Keeping Your Kitchen Tools Clean
Mortar and pestles are ancient culinary and alchemical tools. They have been used in a variety of settings throughout the world. Commonly made of stone or clay, these versatile instruments have found a home in kitchens everywhere.
By keeping your equipment clean, you’ll extend their lifespan and protect your investment. Cleaning granite, with its porous outer later, can be trickier than you think. You might even be ruining your tools without realizing it!
This guide will teach you all you need to know about how to clean a mortar and pestle, and might even show you a new way to put your tools to good use!
What Does a Mortar and Pestle Even Do Anyway?
A mortar and pestle are a set of tools that date all the way back to the Stone Age. That’s right, the Stone Age! Mortars and pestles are among the oldest tools known to mankind, possibly having been invented around the same time as the wheel itself. In fact, the oldest known mortars and pestles that have been discovered by archaeologists are over 35,000 years old!
Mortars and pestles were traditionally two stone instruments. The first instrument was the mortar which resembles a stone or wooden bowl, and second is the pestle, which is a stone or wooden stick with a heavy, rounded end.
The earliest uses of the mortar and pestle were culinary. By grinding up pieces of food, it became easier to cook and digest in a time when food and nutrition were more difficult to come by. Eventually, the mortar and pestle were adapted for other uses. In fact, they are now frequently used in chemistry and medicine.
Despite how far the tools have evolved beyond their original uses, mortars and pestles are still most commonly found in the kitchen. The tools have appeared in modern kitchens, and they can now commonly be found in wood, plastic, and marble along with the classic stone and granite construction as well.
Since granite is still the most popular and common material for mortars and pestles, this guide will focus on keeping your granite tools in top shape. Read on to learn how to clean granite mortar and pestle tools.
What is Granite and Why Is It Good?
Granite is a volcanic rock that forms from molten materials cooling underground over the course of many, many years. It has a porous structure that can be slightly prickly to the touch. The porous surfaces are usually large enough that you can see them without help from a microscope. Usually found in light colors, granite is sturdy and can make an attractive piece in any kitchen.
Granite is an abundant material used to make high-quality and affordable mortar and pestle sets. A natural stone mortar will present a lot of design choices to suit any preference or palette, and these ancient mortars are the most unchanged in design from the earliest pestle sets that were ever made.
While older ways aren’t always better, there’s something interesting about being connected to such an ancient human tradition. Using the same kind of tool that has been in use for over 35,000 years in its almost unaltered form is a unique experience. There aren’t many things that have been around for that long!
How to Keep It Clean
Since granite is quite porous on the surface, you will need to perform a special conditioning step before you ever use your pestle set for the first time.
Conditioning Your Mortar and Pestle
To get started you’re going to need some uncooked rice and water. We recommend that you use white rice since it’s affordable and accessible. Soak the rice in water for about 5 minutes before discarding the water.
Wash the mortar and pestle with clean, warm water first. It’s extremely important not to use soap; just rinse it with water. Pat the mortar and pestle dry with a paper towel. Once it is dried, take a handful of the rice and put it into your mortar. Use the pestle now to start pounding the uncooked rice into the mortar until the rice turns into a coarse powder.
Keep adding more rice and pounding it down into the same consistency of powder. Once you’ve ground all of the rice into powder, discard the powder and rinse your mortar one more time with water only. Again, don’t use any soap.
This will slowly fill up some of the porous surfaces on the part of the mortar that would have food and other ingredients ground into it. Conditioning your granite mortar before use will help extend its longevity. This process is sometimes also called “seasoning” your mortar and pestle.
If you want to be truly adventurous, you could also try adding some chili spices and seasoning to the rice paste that you’re grinding into the mortar. Theoretically, this will help the mortar and pestle set to retain the flavoring from the spices and will lend its flavor in the future to another dish that you’re going to make.
While conditioning your mortar and pestle with rice paste is essential, seasoning is up for debate. It can’t hurt, but we won’t guarantee seasoning it will give you the best ever spicy flavors in your future chili pastes!
Washing Your Mortar and Pestle
Once your mortar has been conditioned, you can begin to use your mortar and pestle! After each use, you should go ahead and hand wash your mortar and pestle. It is important to note that you cannot machine wash a granite mortar and pestle; the washing machine will likely damage or even destroy your cooking equipment.
Once you’ve finished using your pestle and mortar, rinse it with warm water. This will remove the obvious and large chunks of food or other particles that are remaining in your mortar set. Rinse the pestle as well to remove the large food chunks.
Once the larger chunks of food have been rinsed out, use a small amount of soap and a sponge to scrub and deep clean your mortar and pestle. Now comes the most important part of washing your granite mortar and pestle set.
Thoroughly wash off all of the soap, making sure that all soap residue is removed. The soap residue can corrode the granite structure and weaken it, eventually causing it to break. Lastly, you’ll need to thoroughly dry off your granite mortar and pestle set completely before you put it away.
While granite isn’t as porous as other forms of volcanic rock, it can still soak up water unintentionally. If you don’t completely dry out your granite mortar and pestle the water can get stuck in the porous openings.
If water nestles in your mortar for too long, mold growth can become a serious issue. Mold will potentially produce a funky smell as well as an unsafe situation while you’re cooking. Mold spores spread very easily and will certainly get into any food or sauces that you’re making in your mortar and pestle.
Once you make sure you have totally dried off the mortar and pestle, you’re done! It can now be safely stored away and used again next time you’re ready to cook!
Keep Your Mortar and Pestle Forever
If you take the proper precautions, your granite mortar and pestle should last you for many meals to come. Conditioning your mortar and pestle when you first make the purchase is essential to protect your tools and extend their life.
Conditioning is probably the most in-depth step that you’ll have to tackle while you’re cleaning and setting up your granite mortar and pestle. Once you’ve finished conditioning, the routine cleaning and maintenance are quite simple.
Simply take some lukewarm water, a very small amount of dish soap, a soft sponge, and scrub lightly to keep your volcanic rock mortar clean and ready to go. With proper routine care, a granite mortar and pestle can quite possibly last you a lifetime.
There’s a reason why granite was the material of choice for the earliest humans, it was accessible, effective, and most importantly, durable! Now that you’ve learned how to clean your granite mortar and pestle, you’re ready to keep one of the most useful kitchen tools by your side for life! Make your friends and neighbors jealous with the dishes you’ll create!