Updated: November 2017

Pepper Mills - Salt and Pepper Shakers

Peppermills, pepper grinders, salt and pepper shakers -- whatever you call them, we've all got them stashed on the kitchen counter or on the table. For as long as people have been eating food they've been trying to add and improve flavor with spices, with salt and pepper being the most common additives in our culture. Pepper comes from the black pepper plant -- its fruit, when dried, becomes peppercorns. Those little round balls are hard, so you need a pepper mill to grind them up and make fresh ground pepper. Most pepper grinders work the same way -- when you turn the top, peppercorns are channeled into, and then ground up by, two metal grinding heads. You can buy rock salt and use a salt mill as well, though most people opt for table salt and simply use a salt shaker. Given that we use our salt and peppermills almost daily, it should come as no surprise that you can buy some very nice looking, and functional, shakers for your kitchen. In this guide we will take a look at the best salt and pepper shakers out there -- what to look for in a pepper mill, who makes the best ones, how much they cost, where you can buy online and get the best prices.
best pepper mills

Putting together this guide, we not only gathered recommendations from our own personal experiences, we also delved into the most popular cooking and product reviews sites to find out what other consumers were saying. Which salt and pepper shakers worked best? Which peppermills were the most popular, and why? After a lot of reviews and research, our results are below. You can view the list of best-selling pepper mills here.

Peugeot - Best Peppermills and Pepper Grinders:

When the dust cleared, our favorite name in pepper mills remained Peugeot. While Unicorn, William Bounds, and Vic Firth also make popular peppermills (and many are good looking), we kept coming back to the quality of the Peugeot pepper grinders. Now you may think of funky European cars when you hear the name Peugeot, but they've been making salt and pepper mills for more than 100 years. In France, they are the standard -- and for good reason in a land of chefs. When you buy a pepper grinder, you want to look for a few key features.
  • First of all, you want to be able to adjust the grind from fine to coarse -- different food types and different recipes can call for coarse little chunks of pepper to a very fine dusting. A good peppermill does both, with varying levels in between, and is easy to adjust.
  • I like a pepper mill that is easy to fill -- it shouldn't be complicated to open it up or get the peppercorns inside, and it should hold enough to last a good while.
  • A good peppermill should do all the hard work for you -- that means case hardened steel grinding heads powered by an easy twist of the top.
  • Personally, I also like a solid wood grinder that's not going to crack or break if you drop it (but I can be tempted by the stainless steel look as well, just not big on plastic and acrylic).
  • Your pepper grinder should be good-looking. Why not, it will be on display and in use every day in your kitchen, right?
  • Finally, I want a pepper mill that is the right size for my hand -- it needs to be big enough so you can easily wrap one hand around it and hold it tight while the other hand cranks it.
  • (When it comes to salt mills, you want one with stainless steel grinders, since salt can corrode other metals and you'll end up with metal shavings as well as nicely ground salt.)

Peugeot scores high in all these areas. RECOMMENDED: Our favorite model is the Peugeot Chateauneuf Pepper Mill ($80). Peugeot peppermills have grinders with 2 size grooves in them. The larger grooves (called channeling grooves) feed in the peppercorns and crack them, while the finer grooves do the final grinding. They are also made of case-hardened steel, making quick work of those peppercorns, while built to last a long time. Peugeot mills come with what's called U-Select, allowing you to choose from 6 levels of coarse to fine grinding. You adjust it by turning the knob on top -- looser makes for more coarse pepper, tighter makes for finer pepper. It can get a little wobbly in the loose setting, but it's supposed to. You remove the knob on top to fill it, then just screw it back on. The Chateauneuf style combines dark hardwood with stainless steel bands - they are very handsome on your table or counter, especially in a modern kitchen. I can grind VERY fine pepper with this mill, allowing it to blend it perfectly with food, no little hard bits anywhere. Sometimes with a steak or something I like coarser pepper, and it does that as well -- it's very easy to adjust and get just the pepper you want. They come in black, red, or cherrywood color - I prefer the black.

Peugeot makes many different styles and designs of salt and pepper shakers -- some people like the see-through acrylic look so you can tell when they need to be refilled. Others like the total stainless steel look. We've inlcuded a link here to browse all the different Peugeot pepper mill styles
Our only complaint on some of these Peugeot grinders is that they can be a little tough to fill. You have to get the peppercorns in around the ring in the center of the grinder, so you have to pour slowly -- you can't just dump a big handful in. Other than that, they are our first choice when it comes to peppermills.

Electric Peppermills and Pepper Grinders:

In an age of modern convenience, of course there is an option of an electric peppermill (to save you from the "work" of turning the grinder yourself!). Our favorite (and best-looking) is the Peugeot Elis u-Select Electric Pepper Mill ($120) - you just press the button and out comes your freshly ground pepper from the bottom. It even lights up when in use so you can see how much pepper is coming out -- a nice touch, and something you can't do with a regular wooden pepper mill. You can browse various electric pepper mills here -- the Trudeau Graviti models are also popular and get good reviews, and they are quite a bit cheaper if you don't want to spend $100 on a pepper shaker.

Other Popular Pepper Mills and Salt Mills

OK, so not everyone loves Peugeot. Two other pepper mills stood out in our reviews, you may want to take a look at them as well. The first is the Unicorn Magnum Plus Pepper Mill (about $45). It's big (holds 1 cup of pepper), easy to fill (large hole in side), and is recommended by many cooks and cookbooks. It's plastic, which I don't love, but many people are happy with it, and it does a good job of grinding, which is the main thing. The other peppermills with some flair are those made by Atlas. Available in a variety of copper and brass colors (around $65), these are some of the best looking salt and pepper grinders we have seen. I think the quality of the Peugeot mills is better, but I wouldn't mind displaying some of the Atlas peppermills in my kitchen.