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The Best Pepper Mills

We were looking for a mill that was easy to fill with peppercorns, had well-marked grind settings, and produced accurate grind sizes. And we found it.

By and Updated Aug. 19, 2021
Update, August 2021

We tested two new models. The OXO Good Grips Contoured Mess-Free Pepper Grinder is our new Best Buy. It’s easy to load the mill and adjust the grind settings, and because the pepper comes from the top of the mill instead of the bottom, it doesn’t leave peppercorn dust on the countertop when it’s stored upright. We also liked the sleek and ultrafast Männkitchen Pepper Cannon. But unless you regularly grind a lot of pepper and have an affinity for powerful, expensive gadgets, you’re better off buying a more traditional, affordable pepper mill. 

Top Picks

See Everything We Tested

What You Need To Know

We typically use pepper mills for only a few seconds at a time, but a poorly designed mill can make a few seconds feel like a lifetime. And if you take on a pepper-heavy recipe such as steak au poivre, which calls for a whole tablespoon of crushed peppercorns, any design flaws become even more apparent. Whether you use a mill for big jobs or small, a good one should be easy to load (no one wants peppercorns rolling all over the kitchen), have accurate grind sizes that don’t require guesswork to adjust, and be easy to operate.

Since the last time we tested pepper mills, our winning mill has been redesigned and we’ve noticed new models on the market. So we selected seven models, priced from about $25 to about $50, including the updated version of our previous winner, and got grinding. We examined how easy it was to load peppercorns into each mill, measured their capacities, and used each mill to produce fine-, medium-, and coarse-ground pepper. We also recruited colleagues to try the mills and give feedback, and we checked durability, too. One mill topped the rest, thanks to its user-friendly design and accurate output.

Top-Loading Mills Were Easier to Fill

Before using the mills, we needed to fill them. Some mills came prefilled with peppercorns, but we emptied those and used the same peppercorns in all mills to keep our results consistent. We loaded each mill to capacity and then weighed the peppercorns inside. Capacities ranged from 21 grams to 71 grams, but because most people use only small amounts of pepper at a time, we didn’t think it was a major drawback if a mill had a smaller capacity. Ease of loading mattered a lot more.

All the mills we tested had openings for loading peppercorns, and the sizes and locations of these openings affected how easy it was to fill the mills. The width of the openings ranged from 1 inch to nearly 2 inches, and the bigger the opening, the easier it was to fill the mill. While the openings of most of the mills were located beneath their removable tops, the opening of one mill was located on its bottom end and the opening for another was on its side. The model with the bottom opening was pretty easy to fill, as we could stand the mill upside down and unscrew the bottom to expose the opening. The side-loading model was frustrating to fill. We had to lay the cylindrical mill on its side, secure it in place so it didn’t roll away, and then, because the opening was just an inch wide, use a funnel to add peppercorns. And while gravity helped guide the peppercorns when filling models that sat vertically, we had to continually adjust the peppercorns in this side-loading model to make space fo...

Everything We Tested

Good : 3 stars out of 3.Fair : 2 stars out of 3.Poor : 1 stars out of 3.

Highly Recommended


Recommended with reservations

*All products reviewed by America’s Test Kitchen are independently chosen, researched, and reviewed by our editors. We buy products for testing at retail locations and do not accept unsolicited samples for testing. We list suggested sources for recommended products as a convenience to our readers but do not endorse specific retailers. When you choose to purchase our editorial recommendations from the links we provide, we may earn an affiliate commission. Prices are subject to change.

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The mission of America’s Test Kitchen Reviews is to find the best equipment and ingredients for the home cook through rigorous, hands-on testing.

Kate Shannon

Kate is a deputy editor for ATK Reviews. She's a culinary school graduate and former line cook and cheesemonger.