Best pestle & mortars – on test

The mortar and pestle are ancient tools that no modern kitchen should be without - they're handy for everything from cracking peppercorns and bruising herbs to making pesto. We test a variety of materials and sizes to find our favourites.

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Best bargain buy 

Dunelm Mill pestle and mortar
Dunelm granite pestle & mortar set

Pros: Exceptional price point, plus the heavy-duty material does a lot of the hard work for you.

Comments: This solid, hand-carved mortar and pestle is a real bargain – elsewhere you’d be looking to pay three times the price for it. It’s a little on the smaller side but excels at the full range of tasks, from mashing delicate herbs to grinding stubborn peppercorns. The bowls deeply sloped shape keeps ingredients in the centre, so you’re not chasing them around with the pestle.

Available from Dunelm (£7)

Best aesthetic

Le Creuset pestle and mortar
Le Creuset Pestle and Mortar, 0.5L

Pros: Comes in a range of attractive colours and is easy to clean.

Comments: Prettiness aside, this is a practical set. Being made of stoneware, it is easy to clean (although brightly coloured food does stain the cream interior slightly), flavours are not retained and there is the added bonus of it being dishwasher safe. Do bear in mind that it is stoneware though so not as tough as granite. Whilst it made light work of crushing my pistachios I wouldn’t want to risk it with something really tough like long pepper. It’s brilliant at bruising herbs though as the size means you can crush a whole bunch of mint at a time.

Best original design

Uutensil pestle and mortar
Üutensil Super Smash large rotation grind mortar & pestle

Pros: Great value and smart design.

Comments: This mortar and pestle replicates the design of what you would find in an expensive flat mortar and ‘spear’ pestle with a smaller price tag. The idea is that you have a bigger pestle that fits snugly into the contour of the mortar to give a larger grinding surface. You use your palm to rotate the pestle around rather than pounding. For this reason it can handle no more than a couple of teaspoons or so of spices or a clove of garlic, but because it’s so fast (four or five rotations and you’re done) this wasn’t an issue. The pestle has added grooves underneath, which help to capture spices and hold them in place.

Available from Üutensil (£28.99)

Reviewed by Sarah Sysum and Caroline Hire. 

For all of the products mentioned in this review, various retailers have been suggested by our affiliate partner Monetizer 101 and are not suggested or chosen by BBC Good Food. For more information on how these retailers are selected and the nature of our partnership, please read the Monetizer101 FAQ page

Buyer’s advice

Why buy?

These days, electric spice grinders and food processors often take the place of a mortar and pestle, and that’s a pity, because after testing an assortment I’m convinced that a good set can perform as well at many tasks. They (can be) considerably cheaper than buying an electric grinder and are much easier to clean as well.

What should I buy?

Consider what you use your pestle and mortar for. Do you need a generous-sized bowl for large quantities of pastes? Or something smaller just to crush spices? And if you are using it a lot, consider something that would look good out on the kitchen worktop too.

What we looked for

Comfortable to hold. I wanted designs that made good contact with the mortar. The mortar is best with a deep well, so you don’t scatter the contents, and with an indentation in the base, giving you maximum grinding power.
Material They come in marble, frosted glass, cast-iron and wood to name but a few. I wanted material that was easy to clean and didn’t absorb flavours
Stability Spices are tough, and take a little effort to grind. My top choices didn’t wobble, stayed flat and most importantly didn’t bunny hop over the work surface!

For more product picks, visit our reviews section.

This review was last updated in September 2020. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability please get in touch at goodfoodwebsite@immediate.co.uk.

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How do you grind your spices? We’d love to hear whether you opt for a trusty pestle & mortar or if a modern gadget helps you along the way…