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Which pepper mill is best?

For that final bit of spicy flair on salads, in soups and sprinkled on pasta, a pepper mill cannot be beat. This simple twisting apparatus delivers the perfect amount of peppery punch that complements carefully seasoned dishes from a wide variety of cuisines. The best pepper mill is stylish on the table, feels good in the hand and grinds whole peppercorns just the way you like them.

The Cole & Mason Derwent Pepper Grinder looks great and functions perfectly, with a durable grinding mechanism that lasts a lifetime.

What to know before you buy a pepper mill

Manual vs. electric

Pepper grinders can be as simple or as complicated as you’d like to make them. To that end, you must choose between a manual or electric grinder.

  • Manual: Manual grinders are straightforward and easy to use. They don’t require batteries or electricity or anything else, other than elbow grease.
  • Electric: An electric pepper mill most often uses battery power. For people with hand pain or small children who want to season their own food, pressing a simple button is easier than grinding your way through peppercorns. However, it only works if you remember to keep the batteries charged. Electric versions are also more expensive than manual.

Pepper mill materials

The materials of your pepper mill vary from the housing to the trim to the grinding mechanism.

  • Housing: The housing is the body of the pepper mill. The lightest are plastic, but they also come in stainless steel, wood, glass and sometimes ceramic.
  • Trim: Trim materials are what gives your mill its style. Copper and other metals can be industrial and modern, while wood is rustic and traditional.
  • Grinding mechanism: Choosing between a carbon steel grinding mechanism and a ceramic one depends on if you’d like to grind anything other than pepper. Ceramic is more durable and is sometimes accompanied by a lifetime warranty.


If you routinely sit at a table for one, there’s no need to buy a 10-inch pepper mill with a half-cup capacity. Tailor the size of your mill to the number of people who use it.

What to look for in a quality pepper mill

Noise level

Whether your grinder is manual or electric, it should do the job quietly. Some materials are more resonant than others, so if you are sensitive to noise, choose carefully.

Multiple grinding levels

Sometimes your cooking requires a very fine, barely perceptible dusting of pepper. Others, you want coarse, chunky flecks of black pepper to dominate. Look for a mill with multiple grinding levels for all of your culinary needs.

Easy fill

You don’t want filling your grinder to be like stuffing 10 pounds of potatoes in a 5-pound sack. It should be easy to fill, either through a screw-off top or a door in the front of the mill.

Etched grinding levels

For pepper mills that offer different grinding levels, these should be etched into the mill’s housing. Markings that are painted on wear off over time and leave you hoping you’ve picked the right grind.

How much you can expect to spend on a pepper mill

Prices vary depending on whether your pepper mill is manual or electric, but other factors such as the size and materials of the mill also influence the price. Expect to spend $10-$50.

Pepper mill FAQ

How do you keep peppercorns fresh in the mill?

A. Peppercorns are hardy spices, but over time they can lose their pungency or, worse yet, develop mold. To keep them fresh in the mill:

  • Only fill the mill three-quarters full. This allows for expansion if the peppercorns swell with humidity, and it also works better if it’s not packed full.
  • Keep an eye on the housing’s inner seal. This keeps dust out of the mill and can prolong your spices’ life.
  • Make sure the peppercorns you add are fresh when you add them.

Can you use a pepper mill for anything other than pepper?

A. Yes. Pepper mills are perfect for grinding spices and even salt.

If you use your pepper mill to grind spices, it’s best to get a grinder that has a housing that won’t absorb odors. Some spices such as cardamom, star anise and clove have strong, pungent flavors that can linger after they are long gone.

Additionally, your grinding mechanism should be ceramic, as salt and some spices can corrode steel grinders.

What’s the best pepper mill to buy?

Top pepper mill

best Cole & Mason Derwent Pepper Grinder

Cole & Mason Derwent Pepper Grinder

What you need to know: This pepper mill is stylish and comes with a lifetime guarantee of its grinding mechanism.

What you’ll love: The grinder is sharp as diamond and has six grinding levels, from very coarse to superfine. It’s easy to refill. The clean, simple lines work with a variety of kitchen decor.

What you should consider: Pepper grinds sift out of the grinder if you do not shake them off before storing.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top pepper mill for the money

best Oxo Good Grips Contoured Mess-Free Pepper Grinder

Oxo Good Grips Contoured Mess-Free Pepper Grinder

What you need to know: This is a durable workhorse from a trusted kitchen brand.

What you’ll love: The grinder is constructed from ceramic for durability and its resistance to corrosion. It adjusts to coarse or fine grinding. The shell, which doesn’t contain potentially harmful bisphenol A, gives you a good view of how much pepper is left.

What you should consider: The screw plate on the bottom can come loose if not threaded properly.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

best Kuhn Rikon Adjustable Ratchet Grinder

Kuhn Rikon Adjustable Ratchet Grinder

What you need to know: The ceramic grinding mechanism is great not only for pepper but also for rock salt and other hard spices.

What you’ll love: The ratchet is easier to use for people with hand pain. Open the door to refill the grinder. The housing is BPA-free. It’s available in three colors.

What you should consider: The grind setting is coarse and may not suit some people’s needs.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

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Suzannah Kolbeck writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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