Mexican Cooking Tools: Masa Hand Mill

Published on August 2, 2023

In this ongoing series, we’ve looked at the traditional tortilla press for making corn tortillas. In this blog post, we’re looking at the Masa Hand Mill, a traditional grinding device has been an integral part of Mexican households for generations, allowing cooks to transform whole corn kernels into the essential ingredient known as masa. 

All About This Handy Tool

The Masa Hand Mill, known as “metate” in Spanish, has deep roots in ancient Mesoamerican cultures. This stone grinding tool predates the arrival of Europeans, with evidence of its use dating back thousands of years. Its construction consists of a large, flat stone surface known as the metate and a cylindrical hand-held stone called the mano. The metate is typically made from volcanic rock, such as basalt or volcanic tuff, which offers the ideal texture and durability for grinding corn.

Transforming Corn into Masa

The Masa Hand Mill plays a crucial role in transforming whole corn kernels into masa, a dough-like substance central to Mexican cuisine. The process begins by soaking dried corn kernels in an alkaline solution, usually limewater, to remove the outer hull and improve nutritional value. The soaked corn is then placed on the metate, and the mano is used to grind and pulverize the kernels against the stone surface. This rhythmic motion continues until the corn is transformed into a smooth masa paste.

The Art of Grinding
Grinding corn on a Masa Hand Mill is an art form, requiring skill, patience, and a deep connection to ancestral traditions. The circular motion of the mano against the metate allows the corn kernels to break down gradually, creating a fine masa texture. Cooks adjust the pressure, speed, and angle of the grinding motion to achieve the desired consistency. This process not only produces masa but also infuses it with the unique flavours imparted by the volcanic stone.

The Masa Hand Mill, with its ancient origins and enduring relevance, remains an invaluable tool in Mexican kitchens. Through the rhythmic grinding of corn kernels, it transforms them into the essential masa, serving as the cornerstone of countless traditional dishes!