A few years ago, at a previous job, I did a story on the best pepper mills. So many little peppercorn crushers lined my desk that I couldn't open an email without sneezing. (Why is pepper so sneeze-inducing?) It was fun to watch my coworkers take them all in when they'd stop by my desk to chat. I had mills from the top brands (like Peugeot, Le Creuset, and Cole & Mason), yet there was one that almost every visitor picked up.
It happened to be my personal favorite and ended up being the one that came home with me. It's still the one I use today, and it's also a favorite among many Kitchn staffers. And I recently learned that it's Ina's favorite, too!
It's the PepperMate pepper mill, and I'm willing to bet that most people haven't heard of this brand. Which is a shame, because it's seriously the best. (Ina flat-out says so: "My pepper mill is called PepperMate and it's the best," she wrote on Instagram in response to a follower's question after she posted a video showing how she makes croutons.)
What I (and presumably Ina) like about it, for starters, is how easy it is to load. Unlike other mills that have a small round opening and an obtrusive metal rod through the middle, this one has a nice big opening. (The Amazon photo above is actually upside-down, so you'd take off the piece on the bottom and have all that space to dump the peppercorns.) No runaway peppercorns all over the counter and floor! And it holds more peppercorns than other mills, so you refill it less often.
While you're refilling the mill (or just mid-cooking), you can easily adjust the grind of the pepper. And because the mill's easy-to-turn knob is off to the side (rather than part of the mechanism that affects the grind), the coarseness level that you carefully pre-selected won't change as you grind.
There's also a clear cap, which catches errant pepper that might fall out when you set the mill on your table, and it has measurement markings, in case you need a specific amount.
I'm saving the actual grinding mechanism for last because people love to geek out over grinding mechanisms. All you really need to know here: It's ceramic and won't rust.
Oh, and the shape! It looks way different than traditional pepper mills — and that's not a bad thing.
Do you have a favorite pepper mill? Tell us about it in the comments below.