All About Pepper Mills
Chefs All Say, "Use Freshly Ground Pepper" Why? Because once the peppercorns are ground, they start to lose flavor and there will be a noticeable difference after about three months.
Test it yourself by grinding some fresh pepper and comparing it to the pepper in your spice cabinet that's been there for years, hidden behind the ground mustard. But start with the old pepper first or the freshly ground pepper will overpower it.
You may want to get one if you don't have a pepper mill at home. It's incredible how a simple ingredient like freshly ground pepper can dramatically change the flavor of a dish.
I have an antique salt and pepper collection with over 100 pairs of shakers and I only bring them to the table on holidays and special occasions for show. In my kitchen and at the table, I only use one of my pepper mills.
When I find a fascinating pepper mill in the store or on the Internet, I have to make a concerted effort not to buy it. I already have 6 or 7 different models of various styles in my kitchen cabinet, but I find myself drawn to only using one.
Which brand do I use?
A simple traditional-looking wooden one with a crank handle on top, but because there are so many variables involved in choosing a pepper mill, you should pick one based on your likes and needs. So let's look at some.
First, you have to decide whether you are looking for a pepper mill that looks good on your dining room table or one that is highly functional. Or both!
If you are looking for a well-made, high-performance pepper mill that makes a statement just by looking at it, you will want to look at some of the custom-made mills. These high-end pepper mills are each an art form. Pricey but gorgeous, custom-made pepper mills would make a fine gift to anyone who is into cooking, including yourself.
But let's look at some of the many styles you can find in the marketplace today.
- Traditional wooden mill with a mushroom top that you turn (Chef Specialties, Peugeot)
- Wood or metal mill with a turn crank on top ( Perfex, Oxo)
- Plastic mill with the crank-key on the side (Peppermate) * Acrylic mill with a sleek design and turning top (Unicorn Magnum)
- Plastic mill with two handles you squeeze together (Peppergun)
- Battery-powered mill with a spotlight for those romantic evenings (Don't bother unless you need it for a disability)
- Big ones, tall ones, short ones, fat ones...you name it, and it probably exists
So you can see there is a lot to decide from already and we still need to look at the type of grinds, ease of use, how to fill, and let's remember price.
Ease of Use
In my opinion, there are four things you want to look for as far as ease of use:
First, how hard is it to fill?
I mentioned I have a favorite mill I use all the time, but after writing this article, I’m considering trading it in. Every time I go to fill it, I end up spilling a bunch of those little peppercorns on the ground and they are hard to find on the floor. I need to find a pepper mill with a larger opening to make it easier to add peppercorns.
How much ground pepper a mill can provide determines the speed you can use it. If you cook large amounts and your recipes call for a lot of ground pepper, you don’t want to spend too much time grinding away because your pepper mill is slow.
On the other hand, if you use it at the table to add more seasonings to your food, you don’t need a lot of speed.
This is a personal preference. I like the crank handle on top that you spin around. It can be awkward sometimes, but I’ve gotten used to it. Most of us are more familiar with the mushroom bulb handle in traditional pepper mills. They probably offer more control than the crank handle and are less awkward.
Adjusting the Grind
If you are using a pepper mill for your recipes, you will find some calls for a coarse grind, like in Steak with Peppercorns) and some require a fine grind. So if you constantly go back and forth between grinds, you want to ensure the adjustment is easy.
Most pepper mills adjust by turning the little knob at the top. The same knob you use to remove the top when filling. But some mills adjust with a screw or dial from the bottom.
Depending on what you will use the pepper for, you want a mill with the most extensive range of grinds, including coarse, medium, and fine. A better-made mill will give you a fine grind that is powdery and uniformly the same, with no little peppercorn pieces.
At the same time, you can set it for coarse and end up with big pieces for your au poivre (peppercorn) recipes.
Somehow I ended up with one of those big 14-inch mills that you see in fancy restaurants that the waiter brings over to season your salad. It looks great in a restaurant but is too heavy, awkward to use, and can only sit on my kitchen counter or in the broom closet.
It's just too big. I also have a tiny 2 ½ inch one that I can use when traveling, but I always forget to bring it.
A good pepper mill isn't cheap. They start at $20 and can go up to $45 and if you want a work of art, you are looking at $100 to $200. The good news is there are great mills out there for $20 bucks, but there are fewer poorly made models at $40.
So don't think you will get a great mill if you spend a lot of money. Instead, do your homework and read reviews online and in cooking magazines.
onlinesources: Pepper Mills
There are many sources for purchasing quality Kitchen Gadgets and Housewares, including whisks, spoons, measuring devices, and all the fun gadgets we home cooks have come to love.
I suggest you check out your local department stores and kitchen supply shops, but if you're looking for a wide selection of products and prices, you may want to check out Amazon.com, where I buy many of my favorite cookware pieces.
- Started in the book business, but now they sell almost everything. Reasonable prices and ok service are the folks many of us have done business with and feel comfortable with.