy enough to do some serious work on tougher materials. This set also has some really nice looking flairs, like a uniquely textured granite exterior, and some ridging along the rim. The 5.5 inch diameter and two cup capacity is a great size for almost all uses, and it's easy to store and move from place to place.
As this is a granite set, it requires a bit more maintenance. The porous material takes on the scent and flavor of whatever it comes into contact with, so pre-seasoning is a must, and it should be washed with unscented dish soap or no soap at all. You will probably want to keep some steel wool handy to really clean it out. This set also features a widening pestle, so after extended use, we did experience a bit of hand cramping; however, the efficiency makes it so you shouldn't need to use it for quite as long. If you're looking for an excellently priced set that will deliver great efficiency and look good in your kitchen, this is the set for you.
The HiCoup Unpolished Granite Set is exceptional across the board. Offering an ideal 6-inch diameter with two cup capacity, it's excellent for nitty-gritty tasks and for slightly bigger batches of things, like pesto. The inner walls are extremely textured thanks to a clever ridged design, and there's enough surface area to get the job done. The pestle is also a bit narrower than some of the other granite models we tested and has a sleek polish on the part you grab, which makes it very comfortable to use. We also appreciated the attention to detail when it came to the aesthetics of this set, with a polished rim and beautifully textured exterior to complement its classic stoneware look.
While the inner ridging is great for grinding, there's no denying that it makes the mortar a bit harder to clean, as things get stuck between the ridges and don't come out easily. This was also the only granite set that ran into any durability issues, as the slightly thinner pestle actually came cracked in the mail. However, it should be noted that HiCoup states they will replace any broken parts. If you're seeking a super versatile and aesthetically pleasing option, the HiCoup Unpolished Granite Set may be a great fit.
The Laevo Marble set is a looker, guaranteed to add some flair to your kitchen. While it may not sport the classic stoneware look, the swirly marble exterior is eye-catching and classy. Beyond just looks, this set also has a great texture on the interior with a heavy pestle that can pound out with the best of them. It's a bit smoother than some granite models which makes it easy to wash (although it still should be pre-seasoned and washed without soap) and its size and shape make it quite versatile.
Since this set is marble, it is a bit more prone to damage and we did experience some small chipping over the course of testing. It should be handled with a bit more care to keep from any breakage. We also found this to be one of the less comfortable pestles to hold, with an odd top that didn't really fit comfortably in the hand. The pestle seemed to be double-sided, but neither way felt amazing. Despite this, for an effective set with high aesthetic value, look no further.
The Cooler Kitchen EZ-Grip is designed for comfort and durability, and excels at both. Sporting a rubber-covered pestle handle which narrows in the middle, this was the most comfortable of any set we tried, and felt like we could happily crush out herbs and spices all day with it. The folks at Cooler Kitchen also added some texture to the interior, which made this surprisingly effective at crushing and grinding for a porcelain model. The material is also quite thick, which combined with the rubber coating on the pestle and base of the mortar, helps a lot with durability.
This is a smaller set than some others, offering only about a cup of capacity, which made it less of a candidate for something like guacamole or pesto. You'll probably want to mostly stick to smaller batches. The inner layer also collected some lint from drying it with a dishrag, so you may want to air dry this set. We also found this to be the least aesthetically pleasing of any of the sets we reviewed, thanks to the rubber coating. Overall, this is a great introductory set that offers excellent comfort.
The Vasconia 4-Cup Molcajete is a tank. This classic molcajete style set has a giant holding capacity, and a heavy-duty pestle to boot. When it came to efficiency, this was one of our top performers, as the wide bottom really allows for whatever you're crushing up to spread out and come in contact with the textured granite, and the pestle is large and heavy. Even on the hardest tests, this performed very well. The massive size also makes it perfect for big batches of things like guacamole, and you can serve right out of it.
The Vasconia's biggest strength is also its biggest weakness-- it weighs almost eight pounds, making it by far the heaviest of any of the sets we reviewed. As a result, it's more of a pain to wash (in addition to needing to be pre-seasoned), and really is not practical for any kind of smaller batch. Realistically you are not going to want to pull this behemoth out of the cabinet to crush up some peppercorns. However, if you're looking for a perfect molcajete to serve up guac for a dinner party, or make pesto for 20, this set is the kitchen addition you need.
The Gorilla Grip Original is a slightly smaller granite model with a beautiful exterior polish. The inner granite and wide pestle bottom are good for texture and surface area, and the smaller design makes it a bit easier to wash than other granite models. The outer polish also gives this a very classy and understated look, which will wow any visitor to your kitchen.
Unfortunately, the pestle on this set is just too small. We found that if we tried to grip it how one normally would, our hand would collide with the mortar every time, and it instead had to be gripped up high which made it both less comfortable and less efficient. The pestle has a nice smooth exterior, but it, unfortunately, can basically only be grabbed with your bottom fingers. However, if you're more after aesthetics than efficiency, this is a great looking option.
The Bekith Brushed Stainless Steel has an ergonomic and smooth design suitable to all day crushing. The stainless steel feels great in your hands, and the pestle avoids the often-used widening shape that leads to cramped hands. The material also requires no pre-seasoning and is extremely durable, and the pestle offers enough heft to get some good crushing done.
Stainless steel is extremely smooth, which means that it's very hard to get friction when you're doing any kind of grinding. As a result, the efficiency of this set is quite low, and you're likely to have to spend awhile crushing up whatever it is you're preparing. The material is also a bit sticky, and things like garlic are harder to clean off. This set is priced well, and will last you through many endeavors in the kitchen. If you don't mind spending some extra time prepping your food, this set will do you well.
You could drop the Tera 18/8 Stainless Steel on more than one occasion and not see more than a few small dings. For a kitchen item that you're constantly banging on, this is a big asset, and you will be unlikely to need to replace it anytime soon. The pestle is also very comfortable to grab thanks to its narrow shape, and smooth feeling, and if you like the sleek look of steel, this will fit nicely into your kitchen aesthetic.
The smaller size of the mortar prevents this from being particularly versatile. You'll mostly want to make smaller batches, and given that the stainless steel is not as efficient for grinding harder materials, it will probably mostly serve you for things that are easier to crush. However, for a set that you can really bang around, look no further.
The HIC Porcelain is a great miniature option for mixing up and crushing small amounts of herbs and spices. With a diameter of about one inch, this set is portable, and the price point is hard to beat. As long as you don't put too much in there, it actually crushes things up quite well for how small it is, thanks to a nicely textured interior. It also features a nice and simple design that looks like something you might find in an elegant Danish kitchen.
With a carrying capacity of less than a quarter cup, there's really not too much that you can do with this set. It doesn't hold enough to make any kind of medium or big batch item, and it doesn't have nearly enough heft to crush and grind anything hard. Overall, the HIC Porcelain set is a cute miniature model that you can fit in your pocket.
Why You Should Trust Us
Liam Andrews-Bancroft, our lead tester on this project, doesn't mess around when it comes to flavor. From time spent working in the foodservice industry to countless hours finding inspiration from cooking shows, Liam has honed his cooking knowledge and puts careful effort into every meal he prepares. Liam has been using a mortar and pestle since he was a kid for everything from crushing garlic and herbs to making batches of fresh guacamole and pesto. Over the years, he's learned that there's no other technique that releases flavors quite like the crushing and grinding process of the mortar and pestle.
With hundreds of options on the market, it can feel like an intense chore to sift through and choose the right set. A properly high-quality set should be efficient, comfortable, durable, easy to wash, multi-purposed, and nice looking. We independently purchased the ten most promising sets, and after preparing each based on the provided instructions, we crushed and ground several foods in all of them and washed each one after every use. Through his research and testing, Liam was able to determine which sets performed best so that you can make an informed decision and choose the best set for your needs.
Analysis and Test Results
Many factors determine the quality of a mortar and pestle, and it can be challenging to weigh one against another. To quantify the quality of each set, we crushed several food items, including garlic, basil, chili flakes, and avocado, and prepared and washed each set according to the given instructions. In doing so, we took careful notes to test each set for efficiency, comfort, ease of cleaning and care, durability, versatility, and aesthetics.
Ease of Use/Efficiency
Ease of use and efficiency refers to how well each set was able to grind and crush food. Ultimately, the most crucial factor is how well it works! The ultimate test of this metric was crushing a tablespoon of uncooked rice. We noted how quickly and easily we were able to crush the rice with each set. We also noted this category when crushing all other food items.
The Chef-Sofi 6-inch was extremely easy to use and efficient thanks to a wide, heavy pestle and good granite texture. The Vasconia 4-Cup Molcajete was also very efficient thanks to a hefty granite make and a wide basin.
Comfort refers to the ergonomics of the pestle and how comfortable it was to use over time while performing hard tasks. As we crushed and ground various food items, we noted which felt good in our hands versus which ones led to cramping or chaffing. Pestles with a straight or narrowing shape did better in this category than those which got wider towards the bottom.
The Cooler Kitchen EZ-Grip was extremely comfortable to use thanks to a rubber lining on the pestle and a cleverly designed narrowing shape, which was perfect for zero cramping. The Bekith Brushed Stainless Steel Set was also comfortable due to its smooth steel material and non-widening pestle.
Ease of Cleaning and Care
Ease of cleaning and care refers to how easy each set was to wash and whether they required extra care. To test this category, we washed each set after each use (including crushing some stickier items like basil) and followed any pre-care instructions. Smaller and non-granite sets tended to perform well in this regard, as they were convenient to wash and had fewer ridges and textures for food to get stuck in.
The HIC Porcelain was extremely easy to wash and care for given its small size and smooth porcelain material. The smooth material of the medium-sized Luevo Marble Set was also easy to wash, despite requiring pre-seasoning.
Durability refers to the sets tendencies to break, crack, or chip during use and washing. Since the mortar and pestle are banged together during use, durability is important. To test durability, we paid careful attention to which sets took any damage during use, and also factored in the material. Thicker, heavy duty sets did best in this category.
The Tara 18/8 Stainless Steel Set was extremely durable and took absolutely no damage over the course of its use. The rubber lining and thick material of the Cooler Kitchen EZ-Grip also made it one of our top performers for durability.
Versatility refers to the number of tasks you can perform effectively with a given set. To test versatility we crushed rice, herbs and spices, garlic, basil, and avocado in each set. Some sets were capable of just about anything, whereas some were impractical (generally due to size) for certain tasks.
The HiCoup Unpolished Granite Set was a great medium size, which made it good for just about everything we tried it with. The Chef Sofi 6-inch was another top performer for versatility, having no problem handling spices, pesto, guac, and garlic. The HiCoup Unpolished Granite Set is great for basil, peppercorns, and everything in between!
Aesthetics refer to how good each set looks. While it might not be the biggest factor in choosing cookware, there's no denying that mortar and pestles are a fairly decorative item, and having a nice looking one can change the whole look of your kitchen.
The Luevo Marble Set was extremely nice looking, with a swirling marble exterior and interestingly shaped pestle. The Gorilla Grip Original Set was also a thing of beauty, with a classy yet understated outer polish.
A great mortar and pestle can bring your kitchen to that next level. To help you make sure that the next set you buy suits your standards, we researched the 25 top sets on the market, and rigorously tested the top 10 through crushing, grinding, cooking, and washing to test for ease of use, comfort, durability, ease of cleaning, versatility, and aesthetics. We hope that our research and testing using these criteria helps you find the set that satisfies your needs and fits perfectly in your kitchen!
— Liam Andrews-Bancroft