The best pepper grinder of 2021
Black pepper has its origins as an exotic spice in subtropical regions like India and Vietnam, but it’s since become the world’s most popular and ubiquitous spice. Fresh-cracked black pepper can up the ante on any dish — from pasta to grilled steaks and seafood to salads. Investing in a good pepper grinder will undoubtedly improve the flavor of your food compared to purchasing pre-ground pepper at the store.
If you’re looking to purchase a pepper grinder this year, you might feel overwhelmed with options. You have to decide whether you want an electric or manual grinder, plus other considerations such as design aesthetic, size, material and grind settings. This guide provides details to help you choose a model that’s best for you, plus a few top recommendations for 2021, including our favorite, the Cole & Mason Derwent Pepper Grinder, which features six settings and comes with a lifetime guarantee.
What to know before you buy a pepper grinder
Manual vs. electric pepper grinder
A manual pepper grinder is a very straightforward appliance. You simply add peppercorns, secure the lid and start grinding. An electric grinder uses battery power to grind pepper at the push of a button. This means less work for your wrists, but electric grinders are more expensive and often come with their own share of problems. However, an electric grinder is a great option to achieve fresh cracked black pepper if you have any problems in your hands and wrists that prevent you from using a manual grinder. If you do choose an electric grinder, opt for one with a long battery life or a rechargeable model.
Ease of use
To make pepper grinding easier, look for a grinder that has a large hopper and is otherwise easy to refill. A grinder with a clear hopper is convenient for knowing when you’re running low on peppercorns, and a large opening allows you to refill with ease.
As your pepper grinder will likely sit on your countertop, choose an attractive design that matches your overall kitchen aesthetic. You might like a wooden pepper mill for a timeless look and feel, or a more modern design for a contemporary look.
The rotors refer to the internal blade mechanism that grinds the peppercorns. In general, rotors are made from either carbon steel or ceramic. While both work well, a ceramic rotor mechanism tends to be more durable. Ceramic rotors can also be used for salt, while steel cannot. Acrylic rotors, like those in many grocery store pepper grinders, can easily break and flake into the food.
Pepper grinders vary in size anywhere from 3 inches to 24 inches in height. Consider where you plan to store your pepper mill and how often you plan to use it. A larger mill means refilling it less frequently, but it will also be harder to stow away, especially in a small kitchen.
Pepper grinder features
Many pepper grinders come with a variety of grind settings that allow you to control whether the pepper is finely or coarsely ground. Opt for a model with at least five different grind settings and one that’s easy to adjust. Some manual models have a knob or tab to adjust the grind, while electric grinders may have more advanced adjustment settings.
Some electric grinders come with LED lights, which are convenient for a candlelit dinner or while barbecuing outdoors so you can see how much pepper you’re putting on your food.
Some pepper grinders offer ergonomic features to make the mill more comfortable on your hands and wrists, such as an ergonomically designed ratchet handle for extra comfort. A grinder with non-slip grip might also be helpful for frequent use while cooking.
Higher-end pepper grinders may come with lifetime guarantees to give you peace of mind for your investment.
Pepper grinder cost
A pepper grinder can cost as little as $10-$15 and up to $50 or more. The cost depends on a number of factors and features, such as LED lights or sophisticated grind settings. In general, electric pepper grinders cost more than manual grinders. Electric grinders may also cost more over time, as you’ll need to purchase batteries.
Pepper grinder FAQ
Will my grinder work for salt or other spices?
A. It depends on the model you choose. A model with steel blades should not be used with salt, as the salt can corrode the steel over time. Pepper grinders with ceramic blades, however, can be used for salt without any problems. If you’re unsure of the blade material in your grinder, check your owner’s manual. You can usually use your pepper grinder for other spices such as coriander seeds, but keep in mind that the scent and flavor may stick around after use. Some smaller spices such as cumin seeds or mustard seeds may get stuck in the grinder blades and be challenging to clean.
How do I clean my pepper grinder?
A. You don’t need to clean the inside of your pepper grinder very often, as long as you’re only using it for peppercorns. If you need to clean the inside of your grinder, use a dry cloth to gently wipe it clean. You can also wipe the outside of the pepper grinder down with a damp kitchen towel to remove any dirt, dust or food splatters. Avoid dunking your grinder in water or putting it in the dishwasher, as this can damage the grinding mechanism.
Which pepper grinder should I get?
Best of the best pepper grinder
Our take: A modern and precise pepper grinder that’s built to last a lifetime.
What we like: Six grinding settings offer serious precision. Sharp grinding mechanism offers superior flavor. Durable design with a lifetime guarantee.
What we dislike: Some users found that it leaks when not in use.
Best bang for your buck pepper grinder
Our take: A top-notch ceramic pepper grinder that boasts serious quality for its price.
What we like: Non-corrosive ceramic design won’t absorb odors or flavors. Rotating tab allows for quick grinding adjustments. Clear hopper helps you know when it’s time to add more peppercorns. Can be placed upside-down for easy refills.
What we dislike: Peppercorns sometimes get stuck in the mechanism.
Honorable mention pepper grinder
IEOVO 8-Inch Wooden Pepper Mill: available at Amazon
Our take: A classic, cost-effective pepper mill under $10 with a timeless look and an adjustable grind.
What we like: Ceramic grind mechanism is strong and durable. Rotating knob allows for easy adjustments on grind consistency. Easy to refill. Wooden design is attractive on the counter.
What we dislike: Not as precise as more expensive models.
Katy Severson is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.
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