Best Pepper Grinders

Updated November 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

18 Models Considered
5 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
162 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best pepper grinders

Last Updated November 2019

Pepper is one of those culinary staples that few meals can do without, and anyone who has ever had it freshly ground knows that, like coffee, it is miles ahead of the pre-ground version in terms of taste.

A quality pepper grinder will not only improve your food, it will also brighten up your table with its elegant, classic appearance. While you may need to work a little harder for your pepper (or not, if you opt for an electric one), a pepper grinder is one low-cost kitchen fixture that every aspiring chef should own.

When shopping for a pepper grinder, you will quickly find a market flooded with options. Should you buy a manual pepper grinder or an electric one? How many grinding levels do you need, and how much should you pay? This guide will answer these questions and provide insight into other features that you may wish to have in a pepper grinder. We also offer our recommendations for some of the best pepper grinders out there.

Some grinders strip peppercorns down by layers instead of crushing them. This can help improve the flavor of the pepper.

Manual vs. electric pepper grinders

The first decision you are going to need to make is whether you want a manual pepper grinder or an electric pepper grinder.

A manual pepper grinder is pretty straightforward: you fill it with peppercorns and start cranking. You provide the muscle; it puts out the pepper.

An electric pepper grinder uses battery power. This is both its strength and its downfall — run out of battery power, and you’re out of pepper, too. Some electric pepper grinders operate via the push of a button. Others automatically start grinding when you flip them over. Some feature a built-in LED light.

If you opt for an electric pepper grinder, be sure that it is designed to securely hold its batteries and that you can change the batteries easily, without having to take the whole device apart.

Electric grinders are convenient and fun, but you run the risk of ending up with a kitchen paperweight (and no pepper) if the grinder malfunctions or you run out of batteries.

Housing and rotors

There are two primary construction areas that you need to consider with pepper grinders: the exterior housing and the interior grinding rotors.

Pepper grinder housing

The outer shell of a pepper grinder can take several forms. Popular housing materials include stainless steel, wood, and acrylic. Stainless steel is rugged and stylish, while wood offers a timeless, classic design. Acrylic is also rugged, and it has the benefit that you can tell at a glance how full the grinder is.

Whichever housing material you choose, it should be resistant to rust and corrosion. The grinder should feel comfortable in your hand, and some form of non-slip grip is helpful for kitchen use. Some pepper grinders feature caps. Others come in an array of color choices so you can choose the one that best fits your décor.

Pepper grinder rotors

A pepper grinder works via a rotor system to grind peppercorns. Your options here are generally carbon steel or ceramic. Both are effective, although ceramic edges out steel in terms of durability and the fact that it can be used with salt, whereas steel can’t. Whichever you choose, the resulting grind should be uniform, and peppercorns should easily go through the grinder without becoming stuck in the rotors.

Size

There are two considerations to be aware of in terms of pepper grinder size. The first is the capacity of the grinder: how much can it hold? If your grinder holds few peppercorns, you may find yourself constantly having to fill it up. But if the reservoir holds too many peppercorns, that could also be a problem. The reason: a pepper grinder that is too tall (say, eight inches tall instead of five inches tall) could cause a space or storage issue, depending on where you plan to keep it.

CAUTION

Pepper grinders are not recommended for use with coffee beans. The oily residue produced by grinding coffee beans would quickly foul up a pepper grinder.

Questions to ask before buying a pepper grinder

How easy is it to fill?

If you have to deconstruct the grinder every time you fill it, this could be a problem, particularly if the grinder is a compact one. The grinder should be easy to fill, and the ability to stand on its own when you fill it — as opposed to having to hold it in one hand while you fill it with the other — is preferred.

Is it quiet?

Electric pepper grinders should not be loud. Manual pepper grinders are not exempt from this concern, either. A high-pitched squeak every time you turn the top may be funny the first few times, but it will wear thin fairly quickly.

Does it offer several grinding levels?

Most pepper grinders offer a way to change the grind from fine to coarse. The best pepper grinders feature several distinct levels of grind, giving you full control over the size of your pepper output.

Pepper grinder prices

Pepper grinders start around $10 to $15 and can run up to $50 or higher. Electric grinders tend to be more expensive than manual grinders, and you will pay more for one with advanced features, such as an LED light.

While not an expense you will incur often, electric pepper grinders do cost a bit more over the long run in terms of batteries.

EXPERT TIP

Pepper grinders should be stored in a dry location out of direct sunlight. Avoid heat and cold extremes, and do not store your grinder in the refrigerator.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

  • A pepper grinder with a tight seal on its inner chamber will help keep peppercorns fresh and dust-free.
  • A cap on a pepper grinder serves several purposes. It keeps pepper dry and fresh, adds to the overall aesthetic, and limits pepper mess, both on your counter and wherever else you may take it — parties, picnics, other gatherings.
  • Built-in LED lights on a pepper grinder help light up the dish so you don’t use too much pepper. This is a handy feature to have if you like to use mood lighting for your meals.
  • Compact and inexpensive, a pepper grinder is an excellent gift idea. If you are shopping for one to give as a gift, check whether it includes an attractive gift box.
  • If you are in the market for an electric pepper grinder, verify whether it ships with batteries. Otherwise, you will need to buy them separately.
  • Some pepper grinders ship in packages of two. This is a great choice if you are in the market for both a pepper grinder and a salt grinder. Just be sure to check first that the product can also be used with salt.
  • Many pepper grinders can handle a variety of spices. If you plan on using your grinder with other spices, such as clove or anise, be sure to buy a model that won’t absorb odors. Otherwise, everything else you grind will also taste like cloves or anise.
  • If a grinder is capable of multiple grinding levels, the markings should be etched, not painted, onto the grinder. Painted markings quickly wear off.
  • Use only the highest-quality peppercorns and other spices in your grinder. Low-quality peppercorns may contain impurities that could clog your grinder.
  • Peppercorn grinder gears work better if you fill the peppercorn chamber no more than three-quarters full. Another reason to leave a little space in your grinder: humidity can cause peppercorns to swell.

Other products we considered

Several other pepper grinders caught our eye. The OXO Good Grips Lewis Pepper Mill is a manual grinder with a crank on top for easy grinding. We like the clear, hinged refill door on the front of it. The best-selling Salt & Pepper Grinder Set by Gold Armour is a three-piece set with a salt grinder, pepper grinder, and a stand, all for a low price. And while not for every décor, the Ottoman-styled Bazaar Anatolia Pepper Mill is available in a variety of cool-looking finishes.

If a recipe calls for “cracked” pepper, you can achieve this by using the coarsest setting on your pepper grinder.

FAQ

Q. Do pepper grinders ship with peppercorns already in them?
A.
While some do, this is rare. The majority of pepper grinders require you to supply your own peppercorns, which can be found in nearly every grocery store in the spice aisle. This is an additional expense that you should factor into your purchase, along with the cost of batteries if you are buying an electric grinder.


Q. Will my grinder work for both pepper and salt?
A.
It largely depends on the construction of the grinder. If the grinder has steel blades, you should not use it to grind salt, as salt can corrode steel. Grinders with ceramic blades, however, should be fine, so long as there are no other steel components in the grinder. Check your owner’s manual if you are unsure.


Q. Can I wash my pepper grinder in the dishwasher?
A.
It is not recommended that you submerge your grinder or run it through a dishwasher, as doing so could damage the inner grinder mechanisms and ruin the outer finish. To clean a grinder, wipe it down on the outside with a damp cloth and on the inside with a dry, soft cloth. If the inside does somehow become exposed to water, allow it to dry completely before refilling it with peppercorns.


Q. What is the best way to free a grinder jam?
A.
If a peppercorn or other spice seed becomes trapped in the grinder gears, turn it upside-down and gently tap the bottom. If that doesn’t free it, you should be able to work it free using a soft cloth or toothpick.

The team that worked on this review
  • Jacob
    Jacob
    Editorial Manager
  • Katie
    Katie
    Editorial Director
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor
  • Rich
    Rich
    Writer

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