Good Question: What's the Best Pepper Mill?

A question of pepper mills, from reader Robyn:

I am perplexed by the assortment of different pepper mills out there. I am a fairly serious cook and my peppermill gets a workout (I have a terribly junky one now, and am ready to upgrade). I am willing to spend a few bucks on something that will last, so here are my questions...

Read Robyn's qualifications for a new pepper mill below and see our answer.

Robyn's questions:

- I am leaning toward one with a top handle, as I currently have the one where you twist the top vs. the bottom and it gets stuck sometimes (but maybe that is because of the fact that it is so cheaply made?)

- I want something that performs, but is presentable at the table as well.

- How does everyone feel about a matching salt mill ... does it make a difference? I usually use coarse Kosher salt from a little covered pot, but if freshly ground sea salt makes any difference, perhaps now is the time to make that switch as well.

Any product/performance suggestions welcome!

Thanks, Robyn

Robyn, this is a great question, as a pepper mill ends up being a tool most cooks reach for over and over again. We are also looking to replace our old mill, so we're interested in any suggestions the readers have.

Here are some of the pepper mills we blogged about in the past. The first, the Perfex, is our current front-runner. It's a great blend of form and function, with a charmingly old-fashioned look and design. We like the chute that opens to pour in pepper. It also feels great in the hand, and it's not too big to see over like some of these monster tall pepper grinders!

Perfex Pepper Mill - These are expensive, retailing for about $60, but they last for a long time.

Peugeot Pepper Mill - We gave a set of these red lacquer salt and pepper mills away last December, and people went crazy over them. The Peugeot mills made Dwell's list of iconic kitchen items, and rightly so. They're well-made and beautiful. They also come in several colors and finishes. You can find this particular set for about $80.

Vermont Marble Crank Peppermill - OK, this pepper mill is pretty extreme - look at all that heavy duty metal! But this may suit some kitchens, and it looks like it would last ages. Retails for $34.95.

ETA - Also, see our writeup on the Magnum Plus pepper mill , which really like as well.

OK, reader picks for pepper mills! What do you say?

Also, weigh in on the salt question. We do not use a salt mill; it frankly seems unnecessary. If we salt our food we use chunky Kosher or flaky sea salt for their crystals' crisp salty texture and the way they dissolves on the tongue. If we are baking we use straight-up fine salt. We have never really understood why we would grind our own salt; salt is salt - no matter whether it's sea salt, table salt, or Kosher salt. (This is barring, of course, finishing salts with their additional minerals and tastes. Just talking basic, un-flavored salt.) When it's ground it often becomes too intense for the food, too, and it makes it ultra-salty.

But feel free to correct us - should we use a salt mill instead of our wooden salt box?

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