Best Pepper Mills of 2020
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 formed into the shape of a cone which allowed the peppercorns to freely fall into the center shaft that holds 1.2 ounces of peppercorns.
The Peugeot was the only pepper mill in our testing to feature 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. We found selecting the grind size to be easy with both dry and wet hands, thanks to the grind size selector being on the base and just requiring a twist. 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, meaning less mess to clean up. If you're looking for a well-constructed pepper mill that is not only easy to use but that has a consistent grind size, look no further than the Paris u'Select.
The Trudeau Seville 10-Inch pepper mill's wood construction has an easy to remove top cap making filling it with a funnel quick and easy, and it holds a little over an ounce of peppercorns. The top knob is easy to turn for a variety of hand sizes and does not 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 were never able to 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 did find that we were able to repeat grind sizes more readily if we twisted the knob one-half turn at a time. For someone looking for a budget-friendly pepper mill the Trudeau Seville 10-Inch is a solid choice.
The *Kitchen-Go Grinder is a basic with a glass peppercorn holder that screws onto a steel base, which contains a ceramic grinding mechanism. We enjoyed the large opening of the glass jar that makes filling a bit easier in comparison to 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.
The Kitchen-GO has a cap to cover the underside, which is great for catching the excess pepper that leaks out of the base. We found this grinder to be tough to use with greasy hands, as they slipped on the glass jar. Overall, we found this grinder to be quite basic and best for someone who will only use it occasionally.
The Fletchers' Mill Border Grill is handcrafted in Maine, from solid cherry, and definitely has a more modern look to it compared to many other grinders. Our testers appreciate that the entire grind mechanism can be removed to allow access to the grinder for cleaning. Our testers find the top knob design easy to turn for both small and large hands thanks to its shape.
The Fletchers' is easy to fill with a funnel but has the smallest peppercorn capacity of our test bunch, which means more frequent refills in a high use kitchen. It's locking nut grind adjuster has 33 different grind sizes according to the manufacturer. Our testers 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 fine 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. We had to grind out the peppercorns in the grinding mechanism and twist the lock nut, repeating the process many times to get back to a fine grind. If you prefer a top nut design for grind size adjustments, the Fletcher is worth consideration.
The Cole and Mason Derwent Grinder is one of the more modern-looking pepper mills we tested, making it stand out. We were able to 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 you the top.
The Cole and Mason preset grind size selector is located at the base and locks into place with a firm twist, which could be problematic for those with a lack of hand dexterity or strength. 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 to their pepper mill, we recommend taking a deeper look at the Cole and 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. This design is noisy, however, 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 found on the underside where the peppercorns come out, meaning you'll want to make any adjustments to the grind size with clean and dry hands. The grind size knob lists fine to coarse. However, despite no matter where we rotated the adjuster to the grind 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. We appreciated the large handle on the grind size adjuster that makes changing the grind size easier, 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 in order 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 tester's biggest issues with the pepper mill was its lack of an adjustable grind size, despite having a top knob grind adjuster. No matter how tight or loose the adjuster was, 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, causing more clean up. Other mills tested had significantly less pepper leaking after use. We suggest considering some of the other pepper mills of a similar price instead of the UMIKAkitchen.
The pepper mill that disappointed our testers the most is the Zassenhaus Speyer Beech Mill. The handle is very hard to turn and we had continual problems with the grind size adjuster. The grind size adjuster has preset settings ranging from fine (one) to coarse (six). On our first test, the selector dial worked well. We then tried reversing the grind from coarse to fine and began to experience issues. The grind size would not change, no matter the setting, 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.
For the price, we expect this pepper mill to be precise and consistent. We can not recommend this pepper mill because of the grind size issues we continually experienced.
Why You Should Trust Us
Cooking has become a major aspect of Tara Reddinger-Adams's life over the past twenty years, as she has continually worked on refining her cooking skills and frequently cooks up meals that get serious praise by clients on her all-inclusive mountain bike vacations. Tara enjoys extensively reading about and researching products before making a purchase 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 going all over the counter and floor. We began our testing with 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.
We then considered how easy the mill is to operate, with both wet and dry hands, because pepper mills are frequently used while cooking. 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. Not surprisingly, the wooden mills which cost more 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, the door came off its hinge while filling, 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. For our testing, we constructed a funnel from a coffee filter, since the peppercorns continually jammed in our plastic funnel. The easiest pepper mill to fill is the Kitchen-Go Grinder, which features a large glass jar with a fairly wide opening. We found the Oxo Good Grips Radial Grinder and the Kuhn Rikon Ceramic to be the most difficult to fill due to their design. Each has a plastic door, like a chute, for the peppercorns to flow into. However, we found this design caused the peppercorns to pile up, instead of spreading out, 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 blades sharpness. 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 and 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. After grinding we set each mill down on the cutting board and the light-colored counter to see how much pepper leaked out. The Trudeau Seville 10-Inch left the most pepper residue on the cutting board after use making 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. The *Kitchen-GO Grinder holds the most peppercorns at 3.7 ounces, meaning 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. Despite looking large, the Fletchers' Mill Border Grill only held .6 ounces of peppercorns, the smallest amount in our testing, meaning more frequent refills, which should be a consideration for someone who uses their pepper mill on a daily basis.
Being able to select the grind size and have a consistent grind is an important feature in a pepper mill. 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 and repeating the process three times. All of our pepper mills advertise an adjustable grind size. However, our testing 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. TheCole and Mason Derwent Grinder, Peugeot Paris u'Select, and Zassenhaus Speyer Beech Mill all feature six preset grind size settings ranging from fine to coarse.
The Peugeot Paris u'Select has the most consistent grid size of all the mills we tested. It features their u'Select mechanism, which stays firmly in place. It's case hardened steel grind mechanism is two-stage, which first cracks and then grinds the peppercorns resulting in an incredibly consistent grind. It also dispenses a nice amount of pepper during each turn, allowing for more control over the quantity of pepper for a dish.
We found the fine setting on the Cole and Mason Derwent Grinder to come out much more clumped in comparison to the Peugeot, whose design it is most similar to. The grinder was also prone to periodically biding 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. We found both of these designs to be imprecise, for two reasons. 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 Zassenhaus Speyer Beech Mill is the biggest disappointment of all mills tested, 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). However, 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 out way back up to coarse, only 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 plays a role in this, which is why we have also taken this into consideration when determining the ease of use of the mill. We also considered the location of the grind size selector 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 and 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 twist the base, while holding the shaft. This design is easy to use even with wet or messy hands, and both are firmly in place once the grind size is selected.
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, which according to the company allows for 33 grind sizes. While our testers were unable to discern 33 different grind sizes, we were able to obtain a variety of grinds from fine to coarse.
We found the pepper mills with a grind size dial on the bottom more difficult to operate with wet or messy hands from cooking, as your hands can leave moisture in the area, causing 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. This design was the easiest to operate as it required little in terms of hand strength or dexterity. 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 similar price to three of the pepper mills we tested. It has excellent value, despite costing more than some of the more affordable pepper mills we tested, 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, as 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 and if a coarse grind size is something you need. For those who use just fine ground pepper a less expensive mill will do the job. However, if you want a variety of grind sizes and the ability to adjust the grind size with messy hands, we recommend looking at some of the slightly more expensive 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