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Mexico 1492 - How do I know my molcajete is a real deal?

Real Volcanic Rock or Cheap Cement - How Do I Know My Molcajete is a Real Deal?

Making an authentic molcajete or a metate requires a large piece of volcanic rock, mined, transported and arduously worked and shaped into an exceptional kitchen utensil. It requires time, strength and a lot of effort.
In the recent years, the market got flooded with the molcajete and metate knockoffs – masonry mortar and cement pieces made in molds with a fraction of effort and cost.
If you love how the molcajetes look as succulent pots or flower vases on a table, and that’s all you want them for, then you can go for a cement version and it will fulfill its purpose well.
However, if you’d like to use your molcajete for food preparation, the following tips are important. It’s not only about having the real thing for the bragging rights (even though YES, you will be able to proudly display your authentic Mexican volcanic stone molcajete or metate and never flinch), it’s really about not feeding stones and cement dust to your family and friends or breaking teeth on loose gravel.
You are welcome.

 

Mexico 1492 - How do I know my molcajete is a real deal?

 

Sometimes, you will get a straight answer from your salesperson that the molcajete or metate was made of cement and it may save you a lot of detective work. But if they claim it’s a real, volcanic stone piece, here are the 7 important tips for choosing a new metate or a molcajete that we learned from the experts - the master carvers from Jalisco who know their business.

 

 Mexico 1492 - How do I know if my molcajete is a real deal?

  1. Pores are Good, but Not Too Many

The surface of any volcanic rock will contain some pores. The pores’ origin goes all way back to the moment that rock was still lava cooling off and passing tiny sulfuric bubbles to its surface. Some will have a lot of pores, wide and densely populated, others may have tiny, very fine orifices, but they’ll all show some of that rugged, porous surface that is so characteristic for the volcanic stone, that adds to its effectiveness for the grinding work. No pores (perfectly smooth surface) usually means no good.

However, beware of the following: the volcanic rock with many pores can leak. While it's a practical feature for a water filter, it's not a good thing for a molcajete, as your salsa will loose all its liquid this way. Some smaller pores can be closed during the preparation process, with rice, but if you notice strong leakage, that molcajete should be used for grinding dry items or guacamole only. .

 Mexico 1492 - How do I know my molcajete is a real deal?

  1. Good Molcajete holds Water

If you leave some water at the bottom of your real, good, volcanic stone molcajete, you will find it there 10 minutes later. If you perform this test on a cement or masonry mortar molcajete, the cement will absorb water and you will see it reduced in quantity or gone, and the piece will be completelly, evenly soaked. However, some real volcanic stone pieces, made of the volcanic rock with many pores, can leak too. While it may still a piece made of the authentic lava rock, it won't be a good option for salsa making, as the liquid will filter through the pores and run out. 

There may be some volcanic stone molcajetes that only show tiny leakage spots on the bottom. That should be easily fixed with the preparation process and some rice.

 Mexico 1492 - How do I know my molcajete is a real deal?

  1. Get the Knife Out

Try to scratch the surface of the suspicious molcajete or a metate with a knife (or if you are regular folk who don’t carry a knife around every time they go to a market, a sharp key would do). If there is a deep scratch left, it’s not a volcanic stone piece. Please don’t confuse it with a possible white, dusty trace you may notice on a real volcanic stone after scratching it.

 Mexico 1492 - How do I know my molcajete is a real deal? 

  1. Careful about the Color

The direction regarding color isn’t that straightforward – there is no simple instruction to share here that will resolve it. We found several videos and articles simplifying this to the “black is good, gray is bad”, but it’s not that simple, and here is why…

First, there are many different kinds of volcanic, or lava rock. Different regions of Mexico where molcajetes and metates are made use their own, local rock mines, and the types and colors of those stones will vary. Some will be darker; some will be lighter. The color can go from gray to black but be suspicious about the pieces that are too light, they are probably made of a cement mixture.

Second, the brand-new volcanic rock pieces will have traces of chisel and other tools on their surface, and the remains of dust may produce an effect that the piece is lighter than the dark, porous volcanic rock we’re looking for. That effect will wear out after the molcajete preparation and a few uses, and it will get its familiar permanent, dark tone. Make sure you differentiate the superficial dust and chisel remains from the light color of the whole piece.

Third, some shady salesmen paint their molcajetes black to appear more “real”. That color will start wearing off with the first couple of grinds, and if you start seeing your new black molcajete becoming lighter, it’s time to take it back to whomever sold it to you, asking for a refund. But be aware that if you find a very, very black piece in the market, you should use other methods to confirm its authenticity and not rely only on color.

 

  1. Dirt Cheap Giveaway

If you see a molcajete that’s much cheaper than similar sized and shaped pieces on the same market, walk away. However, a high price doesn’t mean it’s a real deal - many molcajetes are sold at the same price as real, authentic pieces, so a high price shouldn’t be the final criterion.

 

  1. Follow the Scent

Press the pestle or hand against the molcajete/metate and make a few grinding movements. If either the mortar or the pestle smell like cement, or wet masonry mortar, it’s a dead giveaway of the counterfeit origin.

There is also another sign that your piece is authentic – if you detect a very light sulfuric scent during the molcajete/metate preparation, it means you have a real volcanic rock piece in your hands, as those are the remains of the sulfuric gas that was trapped in stone for centuries and is now being released. However, consider that even some real volcanic rock molcajetes won’t release any sulfuric remains if they were washed thoroughly in the workshop, or they have been made some time ago.

 

 Mexico 1492 - How do I know my molcajete is a real deal?

  1. Uneven is Good, But Not Crucial

Molcajetes, metates and other authentic volcanic stone pieces are still traditionally made by carving the pieces of rock by hand and some basic tools. The artisans are incredibly skilled, but their pieces will always show they were made by hand and not in a mold. You can see this very easily if you compare various pieces in the store – there will be small variations in size, diameter, height, details. If you turn the piece upside down – the asymmetrical legs will usually reveal the secret.

However, this doesn’t mean that all beautifully made molcajetes, with ornaments and stylish details are fake. The artisans in San Lucas Evangelista, Comonfort and San Sebastian el Seco in Mexico have been winning awards for decades for their exceptional design and attention to detail, and their molcajetes are a work of art. Gorgeous and authentic, made from the real rock with talent and exceptional experience.

Cherish pieces like these, they are not found easily.

 Mexico 1492 - Authentic mini volcanic stone molcajetes

All the pieces sold in our Mexico 1492 Shop are made of real, volcanic rock, carved by the Lomelí family of many times awarded, master carvers from San Lucas Evangelista, Jalisco, as well as by the various artisans from the state of Puebla. You can buy them here.

Shipping worldwide.

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Comments

Mexico 1492 Team - January 18, 2021

Dear Delia,
Thank you so much for reaching out with your question. The answer may not be as straight forward, but we can figure this out together.
The gray color of your molcajete doesn’t have to mean it was not made of the volcanic stone – many volcanic stones are more gray than black. Also, if it was never washed after it was made, there may still be a lot of dust in the pores that gives its surface a light shade.
We would like to ask you a question in order to understand better what you’re dealing with: you mentioned your molcajete leaves dust on your hands – is that before you seasoned it or it leaves the dust even after seasoning?
Your response to the question above would be the most indicative: if you went through the seasoning process (curación, in Spanish), similar to the one described in the link below, a real, volcanic stone molcajete shouldn’t (mustn´t) leave more dust every time you touch it. If it does, it is highly likely it was made of cement and it’s not recommended to use for food.
https://www.mexico1492.com/pages/new-molcajete-groundwork
The smell may be more difficult to use for diagnostic, as many molcajetes emanate a certain earthy aroma for a while, but it should go away after a few uses.
If you’d like to be certain of your molcajete’s origin, you are more than welcome to share a photo and we’ll take a look at it.
Good luck, Delia! Please keep us posted.

Delia Stonechek - January 18, 2021

Hello,
My son bought me a molcajete for my Birthday at a Hispanic grocery store. Its gray and leaves a gray dust on my hands. When wet smells like a wet Jarro(wet dirt) just wanna make sure its a real one and if I can use it to make slasa? Thank you!

Mexico 1492 Team - October 3, 2020

Hi Paty,

Thank you so much for reaching out with your question on our Blog site regarding your new molcajete. It will be a pleasure to help you determine the nature of your new acquired molcajete.
Would you mind sharing a photo, or several, of your molcajete? The fact it is still producing murky waters is not promising, but let’s take a closer look. You can send your photos to our team email address at info@mexico1492.com and we’ll get back to you as soon as we have some findings to share.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Patricia Zayas - October 3, 2020

I bought a molcajete last week and I went to go cure it last night by grinding rice into it three times . Finally I left warm water and rice to soak over night so I can grind it once more the following day . I come back from work and I was grinding it with out rice and water and there’s still this brown murky water residue . I’m wondering if I bought a counterfeit molcajete

VIckie Chatham - June 14, 2020

I have acquired a molcajete made of stone . It doesn’t appear to be cement but just a large heavy stone. The pestle is about 10 inches long and sits into the opening about 5-6 inches deep.
The bowl has no legs and appears to be ancient. What have I found ?

victor rodriguez - May 31, 2020

What is the cup capacity of your larger molcajetes?? I am looking for a 4 cup big boy.

-Thanks

Vic

JoAnn Zornrs - May 8, 2020

Interested in larger molcajete w/ “legs”

Robert Richards - May 8, 2020

I smell sulfuric gas. Thank you very much. I just wasn’t sure

Gilbert' Gomez - May 8, 2020

I order aant to order a moucajete and if so how much for all included mailing thank you

Linda Perez - May 8, 2020

Hello….when will I know when you get some larger molcajetes in??? Thank You….Linda

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