Published Tuesday, September 01, 2009. From Cook's Illustrated.

Could we find a mortar and pestle that would crush the competition?

Highly Recommended
  Fox Run Kitchens Iron Mortar and Pestle

The large, heavy pestle crushed effortlessly, and the mortar’s rough interior kept ingredients from sliding around; within seconds, even hard peppercorns were crushed. Although the pestle was one of the heaviest, fast results kept fatigue at bay; we also liked the mortar’s convenient pour spout.

Recommended with Reservations
  SCI/Scandicrafts, Inc. Mortar and Pestle

If you want to save kitchen space, this small marble model is your best choice. Peppercorns, toasted rice, and tapioca turned to fine powder in 50 strokes. Among the smaller models tested, its handle was slightly more comfortable, albeit slippery. The heavy weight steadied the base, and high sides kept ingredients inside.

Recommended with Reservations
  Temple of Thai Large Mortar and Pestle

Grandiose in size and weight, this mortar and pestle looks like an ancient artifact, but the rough surface was able to grind toasted rice in 50 strokes. However, it struggled to break down tapioca, which flew out of the bowl, and even after washing, the smell of peppercorns lingered in the stone.

Recommended with Reservations
  Typhoon 2 in 1 Mortar and Pestle

With the roughest surface of any of the small models tested, this cast- iron model was able to break down tapioca, peppercorns, and toasted rice in 50 strokes. The pour spout on the side was convenient, but the small pestle was uncomfortable and hurt testers’ hands within the first few grinds.

Not Recommended
  Le Creuset Mortar and Pestle

This mortar and pestle seemed promising, with its large mortar, rough stoneware interior, and long pestle. Unfortunately, it only pushed the ingredients around the bowl. After 100 strokes, only half the rice was broken down and peppercorns remained whole.

Not Recommended
  Chef's Planet Mortar and Pestle

The only redeeming quality of this porcelain model with grooves on the tip of the pestle was the comfortable nonslip handle. Most of our toasted rice flew out of the mortar’s small, shallow basin; any that remained took more than 200 strokes to crush.

Not Recommended
  Mortar and Pestle by Amco

The smooth surface of this small mortar and slippery, lightweight pestle made it a struggle to break down any ingredients and tormented testers. After 330 strokes, we gave up: The tapered pestle was sharply digging into our palms, and more than half the rice remained whole.