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The OXO Good Grips Pepper Grinder was awarded the best overall pick. Our tester was pleased with how easy it was to use, the option to change the grind sizes, and the clear see-through body that shows you at a glance how much pepper is left. For a less-expensive option, grab the OXO Radial Pepper Grinder, a grinder that sports a hand crank but is full of nice features.
There's nothing like freshly ground pepper to top off your meal. It can turn what could have been just a pretty good meal into a flavor-packed one. But is there really such a big difference between pre-ground and freshly ground peppercorns when it comes to spicing up your cooking?
Yes, it turns out. Once spices are ground, they start to oxidize, and their aromatics evaporate quickly, so you'll get the most flavor and aroma out of them when they're ground right before you prepare or consume your meal.
But not all pepper mills are made the same. The difference between a cheaply made pepper mill and a higher-quality one can mean inconsistent grinds, clogged or loose grinding mechanisms, and pepper spilled everywhere. You'll also want to look for varying degrees of grind when choosing the right model for your cooking needs.
To help you find the best tools to spice up your meals, we sent top-rated pepper mills to our experienced product tester. Each one was used to grind peppercorns and carefully assessed during hours of home testing. Then, the pepper mills were all rated on design, size, performance, ease of cleaning, and overall value.
Here, we've compiled the best pepper mills so you can make an exciting meal in no time.
Best Overall: OXO Good Grips Mess-Free Pepper Grinder
Clear body shows pepper level
Easy to set grind sizes
Fine grind could be finer
Holds slightly less than a full spice jar
Who else recommends it? Wirecutter, Taste of Home, and Insider both picked the OXO Good Grips Pepper Grinder.
What do buyers say? 95% of 6,800+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above.
The Oxo Good Grips Pepper Grinder is professional-looking, efficient, and affordable. While most grinders have their grinding mechanism on the bottom, this one has the grinder on top, which means you won’t leave bits of ground pepper behind when you set the grinder down—a design feature that makes this model a standout.
The coarseness selector is easy to see on the side of the grinder and easy to adjust, so you can grind fine pepper on your salad, then quickly switch to coarsely ground pepper to coat your steak—all without fiddling with small knobs. In testing and subsequent kitchen use, that’s the feature we liked best, and the reason we love this for kitchen use where we might change the grind size multiple times for different recipes.
The clear acrylic body looks modern and also lets you see how much pepper is left at a glance so you’ll never run out of pepper mid-recipe or mid-dinner. Filling it is simple, too, since you just turn the grinder over and unscrew the cap while the grinder stands sturdily on its head. You’ll be ready to use this right away, because it comes filled with black peppercorns, but you can empty it and refill it with salt or any whole spices you want to grind fresh as well.
Dimensions: 2.2 x 2.2 x 5.5 inches | Coarseness Settings: Five | Materials: Ceramic Grinder, Stainless Steel Body
"Since it’s so easy to change the grind size, this is very handy for cooks who like different grind sizes for different purposes." — Donna Currie, Product Tester
Best Design: Peugeot Olivier Roellinger Manual Pepper Mill with Handle
Quick and easy grinding
Neatly holds ground pepper
A little expensive
Might be large for small hands
If your philosophy with kitchen gadgets is that they should look just as great as they work, this vintage-inspired pepper mill is the perfect pick for you. In addition to the grinder's unique design, in testing we found that we were able to grind a lot of pepper quickly—even with the finest grind settings—so we had plenty for our recipes.
Most of the time, we ground the pepper into the small drawer that neatly caught it and held it until we needed it, but the drawer can be removed to grind directly onto a work surface or food. Once we figured out how to adjust the coarseness, we got quick at it, but it’s certainly not as easy as turning a knob. In subsequent kitchen use, we’ve set it for a very fine grind, since it’s very capable of that. It’s also easy to refill the mill when needed.
Dimensions: 5 x 5 x 5.25 inches | Coarseness Settings: Adjustable | Materials: Stainless Steel Grinder, Beech Wood Body
"When there’s a need for a lot of ground pepper, this grinder is easier on the wrists than a typical grinder." – Donna Currie, Product Tester
Best Wooden: Zassenhaus Speyer Dark Stained Beech Pepper Mill
German ceramic grinder
Antique design (different styles available)
Easy to adjust settings
Takes a little extra effort to grind
Wooden pepper grinders look classic, evoking old-world craftsmanship and high-end steakhouses. This wooden grinder has that vibe and looks like it would be right at home next to the family cuckoo clock, since it’s made in Germany from a 100-year-old design. But everything old is new again, and this would look just as comfortable in a modern setting. It’s made from solid beechwood, lathe-turned, and operates with a metal crank. Inside, it has a very modern ceramic grinding mechanism that’s guaranteed to last for 25 years. This grinder has six positions to adjust the grinding coarseness, meaning you’ll have just what you need, from fine to coarse. And best of all: in tests, it was clear what setting you were using—something that wasn’t true for many of the other pepper mills. Filling it is simple—just unscrew the knob and remove the top—but our tester suggests going slowly to avoid spills, as the opening is on the small side.
Dimensions: 4 x 2.5 x 7.75 inches | Coarseness Settings: Six | Materials: Ceramic Grinder, Wood Body
"The coarsest setting is very very coarse, which could be good for some things. One of the best mixes of sizes I've seen." — Brigitt Earley, Product Tester
Best for Coarse Pepper: Peugeot Paris Chef u'Select Stainless Steel Pepper Mill
Matching salt grinder available
Attractive stainless steel finish
Six easy-to-adjust coarseness settings
Slightly more expensive
Could hold more pepper
Not only is this an efficient and adjustable pepper grinder, but it’s also classically pretty with a brushed stainless steel finish that will stand up to kitchen use and still look nice sitting out on the table. No need to baby the finish—the stainless steel will easily stand up to kitchen spills and subsequent cleaning. This mill first cracks and then grinds the peppercorns for the best flavor.
You can select one of six settings from fine to coarse or choose a setting in between those, for precise control of the grind. In tests, adjustments were incredibly easy to make, and it was always clear what setting you were on. A huge bonus, considering that was not the case with many of the pepper mills we tested.
Peugeot mills are made in France, and each mill is tested before it leaves the factory. As a result, you’re likely to find peppercorns or ground pepper in the mill when it arrives, and you can be sure the mechanism will work exactly as it should.
Dimensions: 5.31 x 5.31 x 7.48 inches | Coarseness Settings: Six | Materials: Stainless Steel Grinder & Body
Best Battery-Operated: Latent Epicure Battery Operated Grinder Set
Automatic grinding is easier on the hands
Light to illuminate dish while grinding
Easily see peppercorn level
Matching salt and pepper grinders
Requires eight AA batteries in total
This set of two grinders (one for salt, one for pepper) has gone high-tech, with push-button operation and an LED light that brightens up the view so you can easily see how much salt or pepper you’ve added to your soup or salad. The included holder provides a neat place to keep the grinders and also helps prevent stray grounds from ending up on your counters, though our tester found this wasn’t wholly necessary, since each grinder has its own lid.
Coarseness is selected using a clear knob on the bottom of the grinder that our tester found was easy to operate, and the spice container twists apart easily for refilling.
If there’s any downside, our tester says it’s the batteries. All together, the set requires eight AA batteries, and more efficient rechargeable batteries are not recommended.
Dimensions: 4.41 x 3.15 x 8.66 inches | Coarseness Settings: Six | Materials: Stainless Steel Grinder & Body
"It's super-easy to grind, since all you have to do is push the button and it automatically grinds the pepper for you." — Brigitt Earley, Product Tester
Best Budget: OXO Good Grips Radial Grinder Pepper Mill
Non-slip knob for good grip
Window to see pepper levels
Holds a lot of pepper
A bit awkward to hold
Doesn’t feel particularly durable
This simple grinder has a budget price, but it’s packed with features that will likely make it your kitchen favorite. For starters, it holds more pepper than you can imagine, while the clear face on the filler door lets you see how much pepper is left. It’s also simple to open the door and shake out a few peppercorns when you need them whole for a recipe.
The base holds ground pepper for you if you don’t want to grind directly onto the food, and it keeps your counter neat, since errant bits of pepper won’t escape from the bottom of the grinder when it’s not in use. This has a ceramic grinding mechanism so you can use it with any type of peppercorn or even for grinding coarse salt.
Just note: The small profile coupled with the long crank arm may feel a bit cumbersome and awkward, particularly at first.
Dimensions: 6.5 x 4 x 2.62 inches | Coarseness Settings: Adjustable | Materials: Ceramic Grinder, Plastic Body
Best Combo Mill: Cole & Mason Lincoln Duo Salt and Pepper Grinder Combo
Convenient salt and pepper in one design
Easy to see ingredient level
Wide opening to refill grinders
Attractive modern design
Pepper residue left on countertops
Can be tough to grip
This attractive acrylic dual-grinder comes filled with salt and pepper, so it's ready for your kitchen or table as soon as it arrives. It's simple to use, and both sides work the same: Hold the bottom and middle, and twist to grind. Then flip it over, and hold the bottom and middle, and twist again to grind the other spice. A simple adjuster knob lets you switch from coarse to fine grinds on each end, though our tester found it a bit difficult to understand what setting you’re on, since it’s not labeled.
To fill, you simply unscrew the entire grinding mechanism from the body of the grinder so you have a wide opening to pour in the salt or pepper, and because the body of the grinder is clear acrylic, you can see at a glance how much salt or pepper is left.
Dimensions: 2.44 x 2.44 x 7.44 inches | Coarseness Settings: Adjustable | Materials: Ceramic Grinder, Plastic Body
"It stashes in a cabinet well, but it's nice enough to leave out. Plus, it looks nice and contemporary." — Brigitt Earley, Product Tester
Best Oversized: Fletchers' Mill Newport Pepper Mill
Long pepper grinder makes a statement
Made in the USA
Created with sustainable wood harvesting and recycling
More expensive option
Difficult to store
Great for cooks who have ogled giant steakhouse pepper grinders, this 17-inch grinder will certainly make a statement at the table as it's being passed around. It’s handcrafted in the United States by a family-owned company, made from sustainably grown wood, and designed to last a lifetime. In tests, the two-step grinding process is a breeze. With a simple twist, the pepper mill first crushes the peppercorns for the best release of flavor and then finishes the grinding in the second step.
Though it can technically be set for as many as 33 different grind sizes from fine to coarse, our tester notes that it’s not clear what setting you’re on without a little trial and error—a pro and a con all at once. For convenience, the pepper mill also has a pop-out grinding mechanism that makes it easier to clean if that's ever necessary.
Also nice: This beautiful pepper mill is available in several different stains, and the company makes smaller pepper mills as well as salt mills to suit every dining table.
Dimensions: 2.75 x 2.75 x 17 inches | Coarseness Settings: Adjustable | Materials: Stainless Steel, Wood Body
"It holds a lot of pepper, since the chamber is the entire length of the pepper mill. Almost 1/2 cup!" — Brigitt Earley, Product Tester
Best Travel Size: Grind Gourmet Travel Salt And Pepper Grinder Set
Great to take to work or travelling
Includes stand to reduce mess
Canvas carrying bag for easy transport
Only one coarseness setting
These little grinders are ready to travel, whether it’s to work, on a road trip, or just to Grandma’s house to surreptitiously add some flavor to lunch. They’re also adorable to put at each place setting for a party and to give as party favors when dinner is done. They’re easy to use one-handed, so they’re great in the kitchen, too, to add a finishing touch to plates as they’re headed to the dining room. These are clear, making it easy to see which is salt and which is pepper, and they come with a clear stand to keep them neatly in place wherever they rest.
They come with a small pouch that can be tucked into a backpack, a pocket, or luggage without worrying about accidental grinding and spills. A sample of sea salt and pepper comes with the set, meaning they're ready for grinding immediately. This set is also available in stainless steel.
Dimensions: 0.75 x 0.75 x 4 inches | Coarseness Settings: One | Materials: Stainless Steel and Plastic
Best for Gifting: FinaMill Battery Operated Pepper Mill & Spice Grinder in One
Requires three AA batteries (not included)
A fun gift for friends who cook, this mill comes with interchangeable pods so one grinder can handle different types of peppercorns—or other types of whole spices that require grinding. It’s battery-operated, so it’s great when you need a lot of spice, and also ideal for one-handed use (though our tester notes that batteries are not included).
Our tester was impressed with how the simple press of a button yielded a generous amount of pepper in a satisfying radius. That said, they struggled to adjust the coarseness, because the dial isn’t labeled.
The set includes two pods designed for pepper, salt, and other dry spices, like dried rosemary—in case there are already enough pepper grinders in the house. Pods for grinding oily spices like mustard seeds, and additional pods for dry spices are available separately. This grinder is available in red, white, or black to match the kitchen or add a pop of color. A rechargeable version is also available.
Dimensions: 3.5 x 3.5 x 9 inches | Coarseness Settings: Adjustable | Materials: Ceramic Grinder Mechanism, Plastic Pods
"It's easy to operate, but it's pretty noisy." — Brigitt Earley, Product Tester
The Oxo Good Grips Pepper Grinder is our top pick because of how easy it is to use. It features a coarseness selector and a clear body so you can see how much pepper is left. If you're going for a classic, high-end aesthetic, try the Zassenhaus Speyer 5.1-Inch Dark Stained Beech Pepper Mill. The wooden, German-made grinder evokes old-world craftsmanship.
How We Tested
Each of our selected pepper mills was tested thoroughly by our product tester for the most authentic results. We rated these mills based on design, size, performance, ease of cleaning, and overall value. We considered the grind mechanisms and coarseness settings of the mills, assessing how fine the pepper grounds were and whether it was consistent each time.
Other Options We Tested
- Dreamfarm Ortwo One-Handed Pepper Mill: Dreamfarm, known for clever and quirky product names, has named its pepper grinder the Ortwo because it can be used with one hand or two. When one hand is busy or messy, grab the Ortwo and squeeze the handles to dispense pepper where it’s needed. Two-handed, grasping one handle in each hand, squeezing can be much faster for grinding a larger quantity of pepper to fill the mise en place bowl or to generously pepper steak. It sounds lovely, but our tester found the innovative pepper mill doesn’t function quite as promised. While it is incredibly easy to fill, thanks to the wide glass mouth on the container, said container does not adequately attach to the handles. As a result, the pepper-filled glass container is always a small nudge away from crashing down. What’s more, the entire thing is incredibly top-heavy and awkward to hold.
What to Look for in a Pepper Mill
Pepper mills work by using a combination of gravity and sturdy mechanisms that grind the peppercorns. The best pepper mills are made of either ceramic or high-carbon steel, because they’re strong and will not flake into the food. The acrylic grinders found in grocery store pepper mills tend to be weaker and inconsistent, and they can shred particles into the food. It’s important to note that salt mills are only made of ceramic, because salt can oxidize and corrode steel, so don’t add any salt to a steel grinder that you might have lying around. That said, salt mills are not entirely necessary, because salt tastes the same whether it’s been pre-ground or freshly ground. (After all, it is a rock. Peppercorns are completely different and significantly benefit from being freshly ground.
Because stainless steel products can be subject to corrosion, ceramic is the ideal material. It will stay sharper ten times longer than a stainless steel blade (ceramics are second to diamonds when it comes to sharpness) and you likely won’t need to replace it, while you may need to sharpen stainless steel. When it comes to the consistency of grind, ceramic produces a slightly less consistent grind than steel because of the grinding mechanism.
In addition to the material of the grinder mechanism, the material of the body can affect how your pepper mill works. While it may seem advantageous to have a transparent (typically plastic or glass) body because you can see when you’re getting low on peppercorns, you should keep in mind that spices need to be kept in a cool, dry place. Keeping your clear pepper mill on a kitchen counter that receives sunlight can cause the peppercorns to lose their flavor and aroma more quickly than if they were inside a wooden or opaque body.
Pepper mills can be as small as three inches to sometimes 24 inches in height. The size that’s right for you depends on the space you have in your kitchen and where you plan on storing the mill. Of course, a pepper mill that’s two feet tall is more on the unpractical side, although it may be a fun kitchen piece to admire. Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference. The bigger the mill, the more peppercorns it can store (which means you’re replacing peppercorns less frequently), but keep in mind that if they sit too long in a mill, they will lose their freshness.
It may sound silly, but holding a few mills in your hand and cranking it is a great way to decide which mill is for you. Some cooks prefer an hourglass shape, while some may prefer something more cylindrical. Grinding pepper is a lot about feel and comfort, so if the size doesn’t work with you, it’s not going to feel right.
While all pepper mills rely on gravity and a grinder to mill the peppercorns, the way you refill the peppercorns varies, depending on the mill. Some have a screw-off top that requires you to remove the head in order to refill the body with peppercorns. In others, there may be a chute that pops off to the side, allowing you to refill without completely dismantling the head from the body. Some mills have their grinding mechanism at the top of the (so you have to turn it upside down when you go to grind pepper), and the refilling apparatus is at the bottom, allowing you to prop the mill upside down and refill it that way.
Some models offer a dial at the bottom of the mill that allows you to set how coarse you want the pepper to be milled. That gives you the option to crank out pepper so chunky that you can feel it between your teeth, or so fine that you can barely see it in your dish. In some models, you can still adjust the coarseness; however, the mill might not have a preset dial, thus requiring you to tinker with the knob at the top of the head and keep grinding until you’ve achieved your desired texture. This can require a little bit of a learning curve, but with enough practice, you will understand how to achieve the coarseness that you’re looking for.
You can find a pepper mill for less than $10, or you can spend upwards of $100. A good benchmark for a pepper mill that will last you a lifetime is around $40. You want a mill with a sturdy grinding mechanism so that you’re not constantly replacing it. Typically, brands like Peugeot and Fletchers Mills offer lifetime guarantees on their grinding mechanism, so it might be worth it to opt for a pricier brand given the warranty program. Anything pricier than $40 is usually just for aesthetics. Remember, you want something that is rustic and durable enough to keep up with you over a hot stove or a crowded kitchen, yet something that you can also place on the table without it being a complete eyesore to all of your guests.
Types of Pepper Mills
Electric pepper mills can be pretty divisive. Peppercorn purists might argue that relying on a button, rather than grinding or cranking by hand, can take some of the magic out of fresh pepper. Electric mills tend to have a slower output than if you were to do it by hand, produce inconsistent grinding sizes, and are more susceptible to breaking down or needing repair. Not to mention, you’ll not only need to replenish peppercorns, but you’ll need to stay on top of batteries (up to six). They also tend to be a bit noisier than manual mills.
Some electric models have coarseness settings, so you may need to tinker with them a little before you start grinding, to find your desired coarseness. Because of their design, electric models are usually much heavier, which can be slightly annoying in the kitchen (especially if you accidentally drop it). It’s not uncommon for an electric model to have an LED light at the bottom, which gives you a better idea of how much pepper you’ve ground. Many home cooks find this feature to be unappealing, distracting, and straight-up unnecessary. While you can still find an electric model that’s cheaper than a manual, it’s important to consider these drawbacks. These mills can be a nice tableside option or a solution if you want to go a bit easier on your hands and wrists, but for the most part, they are not very desirable.
Knob Twist vs. Crank
This is another design option that comes down to personal preference, but most home cooks opt for a classic knob twist. Cranks can be slightly more difficult and yield less pepper per crank. Not only are knob twists simply more aesthetically pleasing, but they’re also way more stable and generally easier to use than a crank. That said, if the crank models feel more comfortable for you, then they’re a perfectly practical choice.
Not only was this the first brand to create a pepper mill, but still today it is one of the most desired brands when it comes to both performance and design at the benchmark $40 price point. Known for its unmistakably consistent grind and sleek yet practical look, this is certainly the pinnacle of pepper mills. Peugeot's pepper mills are also known for churning out the most freshly ground pepper with the least work possible.
With products ranging on the cheaper end of the spectrum, this is a great budget option. It offers many mills with transparent bodies, in case seeing how many peppercorns you still have left is important to you. Its signature mill also has its grinder at the top of the body, so you don’t have to worry about a ring of ground pepper gathering wherever you place the mill down on your counter.
Like any well-loved kitchen tool, pepper mills are going to get dirty. Get into the habit of occasionally wiping down the exterior with a hot, damp cloth, and if it’s extra greasy and dirty, go ahead and scrub a little dish soap on it, too. You’re likely going to be grabbing this thing with sticky, greasy hands, so stay on top of the cleaning.
If you’re planning to use any colored peppercorns, it’s a good idea to throw some black ones into the mix in order to avoid any jams around the grinder. Never add salt to your stainless steel pepper mills, and make sure to keep any moisture far away from the grinder (thatcan lead to oxidation and rust). When it comes to re-filling the mill with more peppercorns, be mindful not to fill it up to the brim, because that makes it harder for the mill to grind the pepper and can lead to jams.
Can you grind salt in a pepper mill?
You should never grind salt in a pepper mill. The grinding mechanism for pepper mills is designed differently from their salt grinding counterparts. Salt will corrode a metal pepper mill grinder, causing it to rust and break.
How does a pepper mill work?
Inside a pepper mill are two grooved disks, or grinders, that turn opposite each other when you turn the pepper mill crank. The peppercorns get lodged between the grinders, snapping open the shells and grinding the peppercorns into pepper. Once the pepper reaches the desired coarseness setting, it will fall through the opening at the bottom of the grinder.
How do you clean a pepper mill?
Pepper mills can and should be cleaned regularly, ideally after every peppercorn refill. To clean a pepper mill, open the pepper mill, and dump any leftover peppercorns, shells, and residue. With a very small dry brush or pipe cleaner, you can wipe out any remaining residue. If the pepper mill is very dirty, it can be rinsed out with warm water. Allow the pepper mill to dry thoroughly to prevent pepper caking and rusting before adding new peppercorns and reassembling. The outside of the peppermill should be wiped down regularly. Use a warm, damp cloth and a vinegar/water mix. "For cleaning, I never use water to clean the mechanical parts," says culinary instructor Sylvain Girard. "Use compressed air occasionally if you have that option. Water can ruin the grinding mechanism if not dried properly."
What is the difference between a pepper mill and a pepper grinder?
"Pepper mill" and a "pepper grinder" are both terms for the same type of product, but mills and grinders are two different types of machines in the larger food production world. Grinders process foods the way most of the pepper mills outlined here do. Food mills, on the other hand, process food by pressing it through a sieve to puree and strain it (without necessarily grinding it first). Most of the pepper mills outlined here have coarseness options that are provided by an internal strainer of sorts that only lets the correct pepper coarseness through. Basically, most pepper mills are actually grinders with strainers, but the terms can be used interchangeably in this scenario.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Food writer and product tester Donna Currie is an expert on all things food, from cookbooks to cooking gadgets. She's written her own cookbook, Make Ahead Bread, and loves to test out her favorite kitchen gadgets and appliances when it comes to developing her own recipes. She also has an extensive blog where she details said recipes. She interviewed Sylvain Girard, a high-school culinary instructor, on what to look for in a good pepper mill as well as tips for cleaning and maintenance. Donna personally tested two of the options on this list.
Sara Tane wrote the Buying Guide portion of this article. She has written for numerous food publications and has contributed to The Spruce Eats since October 2020. She not only holds a dual bachelor's degree in food studies and global studies from UNC, Chapel Hill but also earned a culinary degree from the Institute of Culinary Education.
This article was later updated by Brigitt Earley, a freelance writer who has spent nearly 15 years researching the best home goods and kitchen items for various digital publications, including The Spruce and Good Housekeeping. She tested several models of pepper mills to find the best ones. Brigitt also frequently contributes to parenting sites like What to Expect.
The 4 Best Pepper Mills of 2022. Wirecutter. https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/reviews/best-pepper-mill/
6 Best Pepper Grinders, According to Our Test Kitchen. Taste of Home. https://www.tasteofhome.com/collection/best-pepper-grinders/
The 3 Best Pepper Mills and Grinders in 2022. Insider. https://www.insider.com/guides/kitchen/best-pepper-mill#what-else-we-tested-4