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The Best Pepper Mills

Freshly ground pepper is an everyday staple for seasoning food. Which pepper mill is the easiest to use?

By and

Last Updated June 8, 2023. Appears in America's Test Kitchen TV Season 22: Perfectly Fried Seafood

See Everything We Tested

What You Need To Know

A great pepper mill is easy to load with peppercorns and has clearly marked grind settings that are simple to adjust, allowing you to grind pepper in a range of textures from fine to coarse. Our winner, the Cole & Mason Derwent Pepper Mill, has a wide opening at the top of the mill for filling and distinct grind sizes marked on a dial on its base. The OXO Good Grips Mess-Free Pepper Grinder is our Best Buy. Its 2-inch opening made it a breeze to fill and it dispenses pepper from the top, keeping our countertop clear of pepper particles.

What You Need to Know

A good pepper mill provides us with the freshly ground pepper we use to season food on a daily basis. 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. 

How does a pepper mill work? At its simplest, a mill consists of two concentric, grooved burrs that rotate against each other. Cranking the mill forces peppercorns through the space between the burrs, where they’re cracked and crushed into fragments. Because the fragments have to become small enough to pass through that space before they can exit the mill, the fineness of ground pepper can be adjusted by changing the distance between the two burrs. Most mills work pretty much the same way, but their design can vary in how the grind size is adjusted and how they are refilled with peppercorns. 

What to Look For

  • Wide Opening at Top or Bottom of Mill: 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. We preferred models that could be loaded from the top or bottom.
  • Clearly Marked, Easily Adjustable Grind Settings: The mechanisms used to adjust grind size varied between the models. Most mills had small knobs you twist clockwise (tightening them) for a finer grind and counterclockwise (loosening them) for a coarser grind. It was guesswork to adjust the grind size on models with knobs; there were no clear indicators to let us know where we were between a fine- and a coarse-grind setting. We preferred models that had clearly marked grind settings situated on dials that ringed their bodies. The winning model’s dial had six dots, which represented grind sizes from fine to coarse; it was easy to see exactly which setting we had selected, and we...

Everything We Tested

Good : 3 stars out of 3.Fair : 2 stars out of 3.Poor : 1 stars out of 3.
*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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Reviews you can trust

Reviews you can trust

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. We stand behind our winners so much that we even put our seal of approval on them.

Kate Shannon

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