Help me find my daily grind
September 3, 2007 2:43 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for a new pepper mill, but an Amazon search produces an overwhelming 800 results and very few customer reviews. So I turn to you, my Metafilter test market. I use the mill often enough that Target's selection just isn't cutting it anymore, but I don't know which models and brands offer the most bang for my buck. And, aren't Peugeots cars? It should be manual (not electric), it should have a variable grind, a heft in the hand, and a steel or red finish (though I prefer function over form). Tell me if you've got a great grinder. Thanks in advance everybody!
posted by B-squared to Food & Drink (29 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
If you get a Peugeot you won't regret it. Pricy but worth it, and I think they do a life time warranty, which says something about the product, I think.
posted by AwkwardPause at 2:48 PM on September 3, 2007

Everything I've read about pepper mills, which isn't much, recommends the Peugot.
posted by clh at 2:55 PM on September 3, 2007

Best answer: Olde Thompson also has the lifetime guarantee, and it works: I broke one, they replaced it. (What broke was not the mechanism but part of the acrylic housing). They do sell them at Target, so if that disqualifies them, so be it. But I have had one in use in the kitchen for years, and a salt-pepper set on the dining table, both great grinders.
posted by beagle at 3:09 PM on September 3, 2007

I like those SS mills with the little doors that swing open on the side.
posted by caddis at 3:11 PM on September 3, 2007

I believe mills don't keep the pepper fresh enough.

Consider a 60ml glass mortar and pestle.
posted by jamjam at 3:13 PM on September 3, 2007

Jamjam, how do you keep the pepper fresh before grinding it in the mortar and pestle? It seems to me the pepper mill is a reasonably tight container, as is the peppercorn itself. I keep my coffeebeans in the freezer, because the oils in them can definitely go rancid, or at least change flavor, at room temp. But peppercorns keep five years or more, according to several Googled sources, which is much longer than it spends in one's peppermill. At least, in mine.
posted by beagle at 3:24 PM on September 3, 2007

OK, I was wrong. They seem to be aluminum, at least now, but these Perfex mills are the ones and they are really excellent mills. The only downside is that they are small and need to be filled often, but they are the easiest to fill of all mills with that little chute door that just pops open. The grinding mechanism is also very, very good. As they would say on Amazon, this review is based on a previous model, but I would bet they are still very well made. I have a pair of the Peugeot mills, and have lost the Perfex while moving. The Peugeot are very good, and have better capacity, but the Perfex are still my faves.
posted by caddis at 3:26 PM on September 3, 2007

We've been through several pepper grinders, but have finally found our favorite. I just looked at it and it's made in Denmark by Bodum. Ours is shaped like a wine bottle, but made of wood and brushed aluminum. It's this design, essentially. It really works well whether you want just a little pepper, or you really need to grind a good amount quickly, like for a big pot of soup.
posted by wsg at 3:35 PM on September 3, 2007

Response by poster: No Beagle, no disqualification based on Target! I loves me some Target; I simply meant the no-name generics I've bought there in the past. Frankly, I didn't even realize they sold brand names other than those awkward OXO rabbit ear grinders!
posted by B-squared at 3:37 PM on September 3, 2007

I took Cook's Illustrated's advice and bought me a Magnum Plus about 2 months back, and I absolutely adore it.
posted by azure_swing at 4:05 PM on September 3, 2007

We've used a Vic Firth (made in Maine :-) for many years now. Nice weight, variable grind via the screw at top, lovely to look at, but didn't break the bank. Firth used to be the tympanist for the Boston Symphony Orchestra and he made his own drumsticks. Looks like the company has branched out into metals and Mario Batali licensing since we got our ol' Federal model.

We also have a Zassenhaus (German site) that we got as part of a Penzey's gift set. It seems quite good but we don't use it much since we're accustomed to the Firth.
posted by girlhacker at 4:09 PM on September 3, 2007

A very fair point, beagle.

If all the peppercorns in the grinder were intact, I'd agree with you, but many of them are partially ground, which means the preserving seed coat is broken open, and the contents are then subject to oxidation and microbial degradation; worse, there's lots of fine pepper powder on the grinding burrs, which, because of its extremely high surface to volume ratio, is almost certain to degrade from one day to the next if not sooner, and that powder is the first to go into your food when you use the grinder again.

To answer your question, however, I keep most of my pepper in tiny glass vials with polyethylene stoppers and almost no headspace (bought 'em for small machine parts, but most have gone for spice containers). A mortar and pestle can also be used for white pepper and decorticated pepper as well as black, and I recommend white pepper to anyone who thinks they have a bad reaction to pepper, because the black of black pepper is the fermented remains of the pulp of the initially red pepper fruit, and such a person could be reacting to the fermenting organisms (does anyone know what they are?).
posted by jamjam at 4:11 PM on September 3, 2007

Doubling the Perfex mill suggestion.

They're really expensive, but will literally last you forever. And I actually like the fact that they are small and need to be refilled often, because it prevents you from loading it up with 5 years worth of peppercorns that will eventually lose their flavor over time. And it also lets you easily experiment with other types of peppercorns and blends without having to commit to them until you empty the mill.
posted by melorama at 4:19 PM on September 3, 2007

I just received a Peugot pepper grinder last week as a going away present (I recently moved back to the states from Paris) and I am in love with it. In fact, the pepper grinder and I are looking to get married and have little pepper grinder kids.

It's that great.
posted by heatherbeth at 4:19 PM on September 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you're grinding a lot of pepper at once then you should find one of those Turkish coffee mills that's tall and thin, and use that. For quarter-teaspoons, or seasoning at the table, Peugeot mills are really good. You can get mills that have Peugeot burrs in them, but are not Peugeot top to bottom.

The reason Peugeot has a lion - all teeth and claws - as its trademark is because the company began as a manufacturer of wood saws.
posted by jet_silver at 4:33 PM on September 3, 2007

Here are some reviews of the Perfex mill, all of which I agree with wholeheartedly.

The pic in caddis's link is a bit misleading...the shiny polished look in that photo might lead you to think that it's some cheapie thin chrome thing, but be assured that the Perfex mills are friggen solid, and made of a thick, heavy cast aluminum very similar to the type of metal youd find on a meat grinder.
posted by melorama at 4:38 PM on September 3, 2007

Best answer: I have a fifteen year old Cole & Mason acrylic pepper mill with a small salt shaker on top, similar to this one. Still works fine.

Results from a recent Swedish test: the Peugeot Chateauneuf is the test winner ("solid and well designed"), but the Bodum Nissen is also very good, and the Ikea 365+ is the best value. Ikea also sells spice jars that fits the 365+ pepper mill.
posted by iviken at 4:39 PM on September 3, 2007

1) Taller is better (complicated physics reasons I am not competent to describe)

2) Non-plastic grindy bits are better (ceramic or metal is good)

3) Those squeezy ones are not good.

Beyond that, I think a lot is a matter of choice.
posted by ilsa at 5:27 PM on September 3, 2007

Funny. I was just at Penzey's - new to me!. I was looking for a new pepper mill, because mine was not very "controllable". And I picked up a Zassenhaus. I've only used it a couple times, but I really like it.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 5:35 PM on September 3, 2007

Ten years ago I bought a Peugeot. After a brief feeling-out period, it has served me ably since.

The one-handed models are great - if you've got a hankering for carpal tunnel syndrome.
posted by sacre_bleu at 6:11 PM on September 3, 2007

I have to second the recommendation for a Magnum from Unicorn--according to Cook's Illustrated, it has the best mechanism, resulting in the finest possible grind, and it's the fastest of any they tested (almost 4x the volume ground than most of the competitors). I believe they called it the Darth Vader of pepper grinders.
posted by bcwinters at 7:13 PM on September 3, 2007

I love my Perfex! Manual, variable, hefty, awesome.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 7:14 PM on September 3, 2007

Okay, so I have a marvelous old French wooden mill that I got from my mother and am sentimentally attached to, and which I'm very happy with, but I too keep hearing about these Peugeot peppermills. I just went to look though, and there are 57 hundred models. How to pick one?
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:38 PM on September 3, 2007

To answer the secondary question, Peugeot was funded in 1810 and has been involved in the manufacturing of all sort of things (including pepper mills, coffee mills, and bicycles). They were also among the early car manufacturers (and still are, as with peppers mills and bicycles).
posted by bluefrog at 7:44 PM on September 3, 2007

Response by poster: OK, so I have a few manufacturers that are definitely worth looking into, but what about CunningLinguist's question? Is taller better? Are the classic styles superior? What about wood vs. metal vs. acrylic? Is there any reason why one might be preferable? Great answers so far; exactly what I was hoping for!
posted by B-squared at 7:50 PM on September 3, 2007

nth-ing the Peugeot recommendation, but feel free to take it with a grain of freshly ground salt (or pepper) because I used to drive a Peugeot of the automotive variety.

I think your questions on style & design are purely up to your personal preference. Mine (not the car) are acrylic, which is nice and goes well with modern or classic stuff. I've seen some really nice wooden and stainless Peugeot mills that do as well. Since none of them are airtight, I can't imagine the material makes a difference other than aesthetic.
posted by altcountryman at 8:30 PM on September 3, 2007

Peugeot mill for the last thirty years. Still works beautifully though the finish has been funky the last several years. I had a Perfex before that that just wasn't that enjoyable to use. Pinching that little handle seemed fine until I got a mill you put your hands on. You use more of your body with an upright mill so it seems to be less effort.
posted by pointilist at 9:04 PM on September 3, 2007

I used to use a Perfex, but found it fiddly and too hard to refill. I bought a Peugeot a few years back to replace it and have used it happily ever since. Dependable gind, adjustible and reasonable capacity.
posted by bonehead at 7:47 AM on September 4, 2007

I have nothing but good to say about William Bounds's pepper mills.
posted by RogerB at 9:10 AM on September 9, 2007

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