These Mexican cooking utensils are the traditional and authentic tools used in Mexican cuisine for generations. This list isn't about the essential items you need to cook Mexican food or even the items that will make cooking any recipe easier. Instead, it lists those traditional, well-worn, even handed-down tools, their story, uses, and many dishes made with them.
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Traditional Mexican Cooking Utensils
These Mexican cooking tools are less common than they used to be; they are part of our culture and traditions. The advance of industrialization changed the way our great, great, grandmothers used to cook. Introducing electricity and new kitchen appliances also reduced the long hours spent in the kitchen.
The food industry created new food buying habits, and all those changes made some traditional cooking items end up as ornaments or in museums. Here are some of those Mexican Cooking Utensils that only some people will ever think of buying and that others will display as antiques. As for me, these items still have a use in my kitchen.
Traditional Mexican Cooking Utensils, Part I
The Metate ( Náhuatl: Metlatl)
Can you believe the metate was an everyday tool in many kitchens for hundreds of years? This Mexican cooking utensil and rectangular-shaped stone with three legs can grind the nixtamalized corn to make tortillas or atole finely. It can also grind seeds or dry peppers(chiles) and spices. Made of black or dark gray porous basalt volcanic stone with a slight inclination angle to one end helps with the grinding momentum.
To used the Metate, you will face the higher end of the stone and kneel on the floor. The product (masa ) will be rest on a wooden or clay tray at the other end of the metate. The Metate slab comes with the Metate Stone or Hand Metate. The Náhuatl name is "Metlapil"; Metate’s son.
This stone has tapered ends and is used to grind the grains against the Metate's surface. Although nowadays, many products like masa to make corn tortillas, tamales, and sopes are ready to use in the markets, and the Metate is hardly used even in rural areas. The funny thing is that even in the early 1940s, a Metate was considered an excellent gift for a newlywed woman; now, it will be a more sophisticated Kitchen Aid.
Molinillo de Chocolate or Chocolate Frother
In México, we have a wide variety of drinking chocolate, as you can see in this picture, but outside the country, the "Abuelita" and "Ibarra" brands are the ones commonly found. Drinking a cup of chocolate with thick foam is one of our pleasures. In Pre-Hispanic times it was a symbol of hospitality and wealth. Before the Spaniards arrived in America, the natives created the foam using two small gourd cups, pouring from the top of one another, repeating this process until they formed the desired texture.
The Molinillo (wooden whisk) is used to make Mexican hot chocolate and was created around the 1700s in Colonial times and made of a single piece of turned wood. The lower part has two rings around a striate and hollow sphere. Rub the molinillo between your hands together to make chocolate. The foam will form with the twisting motion of your hands.
Spaniards loved chocolate so much that later on, they started serving it in Spain as Hot Chocolate.
One of the most popular of all Mexican cooking utensils is the Molcajete. The Mexican mortar, blender, or food processor is one of the few Mexican cooking utensils used today. Molcajete (Molcaxitl), which means bowl for salsa, from the Náhuatl mulli, like a mole, salsa, and Caxitlán for bowl, dates back several thousand years ago.
Molcajete is a volcanic stone carved in one piece, with a hand stone used for grinding, called temachín or tejolote from the Náhuatl words: tetl, and xolouia, meaning stone for crushing or grinding. According to historians, the molcajete has been around since Pre Hispanic times. The bowl of the Molcajete looks the same as pre-Hispanic times and will last many generations. Archeologists have found Molcajete and its pestle in Tehuacán Puebla in perfect conditions.
The Molcajete grins spices, peppers, tomatoes, and garlic, to name a few, to make sauces and condiments. People think that a salsa or guacamole made in a molcajete has a better flavor than one made in a blender. It is also a great dish to serve the salsas and the famous guacamole. The best part is how easy cleaning this cooking utensils with a brush and water is.
From the Nahuatl word “comalli”. This basic cooking utensil in Mexican kitchens is one of my favorites. Mexican Griddles has many uses for cooking, like heating tortillas, toasting seeds, roasting peppers, and making quesadillas. Comales are in almost every kitchen in Mexico and come in different shapes and materials.
The most traditional comal griddle is round and made of clay with an unglazed finish. Because the material is very fragile and needs a light coat of cal and water mix (Calcium Hydroxide). This type of griddle is a favorite in rural areas in
Central Mexico and they were the standard griddles during the Pre-Hispanic time.
Nowadays, metal, cast iron, and non-stick griddles are popular on the market, some round, others in an oval shape. The oval ones are perfect for the stoves with a burner in the center to cook the tortillas. Because I like cooking, I have three different ones for different occasions. I love using the clay one for thick corn tortillas, gorditas, and roasting vegetables. Then I use the long oval-shaped comal to make several tortillas simultaneously. And finally, the large nonstick round griddle for flour tortillas and crepes.
For Mexican Cooking Utensils Information.
References of Mexican cooking utensils: Larousse de la Cocina Mexicana, Gastronomía & Compañía and The Universal.
More Mexican Cooking Utensils
This list is the first part of Mexican cooking utensils. If you would like to learn more about other tools like tortilla presses, clay pots, wooden spoons and spatulas, the lime squeezer, (tamalera)steamer, bean smasher (for authentic refried beans), and more, check the second part of this cooking utensils.