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Best Pepper Grinders

By: Angela Stringfellow on November 08, 2017

The best pepper grinders

If you can't get enough pepper, both professionals and users recommend the Unicorn Magnum Plus 9-inch Pepper Mill (Est. $45). With its generous 1.25-cup capacity, you won't have to refill it very often. It's relatively large, but the modern silhouette and shiny black finish will help it blend in most kitchens. If you don't require a high-capacity grinder or need a more compact option for storage, Unicorn also sells the Unicorn Magnum 6-inch Pepper Mill (Est. $40).

The Unicorn Magnum Plus earns consistent praise from experts for its impressive grind speed, particularly considering its ease of use. In tests conducted by SeriousEats.com, the 6-inch version churns out one teaspoon of pepper with just six and a half rotations. Experts at one professional test kitchen call it "fast and efficient," and give it the highest marks for grind speed. Julie Workman of Foodal.com says the extra-long unit is easy to grasp and fill, thanks to a handy side-loading mechanism, and it "allows the user to have better leverage" for grinding, which you do by grasping the unit's head and twisting. Users concur that it's easy to twist, which is particularly useful for those who have carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, or other issues with dexterity or hand strength.

The main weakness of the Magnum Plus is grind quality, with a fine grind that is a bit too large for some. There are no grind settings – just an adjustable thumb screw on the bottom of the unit, which some experts say may require a bit of trial-and-error to get just the right grind to suit your taste. Made of ABS plastic with a new "Superiore" steel grinding mechanism that the manufacturer says will "grind faster, smoother, finer," the Magnum Plus gets mixed reviews for durability. Most users say it's been going strong for years (more than 12 years in some cases), while others say the grinding mechanism failed relatively quickly. However, owners note that in those cases, Unicorn was quick to replace defective parts or units, even after the one-year warranty was up. The Magnum Plus gets very enthusiastic owner reviews, especially from pepper-lovers who appreciate being able to grind a large amount quickly.

If you prefer a finer grind, the metal and acrylic Cole and Mason Derwent Precision Gourmet Pepper Mill (Est. $40) is one to consider. Sleek and modern, the Derwent is available in stainless steel, gunmetal or copper, making it an attractive addition to any table. This 7.5-inch pepper mill holds about half a cup of peppercorns. And if you'd like a matching salt and pepper set, you're in luck: There is also a Cole and Mason Derwent Gourmet Precision Salt Mill (Est. $45).

Reviewers say the Derwent has more than good looks going for it. At that same professional test kitchen, editors praise the Derwent for its consistent grind quality, both coarse and fine, at every one of its six settings. They also say this pepper mill is easy to fill and hold. Reviewers agree, saying the Derwent is easy to crank and they praise the grind size, particularly for fineness. While most owners don't voice concern about speed, testers at TheSweethome.com say the Derwent isn't as fast as some of the other models they have tested.

The Derwent has a durable carbon steel grinder, but like the top-rated Unicorn Magnum Plus, it hasn't been immune from durability complaints. It has received criticism for the grind-setting markings rubbing off, but new models have etched-on dots to prevent this problem. More notable is that quality control may be an issue: Some reviewers say they got units that did not produce a fine grind, but received replacements that were much better. Fortunately, Cole and Mason offers a lifetime warranty.

If you're more of a pepper traditionalist, the wooden Peugeot Paris u'Select (Est. $45) has a classic, curved silhouette that evokes its French manufacturer's long history. If the 9-inch unit isn't for you, there are six other options ranging from 5 inches to a towering 16 inches. This pepper grinder also comes in several finishes, including natural or chocolate-stained wood; and red, white, and black lacquer. Matching salt mills are available in a range of sizes and finishes.

Experts with TheSweethome.com say the Paris u'Select really shines when it comes to speed and grind precision, turning out "a consistent grind at every level." There are six set grind-size settings ranging from coarse to ultrafine. The Paris u'Select gets particular praise for its finer grinds, but its coarsest grinds might be too small for some. Refilling the unit can be tricky: It requires users to unscrew the metal nut on top and has a relatively small opening.

The Paris u'Select's steel grinding mechanism is backed with a lifetime warranty, while the rest is covered with a two-year warranty. For the most part, it gets high marks for durability, with many owners reporting years of use without any issues. Other owners rave about how easy the Paris u'Select is to hold and operate. However, a significant number of reviewers warn that the finish on the lacquered units cracks too easily. A handful of others say they had issues with larger peppercorns jamming the mill; it's worth noting that the manufacturer recommends using only peppercorns that are no larger than 5mm in diameter.

An inexpensive pepper mill is a great choice for light use

If you love freshly ground pepper, but aren't crazy about the idea of spending nearly $50 on a mill, reviewers say the OXO Good Grips Pepper Grinder (Est. $25) is a strong budget pick. At a diminutive 5½ inches tall, this squat pepper mill won't hog space or call much attention to itself, and the mix of see-through plastic and stainless steel should blend well in most modern kitchens. There is also a matching salt grinder, the OXO Good Grips Salt Grinder (Est. $25).

The Good Grips really shines when it comes to ease of use, experts say. The unit is "easy to turn, so much that a small child is capable of using one," notes Foodal.com's Workman. It's also easy to load from the bottom, with a wide opening that isn't prone to spillage. Another perk: Since the OXO's pepper grinder is at the top of the unit instead of the bottom, you won't have to constantly blow stray pepper off your counter or table. Unfortunately, the Good Grips doesn't have the grinding precision of pricier pepper mills: "There is merely coarse and less coarse," Workman says. TheSweethome.com's testers agree, saying its five settings turn out a similar grind.

Despite its low price, owners are pleased with the Good Grips' durability. They say it performs well for anyone who doesn't require a fine grind and has a comfortable handgrip that makes dropping it less likely. The grinding mechanism is ceramic. OXO products come with a lifetime satisfaction guarantee, and owners give customer service high marks.

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Pepper Mills buying guide

What every best Pepper Mills has:

  • The ability to swiftly crank out enough fresh pepper.
  • A sturdy, easy-to-grip body.
  • A grinder that's simple to operate.

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