We always figured those toddler-sized peppermills had to be better…until somebody told us they’re big only so restaurant patrons don’t walk away with them. Then we believed that our Perfex peppermill was best because somebody said so…until somebody else said something different.
So we decided to put our nose to the grind. We asked the folks at Broadway Panhandler for their top-selling peppermills, and they sent us 14 in all shapes, sizes, and materials. Peugeot was heavily represented because they make a number of popular mills in different sizes and styles.
Then we started testing. Our primary objective was to see which peppermill produced the best ground pepper—that is, an even grind with a decent output from a couple of turns. Because it’s difficult to determine where “medium” is on many mills, we tested the finest setting and the coarsest setting on each. We looked at the quality of the grind. Was fine really fine and coarse really coarse? With some of the mills, we couldn’t tell the difference.
We tested each peppermill with the following also in mind: How easy is it to refill? How easy is it to grind? How consistent is the grind? Are there any noteworthy extra features? How does the mill look? Could it accompany you into the dining room, or should you leave it in the kitchen?
What you like, we discovered, depends on what you’re doing and how big your hands are. We also learned that we prefer mills with large refill chutes and easily removable tops. And we don’t like plastic or acrylic mills.
One last thing: We were testing for standard cooking and seasoning, not grinding large amounts of pepper for something like a peppercorn crust. For that, it’s easier to put the peppercorns between sheets of wax paper and hit them with the base of a skillet than to crank away at a mill. Mills available at Broadway Pan Handler, or call 212-966-0121.
Tip: Unless the manufacturer says otherwise, use only one type of pepper in a peppermill. Oils from different peppers sometimes don’t mix well and can create unappealing flavors.
Peugeot Chateauneuf $69
Refill From the top. Easy.
Use Consistent aim, good weight.
Grind Quality Excellent. A large range; fine was fine, and coarse was coarse.
Extras Has a new technology in which it locks into five separate grind settings.
Consensus Nice mill that needs a new look.
Perfex Peppermill $59
Refill Easy. Side chute opens for emptying and refilling.
Use Crank is a little awkward.
Grind Quality Widest range of grinds, but the coarse was inconsistent.
Consensus The daintiest of our mills; good for smaller hands.
Peugeot Reims $63
Refill From the top. Easy.
Use Precise aim, easy to turn.
Grind Quality Excellent. As with the Chateauneuf, a large range; fine was fine, and coarse was coarse.
Consensus This mill received the best overall ratings.
Bodum Beechwood Pepper Grinder $26
Refill Relatively easy; just pull off the top.
Use A good grip, but too heavy and difficult to turn.
Grind Quality Good. A few quibbles about whether fine was fine enough.
Consensus Was favored more for its design than for its grind, though overall it’s a nice mill.
OXO Grind it $9
Refill Cap difficult to remove, though the large opening makes pouring in peppercorns easy
Use Tricky to use; a deceptive side release button that makes it look automatic.
Grind Quality Good. A nice range of grinds.
Extras The cap doubles as a measuring device.
Consensus The only acrylic or plastic mill to make it into the finals.
Peugeot Fidji $34
Refill Like the other Peugeots, loaded from the top; among the easiest to fill.
Use Accurate aim.
Grind Quality Good. Not a wide choice of grinds, but excellent within its range.
Consensus Only slightly less appealing than the Reims.