Pepper is a popular spice that has been added to recipes for centuries, and its hot, distinctive tang adds depth and heat to a variety of dishes from a range of international cuisines. Made from the berries of the piper plant, pepper comes in an assortment of colours as small, round peppercorns that can be added whole to sauces and other dishes, but are most often used after having been ground into a powder. The powdered pepper can also be added to recipes, as well as being ground directly over the finished food to add a more intense flavour. The whole berries can be easily ground by cooks preparing food and by diners when they need extra pepper on their food, by using a pepper mill; this ensures that the ground pepper is as fresh as possible, enhancing the flavour of this tasty ingredient. The Peugeot family of France developed the first model of the device that we would recognise as a pepper mill around 1840. Mills are still being manufactured under this brand name.
Types of Pepper Mill
Pepper mills are a variant of a device known as a burr mill or grinder – the implement consists of two plates of an abrasive material placed one above the other, with one being rotated by means of a handle by the user. The substance to be ground falls in between the two plates and is reduced to a powder by the rotating milling action; the plates can normally be adjusted by the user to determine how fine the resultant powder will be. Pepper berries can be ground in a basic burr mill, but dedicated pepper mills have now been available for many years, often with matching salt grinders. The familiar pepper mill differs slightly from the burr mill’s design in that the whole top of the mill is turned, not just a handle, and the berries are cracked inside the mill before being properly ground, but the result is the same. This type of mill is now a common sight in most kitchens and restaurants. Pepper mills are not always suitable for grinding salt as they are often constructed of materials that cannot cope with salt crystals; acrylic and ceramic grinding plates will efficiently grind salt into grains of varying coarseness, but plates made from steel or zinc – often used in pepper mills – are not suitable for use with salt. Pepper mills are manufactured using a variety of materials, the most popular being wood for the body and stainless steel for the visible working parts. They are also made from durable modern plastics that have the advantage of being easy to keep clean. See-through acrylic versions are also very popular and are seen for sale in most kitchenware stores.
Manual Pepper Mills
The manually operated type of pepper mill is the design that is most commonly seen and used.
Burr mills are very traditional and somewhat rustic implements for the grinding of pepper berries, although modern versions of this handled grinder are also available on the market. They are now more commonly associated with the grinding of coffee than with pepper, and are produced in very sophisticated electrically powered versions for that purpose. In an old style burr mill the receptacle is filled with whole berries, the handle is attached to the top of the receptacle and, when the handle is turned, the pepper is forced down between the grinding plates, resulting in ground pepper. The coarseness of the pepper depends on how close the plates are to each other, and in some pepper mills these can be adjusted to allow for different grades of ground pepper.
Traditional Pepper Mills
Similar to the burr mill, but with no handle, these are the familiar mills of varying sizes - some very large indeed - that are so often seen in restaurants, cafes and domestic kitchens. The top of the mill itself is turned to grind the contents. The classic design of the Peugeot mill is always fashionable, but there are a number of more contemporary styles to suit the look of most kitchens, coming in a range of colours and materials to please all tastes.
A thoroughly modern take on the pepper mill, these grinders have a pair of top handles that are squeezed together to activate the grinding mechanism. Trendy designs and modern materials make the squeeze mill innovation a refreshing and easy to use alternative to the more traditional style of pepper mill. They are simple to operate, as only one hand is required to squeeze the levers together. These modern designs of a traditional item have ceramic rather than metal grinders that are easily adjusted to set the coarseness of grains. This type of pepper mill is finding real favour with the public as the device can be picked up in one hand with the fingers around the two soft-touch handles. The mill is then centred over the food and the levers are squeezed together until the desired amount of pepper has been dispensed. The squeeze mill is then replaced on the table – the action from beginning to end is completed using one hand.
An ergonomically designed battery powered version of the pepper mill can be a real advantage to cooks or diners with limited mobility or who find a manual mill difficult to manage. Using just one hand a user can easily operate one of these modern mills. Most often constructed in stainless steel, chrome, acrylic, and polycarbonate plastic, the sleek and contemporary design of these electrical pepper mills makes them easy to clean as well as easy to use, and the bright colours and modern design makes them easy on the eye too. Some models of the electrically powered mills are now available that are rechargeable, saving the cost of purchasing batteries and avoiding the fiddly business of replacing them in the unit when they are spent. Another advantage is that the coarseness of the dispensed grains can be adjusted with some models simply by turning a ring at the base of the mill. The addition of a light at the bottom of some types is also very useful as the place where the pepper is to be placed is clearly illuminated when the operating button is pressed.
Find Pepper Mills On eBay
From the eBay home page there are two simple ways of finding specific items - via the dynamic menu on the home page, or by using the search box at the top of the page. Using the dynamic menu involves clicking on the Home and Garden link, and then on Kitchens; from here it is just one more click to Food Preparation and Tools, where pepper mills are listed. The final search can be refined by selecting one of the categories listed in the panel on the left of the page. The other route is to type the relevant keyword(s) directly into the search box on the home page. This will generate another interactive menu that shows all the categories that include the inputted words. From this drop down menu, select the category that is most likely to include pepper mills for culinary use, and then refine the search in the way described above. Before taking part in an online auction, use the information gained from the initial product research to decide if an individual item is listed at a realistic price. Buyers should check that the quality of the product meets their specific requirements, and it is a wise idea to set a limit for the total cost of the item. Some sellers will have put a reserve on their items but bidding above this minimum price does not necessarily guarantee winning the auction, as other eBay users may top any existing bid.
Small and discreet or tall and capacious, manually or electrically powered, pepper mills are useful in both the kitchen and at the table; modern or traditional, the benefits of freshly ground pepper can be had with one of the many designs of pepper mills that are readily available through eBay auctions.