Freshly ground pepper is an everyday staple for seasoning food. Which pepper mill is the easiest to use?
Last Updated June 8, 2023. Appears in America's Test Kitchen TV Season 22: Perfectly Fried Seafood
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
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 is a deputy editor for ATK Reviews. She's a culinary school graduate and former line cook and cheesemonger.