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Peppper Grinders Features (continued)

Ceramic vs Stainless Steel Pepper Grinders.

The best cheap pepper mills feature either stainless steel or ceramic grinders. Although some cooks seem to prefer ceramic grinders, experts aren't convinced there's much difference in the end results.
Ceramic is harder than steel and generally wears better, but it's more expensive to produce and can shatter. Among the cheap pepper mills we researched, the OXO Good Grips Pepper Grinder, Trudeau Graviti, and Artesio Soft Touch are ceramic grinders.

Some committed cooks also insist it matters whether a pepper mill crushes or grinds the pepper. Apparently, crushing makes for a more consistent grind. We didn't come across comments posted by everyday cooks about the crush v. grind debate, but if it's important to you, note that the William Bounds WB-1 Key Pepper Mill and the Peugeot Paris U'Select come down on the side of crush.

Pepper Grind.

There will certainly be times, when preparing steak au poivre, for example, when a pronounced pepperiness (requiring coarse grains) is in order. But experts say a fine pepper grind is about all you need for everyday cooking. This is one dimension, though, in which bargain pepper mills sometimes fall short -- even our choice for best low price pepper mill, the OXO Good Grips Pepper Grinder, garners complaints from some consumers about the fine pepper grind being too coarse. Here's the rub: For a pepper mill to turn out finely-ground pepper on a consistent basis, the two wheels that do the grinding must be well-machined and fit tightly, requirements that invariably up the price tag. So if consistency and tiny, fine particles are important to you, you might want to skip passed the cheap pepper mills category entirely. The seven-inch Peugeot Paris U'Select is a bit out of our price range but seems to hit the mark here; users posting reviews say the six grind settings produce grinds of distinctly different sizes.

Review continues below

Most low-cost pepper mills, however, do allow for some adjustment in the grind. Sometimes it's the little knob or cap atop the pepper grinder that you tighten for a finer grain or loosen for a coarser grind; you'll find this on the Olde Thompson Aspen Pepper Mill. Experts say this is the least effective method because the cap inevitably loosens given its proximity to the turning mechanism, making control over the grind texture tenuous at best. Among our cheap pepper mills picks, only the William Bounds Key Mill has anything similar. On this model, though, the little knob on top is not relevant because there's a metal ring around the finial with different pepper grind settings that you click into place.

The other pepper mills we researched use a variety of methods for adjusting the grind. The five settings on the OXO Good Grips Pepper Grinder are easily visible at the top of the unit and easy to change. The pump-style Chef'n Pepper Ball has a lever that offers five different settings. The Trudeau Graviti, the budget electric pepper mill we researched, features a knob on top that's used to adjust the grind, and the Artesio Soft Touch Electric Pepper Grinder sports a small screw on the side that you turn to get the desired coarseness. The only pepper mill on our list with a fixed grind is the Vic Firth Pump & Grind.

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