Pepper Mills

Tuesday, 3 February 2009 | Tags: ,

Fresh ground pepper adds a hit of spiciness to food, and also stimulates your taste buds. A good pepper mill in your kitchen ensures a fresh burst of spice is at your fingertips when needed. We find out which one works best.

The Basics

  • Pepper mills provide both storage and processing for your peppercorns.

  • Pepper starts to lose its flavour and aroma within 20 minutes of grinding, so it’s important to have a very fresh grind.

  • Pepper mills are typically found in wood, steel, or plastic, or steel-plastic combination.

    • Wood is more traditional and warmer to the touch, but not as durable as metal.

    • Metal housings are usually stainless steel, which provide a sleek look.

    • Plastic grinders are most often clear so you can see what’s going on inside. However, they aren’t as durable as metal and can scratch over time, turning cloudy.

  • Traditionally pepper mills are manually operated, though battery-power mills have become popular recently. Just be sure to factor in the cost of batteries, and have extras on hand so you’ll always have fresh pepper.

  • Look for grinding plates made of hardened steel (instead of stainless steel) or ceramic, which both hold a sharp edge longer.

  • The more teeth, the better the grind. A large circle of teeth provides a better grind.

  • Ensure the mill you buy allows you to adjust the grind from fine to coarse, and that the adjustment controls are easy.

  • Test the grinder on each setting and examine the grains closely to see if they are uniform in size. If they aren’t, look for a different grinder.

  • Each crank of the mill should produce a good quantity of pepper. If it’s only sprinkles, pass on that one.

  • Make sure you pay attention to how it feels to use each grinder. It should be comfortable to use and not strain your wrists or palms, even when you have to grind large amounts.


We visited Malabar, a spice company in Toronto, and recruited some experts to help us test some mills.

  • Peugeot U-Select Paris (wood) $49
. .


  • Trudeau Gravity (battery, plastic/metal) $34.98
. . Amazon.ca Amazon.com
  • Chef’n Pepper Ball (plastic): $19.98
. . Amazon.ca Amazon.com
  • William Bounds top crank (plastic): $29.98
. . Amazon.com

(Note: prices listed above are approximate and in Canadian dollars)

Grind Test

  • The Trudeau clogged really easily and was hard to use. We had trouble adjusting the settings, which was very frustrating. Also, the design was not very smart because in order to change the batteries, you have to turn it over into the grind position (which makes it start grinding). Unless the batteries are completely run down, you’ll have a big peppery mess on your hands.

  • The Pepper Ball was easy to use (and kind of fun), and we liked the one-handed design. However, it was difficult to change the grind settings (it wasn’t clear what the markings meant), and there wasn’t much of a difference between the grinds (it was all one size: big!)

  • The William Bounds top crank mill had good variation when it came to grind size and was easy to use. However, we felt it was a bit small for our needs and you’d be refilling it more often than you’d like.

  • The Peugeot mill had multiple grind settings and you could clearly see the differences between each grind. The construction was solid and it really felt well-made. It was easy to use, easy to fill, and felt comfortable to use.


Even though the Peugeot Pepper Mill was the most expensive, we think it’s worth it. Its superior design means it will last a long time, and none of the other mills came close to the grind quality.


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