OK, I admit it—instead of a fancy pepper grinder on my kitchen table, I keep a pepper shaker. And it’s filled with preground McCormick black pepper. Which, if Cook’s Illustrated is to be believed in its test of pepper for the November/December issue (not online, sorry), is the culinary equivalent of serving Twinkies as the dessert at an elegant dinner party.

In no uncertain terms, Cook’s came down firmly against preground pepper, stating that it “quickly loses all flavor and aroma and is not worth buying.” And even McCormick’s whole peppercorns came in dead last in the testing. Oh, ouch. Well, what should I buy then? Cook’s testing, which focused on the Tellicherry peppercorns that CHOW called “the best of the best,” found that the house brand Tellicherry pepper from New York fine food store Kalustyan’s was tops, while a supermarket brand, Morton & Bassett’s Organic Whole Black Peppercorns, came in a close second.

A sidebar, however, uncovered a pepper really worth swooning over. Parameswaran’s Special Wynad Pepper is grown on one Indian estate without pesticides, and instead of being picked green, the peppercorns are allowed to ripen fully before being handpicked, sun-dried, and vacuum-packed to preserve flavor. This Porsche of peppers was praised for its floral aromas; earthy, smooth, and warm flavor; and moderate heat. It is about twice the price of Morton & Bassett’s pepper, and is available via mail order.

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