Molcajete is a grinding tool used in most household as well as professional kitchens. It is a round bowl carved out of a single stone of basalt. The spices or other food items to be ground are placed in this and then ground with the help of a tejolote which is also made out of a single piece of basalt. Molcajete and tejolote are sold in pairs and are more popularly known as the mortar and pestle, respectively, to the common people. Nowadays, molcajete is made with various materials other than the basalt stone.
Molcajete has been in use definitely since 4000 B.C.E. and possibly even prior to that. It has been found in archaeological remains of various civilizations, historical paintings and other historical sources to denote its use as a kitchen tool for thousands of years. It has evolved from the ‘metate’, which is a grinding slab and was used even earlier in time. The term ‘molcajete’ is a Mexican term which means the mortar and is traditionally made of basalt. It was widely used by Mexicans and Hispanics before becoming popular in other parts of the world.
Various Types of Molcajete
Basalt Molcajete – This type of molcajete is by far the best for grinding and has been used traditionally from time immemorial. It is carved out of a single piece of stone and has a matching tejolote of the same stone to use for grinding. The rough texture of this stone aids in fine grinding. However, it also leaves behind odours and flavours from one food item to another.
Wooden Molcajete – Although this type of molcajete looks beautiful it is not very durable, as any moisture left behind in the wood causes it to split. It is useful only for dry ingredients.
Marble Molcajete – These are made from a single piece of marble – which is known to be a hard stone ideal for grinding. Marble being non-porous also has the advantage of not absorbing any odour or flavour from one food item to another, and is easy to clean and use.
Vitreous Pottery or Ceramic Molcajete – This type of molcajete is preferred over the marble ones as it does not retain stain or odour. While marble may react with acidic content of ingredients to be ground, these are not susceptible to damage from acidic content.
How to Buy a Molcajete
While buying a molcajete one can opt for any of the vaieties available in the market. However, any molcajete which has been made from a rough stone like basalt gives a better grinding. The basalt is most preferred for its rough texture which aids in fine grinding and also lasts a long way. One should be careful before buying a wooden molcajete, as the wooden ones look beautiful but can be best used for dry ingredients only. Any use of wet ingredients will leave behind moisture in the wood, finally causing it to crack.
Popular Brands selling Molcajete
- BIA Cordon Bleu