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How to Prepare a New Marble Mortar for Its First Use

Why does a new marble mortar need a preparation process before its first use?

Marble mortar & pestle on a cutting board with prep tools and ingredients behind

The marble mortar pictured above is from Italy and made from the sought-after Carrara marble. My husband created an informational video about Carrara marble and the quarries.

The purpose of this technique is to remove any marble stone grit and powder from the mortar (the bowl) before your first use so that grit does not get in your food. All ingredients used in this preparation will be discarded. This process takes about 15 minutes and only needs to be done this one time. Hereafter you just enjoy making the most flavorful pestos, pastes, emulsions, and dressings ever.
Preparing your new marble mortar is also a great way to get familiar with it and it becomes yours.

Note: Preparing a new mortar is also described as “conditioning” or “seasoning” or “curing” a new mortar. The word is different and the process varies, but the result is the same in that any residual stone powder left from the manufacturing is removed.

Rinse the Marble Mortar & Pestle

To get a clean start, rinse the mortar and pestle with water to remove any surface dust. Do not soak the pestle if it is wood. Like all wooden tools, soaking or being wet for long periods will lead to splitting, warping and even mold (not a good thing). After rinsing, dry both thoroughly with a towel. Once that is done you can move to the next step.

Why Grind Coarse Salt (or rice) in the Mortar?

Grinding a hard substance like coarse salt will help loosen any marble grit in the interior. If you do not have coarse salt, uncooked white rice can be substituted. I choose salt because it is an ingredient (albeit sparingly) that is used in a mortar and will help to get familiar with how the pestle interacts with the mortar. Coarse salt is also easier to grind than white rice with this wood pestle.  Discard the salt (or rice if used) after this step. It is no longer fit to be consumed.

Why Crush Garlic?

Crushed garlic becomes sticky and will assist removing any residual stone grit because it will stick to the garlic paste, essentially wiping the mortar interior clear of grit and powder. Starting with sliced garlic instead of whole  gets the crushing process going quicker. Adding some coarse salt will also speed up this step. Once the garlic pieces are crushed enough it will start to become one paste in the mortar and further crushing you will see the garlic start to slip away from the marble.

Why Baking Soda?

Baking soda is a mild abrasive and will clear the mortar of any garlic stuck to the sides after rinsing. It will also remove garlic odor from both the mortar and the pestle. Baking soda is one of my most used cleansers for kitchen tools and cookware.

Marble mortar & pestle on a cutting board with prep tools and ingredients behind

How to Prepare a new Marble Mortar for Its First Use

This technique is performed to remove any marble stone grit before your first use so that grit does not get in your food.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

Tools Used in this Recipe

  • Marble Mortar & Pestle
  • 1/4 measuring cup (3 tablespoons is equal to 1/4 cup)
  • Kitchen knife
  • flexible spatula
  • Clean kitchen towel


  • 3 Tbls Coarse Salt or an equal amount of uncooked white rice
  • 4 cloves Garlic
  • 3 Tbls Baking Soda


  • Rinse your new marble mortar and wooden pestle or a dish brush well. Dry both the mortar and pestle thoroughly
    Rinsing mortar with water
  • Grind with the coarse salt to the mortar and start grinding with the pestle. Press and crush the salt by rotating the pestle in a circular motion and bring the salt up the mortar sides to crash salt against the entire bowl interior.
    Continue to grind the coarse salt for several minutes, until the entire bowl has been scrubbed with salt thoroughly. Tip the mortar for a better angle to scrub the sides of the mortar bowl.
    3 Tbls Coarse Salt
    Grinding coarse salt in a marble mortar with a wooden pestle
  • Discard this salt.
    Removing & discarding crushed salt from a new marble mortar
  • Garlic Paste: Roughly slice 3–4 cloves of garlic then add to the mortar. To crush, tap the cloves a few times to start to break up the sliced cloves.
    Add 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of coarse salt. Continue in a circular or rotating motion with the pestle in the bowl base, then up the sides. Once the garlic is fully crushed to a paste and starts become one and/or slip away from the sides of the bowl you can remove the garlic (aflexible spatula works well for removing garlic paste).
    4 cloves Garlic
    Adding garlic to crush in the mortar
  • Discard garlic.
    Removing garlic paste with a flexible spatula.
  • Rinse the mortar and pestle. Dry thoroughly with a towel.
    Rinsing mortar with water
  • Grind Baking Soda: Add 3 tablespoons of baking soda. Then add water a little at a time until it forms a thick paste with the baking soda. Press and rotate the pestle in the bowl base and up the bowl sides to thoroughly clean the mortar bowl interior.
    3 Tbls Baking Soda
    Scrubbing mortar with baking soda and water paste using the pestle
  • Rinse the mortar and pestle thoroughly until no baking soda is left and the bowl and pestle feel and look clean. The mortar bowl will still feel rough as it should, but a little less ridgy than before this process.
    Dry both really well with a towel and set the pestle if made of wood on a dish rack or across the top of the mortar bowl so the wood will thoroughly air dry on all sides
    Ready to use marble mortar and wood pestle on a cutting board

Your new mortar & pestle are now ready to use to make the best pestos and emulsions ever!

Oil-free Vegan Parsley pesto in the marble mortar with the wood pestle on a cutting board small bowls of Castelvetrano olives, pumpkin seeds and parsley leaves.
Glass cup with spout containing Bright Summer Oil-free Tomato Salad Dressing in an elegant glass pouring vessel.
An open jar of “Olivaise” Oil-free Vegan Mayonnaise surrounded by limes, garlic cloves and green olives.
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