Pestle and Mortar

Pestle and Mortar

The word mortar is derived from the Latin word “Mortarium” which means “receptacle for pounding” or “product of grinding or pounding.”  Pestle was derived from the Latin word “Pistillum” which means “pounder”

A pestle and mortar is used since ancient times to make ingredients or substances. The ingredients are crushed or grinded into a fine paste or powder.

The mortar is usually made of hard wood, ceramic or stone and is bowl shaped. The end of the pestle is used for crushing and grinding. The shape of the pestle is similar to club. It is heavy and the ends are blunt. The ingredients are placed inside the mortar and is powdered or grinded using the pestle.

The mortar and pestle is also used in preparation of medicines other than for cooking purposes.


A traditional Indian mortar and pestle.


Husking and De-hulling


In some regions, large mortars with multiple pestles are used by women for husking and de-hulling. They are usually made of wood.


Mortar and Pestle from bronze alloy, Greece.


The material used for a mortar and pestle must be hard enough to crush the substance. It should not be too brittle else they will break during the grinding and pounding.

It is advised to choose smooth and non-porous materials so that it will not absorb or trap the ingredients that are being grounded. It should also be cohesive, so that small bits of the mortar or pestle do not mix in with the ingredients.

To get a very fine powdered texture rough ceramic mortar and pestle sets can be used but these stain easily and are brittle.  Grinding some sand in porcelain mortars helps condition them for use. It gives it a rougher surface which helps to reduce the particle size. The glass mortars and pestles are stain –resistant and suitable for use with liquids. They do not grind finely as the ceramic type and are fragile.

Marble, stone, wood (highly absorbent), bamboo, steel, iron, brass, basalt are among the other materials used to make mortars and pestles.





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