Best Pepper Mills of 2021
The Peugeot Paris u'Select won over our testers with its consistent grind, ease of use, and quality construction. Like many pepper mills, this one requires a funnel to fill. We used a coffee filter shaped like a cone that allowed the peppercorns to fall into the center shaft, which holds 1.2 ounces of peppercorns.
The Peugeot was the only pepper mill we tested that featured a two-stage grinding mechanism. The case hardened steel grinding mechanism first breaks open the peppercorns and then uniformly grinds it producing a super consistent grind each time. The grind size selector is on the base and simply requires a twist, and we found selecting the grind size to be easy with both dry and wet hands. On each half rotation, the pepper mill dispensed a fraction of a teaspoon of pepper, allowing the user to control the amount of pepper being added. Our testers also appreciated the minimal pepper residue left behind after use, giving them less of a mess to clean up. If you're looking for a well-constructed, easy-to-use pepper mill with a consistent grind size, look no further than the Paris u'Select.
The top cap of the wooden Trudeau Seville 10-Inch pepper mill is easy to remove, so it was a quick and easy task to fill it with a funnel. It holds a little over an ounce of peppercorns. Our testers with various hand sizes all found the top knob easy to turn, and it doesn't require much hand strength, making it a great choice for many users.
We found the carbon steel blades quickly and easily ground our black peppercorns in sizes running from fine to semi-coarse; however, we could never achieve a true coarse grind with this mill. Like most top knob pepper mills, once you change grind sizes, it can be difficult to obtain the same grind size again, but we found that we could repeat grind sizes more readily if we twisted the knob one-half turn at a time. For anyone on the hunt for a budget-friendly pepper mill, the Trudeau Seville 10-Inch is a solid choice.
The Kitchen-Go Grinder is basic, with a glass peppercorn holder that screws onto a steel base containing a ceramic grinding mechanism. We appreciated the large opening of the glass jar, which makes filling it a bit easier than some of the taller and narrower models. The grind size adjuster is on the underside and will produce a fine to semi-coarse grind, but the dial's design makes it a bit more tricky to replicate the same grind after changing the settings.
There is a cap to cover the underside on the Kitchen-GO that is great for catching any excess pepper that leaks out of the base. We found that this grinder was tough to use with greasy hands as they slipped on the glass jar. Overall, we found this model to be quite basic and best for someone who will only use it occasionally.
Handcrafted in Maine, the Fletchers' Mill Border Grill is made from solid cherry and has a much more modern look than many grinders on the market. Our testers appreciate that the entire grind mechanism can be removed to access the grinder for cleaning. Thanks to its shape, the top knob design was easy to turn for both small and large hands.
The Fletchers' is easy to fill with a funnel but has the smallest peppercorn capacity of our test bunch, so in a high-use kitchen, it will need more frequent refills. According to the manufacturer, its locking nut grind adjuster has 33 different grind sizes. We were not able to discern 33 different grind sizes but could find a variety ranging from fine to coarse. However, we were disappointed in how easily the finely ground pepper clumped when it came out. Once the grind size was set to coarse, we found we could not just twist the locking nut back towards fine grind. To get back to a fine grind, we first needed to grind out the peppercorns in the grinding mechanism and twist the lock nut, repeating the process many times. If you prefer a top nut design for grind size adjustments, the Fletcher is worth consideration.
The Cole & Mason Derwent Grinder stood out as one of the more modern-looking pepper mills we tested. We could easily fill it with 1.8 ounces of peppercorns, making it one of the larger capacity pepper mills we tested. The top cap fits very snuggly and requires a pull straight up to remove and is best done when there is a minimal amount of peppercorns remaining, as the force of the pull can cause them to eject from the top.
The Cole & Mason preset grind size selector is located at the base and locks into place with a firm twist. For those with a lack of hand dexterity or strength, this could be problematic. The knob is fairly easy to grasp and twist for both large and small hands, and each rotation quickly grinds the peppercorns and produces a fair amount of pepper. Our testers did find on the finer grind settings that the pepper tended to clump some as it came out, making it a bit tricky to not over pepper eggs. We also found that the peppercorns occasionally bound up in the grinding mechanism making it harder to turn. For someone looking for an updated design for their pepper mill, we recommend taking a deeper look at the Cole & Mason.
The Kuhn Rikon Ceramic has a unique design where you ratchet the handle from side to side instead of twisting to grind the peppercorns. While this design is noisy, we found it incredibly easy to use, especially for those who lack hand strength or dexterity. The pepper mill is also fairly easy to fill, thanks to a door that acts like a chute that is placed higher on the body, allowing the peppercorns to fall to the base.
The grind size adjuster knob is located on the underside where the peppercorns come out, so any adjustments to the grind size you'll want to make with clean and dry hands. The grind size knob lists fine to coarse, but no matter where we rotated the adjuster to the grind, the consistency came out somewhere between fine and coarse.
We found the handle on the Oxo Good Grips Radial Grinder easy to turn, despite it sticking a bit each revolution in the same spot. The large handle on the grind size adjuster makes changing the grind size easier, which was appreciated by our testers, despite its location on the underside of the pepper mill. When on the coarse setting, we found there to be quite a few semi-whole chunks of peppercorn, which depending on taste, could be positive or negative.
Our testers were frustrated by the design of the door on the Oxo pepper mill, which made filling it quite difficult. The door is like a chute but extends down towards the base of the grinder, meaning as the peppercorns fill the cavity, they block the door from closing. Our door also came unhinged during the filling process, causing us to have to empty it to put the door back in place.
The UMIKAkitchen Wood Grinder is one of the most affordable pepper mills in our testing, and we found the UMIKAkitchen to perform poorer than its similarly-priced counterparts. One of our biggest issues with the pepper mill was its lack of adjustable grind size despite having a top knob grind adjuster. No matter how tight or loose the adjuster was set, we continually had the same size pepper.
We were also frustrated with the amount of pepper that leaked out of the base when we were finished grinding, requiring more cleanup. This model leaked significantly more pepper than other mills tested. We suggest considering some of the other similarly priced products instead of the UMIKAkitchen.
The Zassenhaus Speyer Beech Mill was the most disappointing product in our testing. The handle is very hard to turn, and we continuously had problems with the grind size adjuster. It has preset settings ranging from fine (one) to coarse (six). On our first test, the selector dial worked well; however, we began to experience issues when we tried reversing the grind from coarse to fine. No matter the setting, the grind size would not change and continually came out at a two or three for grind size. Once we got the selector back to one, the pepper came out much coarser like a four. We also found the peppercorns were binding up in the grinding mechanism.
Considering its price, we expected this pepper mill to be precise and consistent. Because of the grind size issues we continually experienced, we cannot recommend this pepper mill.
Why You Should Trust Us
Over the past twenty years, cooking has become a significant aspect of Tara Reddinger-Adams's life. She has continually worked on refining her cooking skills and frequently cooks up meals that garner serious praise from clients on her all-inclusive mountain bike vacations. Before making a purchase, Tara enjoys extensively reading about and researching products and brings a critical yet practical perspective to her reviews.
We read about, researched, and cross-referenced 24 of the top-rated pepper mills to determine the best available. We then narrowed our selection to nine and began grinding ridiculous amounts of pepper, carefully evaluating the consistency, grind size, ease of use, and value for each pepper mill to help you find the best choice for your budget and cooking style.
Analysis and Test Results
To determine the best pepper mills, we considered the factors that make a pepper mill something you will want to use again and again. Pepper mills are notoriously difficult to fill, and almost all require something resembling a funnel to use when filling to prevent peppercorns from going all over the counter and floor. We began our testing by filling each pepper mill and then measured how many ounces of peppercorns it holds.
Next, we looked at grind size and the consistency of the grind size. Some recipes call for a fine grind, while others require a more coarse grind, and having a consistent and adjustable grind size is important. After grinding all that pepper, we examined each mill to see if it leaked pepper after use, another pet peeve of pepper mills.
Since pepper mills are frequently used while cooking, we then considered how easy the mill is to operate with both wet and dry hands. We also looked at where the grind size adjustment is and how easy it is to adjust the grind size.
Lastly, we considered the mills' value, contemplating its performance in comparison to those in a similar price range to help determine the best pepper mills for a variety of budgets.
We examined the overall construction quality of each mill, the ease of filling, sharpness of the blades, if it leaks pepper after grinding, and its capacity.
To begin, we closely examined each mill's construction quality. Six of the pepper mills tested are wood, a classic choice for pepper mills. Two are plastic, and one is glass and metal. To no surprise, the more expensive wooden mills had a better quality than the plastic mills. The Fletchers' Mill Border Grill is handcrafted of solid cherry and features a removable mechanism allowing you to clean it thoroughly on the inside, the only mill tested with this feature. The Oxo Good Grips Radial Grinder left our testers wanting in terms of quality; while filling, the door came off its hinge, causing us to have to pull it back into place. We also struggled to get the door closed after filling the grinder, which are issues we did not encounter with other grinders.
All of the pepper mills in our test required a funnel to fill. In our testing, the peppercorns continually jammed in our plastic funnel, so we constructed a funnel from a coffee filter. The easiest pepper mill to fill is the Kitchen-Go Grinder, which features a large glass jar that has a fairly wide opening. Due to their designs, we found the Oxo Good Grips Radial Grinder and the Kuhn Rikon Ceramic to be the most difficult to fill. Each has a chute-like plastic door for the peppercorns to flow into. However, instead of spreading out, we found this design caused the peppercorns to pile up, requiring us to tap the grinder continually during filling, not only to reach maximum capacity but also to close the door.
Next, we ground pepper in various grind sizes to determine the sharpness of the blades. We found mills with hardened steel blades to grind the black peppercorns faster and more consistently than those with a ceramic blade. The Peugeot Paris u'Select and Cole & Mason Derwent Grinder stand out for how quickly and efficiently they grind. Both mills easily and quickly crush the peppercorns resulting in a very consistent grind.
A pet peeve of many pepper mill owners is if the mill leaks pepper after use. Mills such as the Kitchen-GO Grinder and Oxo Good Grips Radial Grinder come with a cap to catch loose pepper. However, this is also one more thing to keep track of. We set each mill down on the cutting board and the light-colored counter to see how much pepper leaked out after grinding. The Trudeau Seville 10-Inch left the most pepper residue on the cutting board after use, which makes it a poor choice for use at the dining table. The Fletchers' Mill Border Grill, Kuhn Rikon Ceramic, and Peugeot Paris u'Select all had minimal pepper residue after use.
Lastly, we weighed how many ounces of peppercorns each mill held. Holding the most peppercorns at 3.7 ounces was the Kitchen-GO Grinder. This larger capacity means it will be quite some time before you need to refill this mill. The Kuhn Rikon Ceramic holds 2.4 ounces of peppercorns, despite its sleek design. While it looks large, the Fletchers' Mill Border Grill only held .6 ounces of peppercorns, the smallest amount in our testing, which means more frequent refills. For someone who uses their pepper mill daily, this should be a consideration.
An important feature of a pepper mill is the ability to select the grind size and having a consistent grind. To test each pepper mill's grind size, we ground our black peppercorns, starting with a fine grind and working our way to a coarse grind, then repeated the process three times. All of our pepper mills advertise an adjustable grind size. Our testing, however, proved that not all had much variation between the fine and coarse grind size, nor was the grind size consistent amongst the grinders.
The pepper mills had two types of grind size selectors, a dial with preset grind sizes and those without preset settings. The Cole & Mason, Peugeot Paris u'Select, and Zassenhaus Speyer Beech Mill all feature six preset grind size settings ranging from fine to coarse.
Of all the mills we tested, the Peugeot Paris u'Select has the most consistent grind size. It features their u'Select mechanism, which stays firmly in place. Its case hardened steel grind mechanism is two-stage, which first cracks and then grinds the peppercorns resulting in an incredibly consistent grind. During each turn, it also dispenses a nice amount of pepper that allows for more control over the quantity of pepper for a dish.
We found the fine setting on the Cole & Mason to come out much more clumped in comparison to the Peugeot, whose design it is most similar to. Periodically the grinder was also prone to bind up, making it hard to turn.
The remaining six pepper mills grind size selector is either a top screw or on the bottom where the peppercorns come out. There were two reasons why we found both of these designs to be imprecise. First, we found it very difficult to get the same grind size after changing the grind size. Second, this design was prone to bind up with peppercorns, making it difficult to reduce the grind size back to fine from coarse.
Despite having a top screw to adjust grind size, the UMIKAkitchen Wood Grinder produces a fine grind no matter the knob adjustment. We found the same to be true with the Kuhn Rikon Ceramic, whose dial is on the bottom and only produced a semi-fine grind regardless of being turned towards fine or coarse.
The biggest disappointment of all mills tested was the Zassenhaus Speyer Beech Mill, especially given its price. On the first use, the mill gave us a consistent grind as we adjusted the preset grind size from fine (one) to coarse (six). But once we tried to turn the dial back to fine, we found the initial grind size was more of a four as the peppercorns had bound up in the grinding mechanism. Once we got the grind size back to fine, we tried to repeat the process, working our way back up to coarse, just to find the grind size remained fine and did not increase in size.
Ease of Use
Some pepper mills are easy to turn, while others are much more difficult. In part, hand size and strength play a role in this, which is why we have also considered this when determining the ease of use of the mill. We also took into account the grind size selector's location as an ease of use factor, as some mills are easier to adjust with wet or greasy hands.
As mentioned under the Grind metric, the pepper mills we tested either had a preset dial, top knob, or bottom dial to adjust the grind size. The Cole & Mason Derwent Grinder and Peugeot Paris u'Select both have the preset grind size dial located towards the base of the mill. To operate each, you simply hold the shaft and twist the base. Even with wet or messy hands, this design is easy to use, and once the grind size is selected, both are firmly in place.
Our testers found the shape of the knob on the Fletchers' Mill Border Grill to be quite easy to twist for both very small and large hands. Its grind size selector is a locking crown nut design, allows for 33 grind sizes, according to the manufacturer. While our testers were unable to discern 33 different grind sizes, we could produce a variety of grinds from fine to coarse.
We found the pepper mills with a grind size dial on the bottom to be more difficult to operate with wet or messy hands from cooking. Your hands can leave moisture in the area that causes the pepper to clump as it comes out. We testers found the Kitchen-GO Grinder to be very hard to hold and grind with greasy hands because the glass jar slipped as we held it.
The Kuhn Rikon Ceramic is a unique design in that instead of rotating the head or a handle, you ratchet the handle from side to side. In terms of hand strength or dexterity, this design was the easiest to operate as it required little effort. However, the grind size selector knob is on the bottom, meaning wet or greasy hands will cause the pepper to clump as it comes out unless the area is completely dry and does not have a great variation in grind size.
When considering the value of a pepper mill, we took into consideration the variety of grind sizes, its construction, and ease of use.
The Peugeot Paris u'Select is of a similar price to three of the pepper mills we tested. Despite costing more than some of the more affordable pepper mills we tested, it has excellent value due to its consistent grind size, overall quality, and ease of use.
For those looking for a more affordable pepper mill, the Trudeau Seville 10-Inch is a solid choice. Its wood construction is easy to grind with and can grind peppercorns finely to semi-coarse. We were never able to achieve a true coarse grind with it.
When searching for the right pepper mill for you, consider if you want to adjust the grind size or if a coarse grind size is something you even need. For those who use just fine ground pepper, a less expensive mill will get the job done. However, if you want a variety of grind sizes and the ability to adjust the mill with messy hands, we recommend looking at some of the slightly higher-end models with either a top knob or preset grind size selector. We hope our review helps you make an educated purchase decision for your next pepper mill.
— Tara Reddinger-Adams