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Video:How to Use a Mortar and Pestle

with Andy Ramsey

Treat yourself to the freshest possible spices by grinding them at home with a mortar and pestle. A mortar and pestle is a simple tool that will save you money as well as enhance your cooking.See Transcript

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Transcript:How to Use a Mortar and Pestle

Hi, I'm Andy Ramsey for About.com and I'm going to show you how to grind your own spices at home using a mortar and pestle.

Reasons to Grind Spices With a Mortar and Pestle

Grinding your own spices is a good way to get the freshest possible flavor from your spices. And it's actually cheaper to buy them in bulk unground.

Types of Mortar and Pestles

So we have here two different style of mortar and pestles. This one here is a modern, commercially available one. It's made of ceramic and generally has a smoother inner surface here.

This one here is an Asian style- Japanese style, specifically- of mortar and pestle. It has a pattern in the stone here and a wooden pestle. And, using this style, you can get a finer powder out of your spices. I'll show you how to use that in just a moment.

Grinding Spices Using a Mortar and Pestle

But first, we'll start with the cumin seeds that I have here- grind these into a powder. And we're going to grind these in the modern style of mortar and pestle. Now, to begin, you want to make sure you don't fill your mortar too full. That's one of the first mistakes that people make. Simply shake in a few cumin seeds here- that's probably good enough. And, to grind these, instead of pounding or crushing, what you really want to do is start along the edge and grind in a circle. And you can hear it working- you can hear it scraping and grinding the cumin seeds.

Now, normally you wouldn't be doing this in mid-air. I'm doing it this way so you can see it so I'm going to set it down on the table. If you get some strays in the middle, push them out to where you're grinding. Don't let any of them escape from you. And, as you're grinding you'll be able to smell the flavor coming out of it. This is really the best way to maximize the amount flavor you get out of your spices. You have njo idea how long those pre-ground spices have been sitting on the shelf, losing their flavor.

Okay, now we've got that to a nice, good level there. You can see it's now a powder. If you were using this in a recipe, that'd be good to go.

Grinding Spices Using an Alternative Style Mortar and Pestle

So now we're going to move on to using the alternate style of mortar and pestle. And, to do that, we're going to use these black peppercorns here. This is a very common thing that people like to grind themselves. And, with the peppercorns especially you really have to be careful about overfilling your mortar. So, we're just going to sprinkle a few in there. See, I'm not overdoing it. That's probably all you want to do in a mortar of this size. And you'll see why in just a moment.

Now, because these are round, you'll find that they want to kind of jump out of the bowl. And that's normal, but you'll want to minimize that as much as possible. So, instead of starting by grinding, what you'll do with the peppercorn and other round spices is you'll start by crushing like this. And you can hear them crushing. And you'll start to see the insides of the peppercorns as you're crushing them.

Okay, now once you've got most of them cracked here, you can really start to grind. And you're going to start by going around just like with the cumin- around the outside of the mortar. Kind of work yourself in. Sometimes it's good to keep your hand over the edge here to stop any potential escapees. And just continue grinding until you've got it to the granularity that you want.

So that's how to use these two different types of mortar and pestles. Thanks for watching. To learn more, visit us on the web at About.com.
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