by Freddy Tran Nager, Founder of Atomic Tango + Spice Lover; note that this article contains affiliate links, and buying via them benefits the Atomic Tango martini fund…
Some things are worth spending extra on, even if they’re just everyday objects that spend most of their existence in a cupboard. One of those things, I discovered the annoying way, is a good pepper grinder.
I dig on fresh black pepper. Not only does it perk up the dullest dishes, it also packs a wealth of nutrients. And according to my client, nutritionist Rachel Beller, black pepper combined with turmeric makes for one power couple:
…eating turmeric with black pepper — which contains the powerful substance piperine — improves your body’s absorption of the curcumin… this dynamic duo can play a role in the prevention (and possibly even treatment) of breast cancer.” – from Rachel’s book Eat To Lose, Eat To Win
I know, I digress, but I thought you might dig this cool little factoid.
Digression aside, I add black pepper to nearly every savory dish I make. That means the pepper mill I use must survive a regular workout. The plastic grinders that come with Trader Joe’s peppercorns (right) don’t cut it — they can handle their one filling of peppercorns before the grinding mechanism falls apart. (Mmm, plastic particles in my food.) Plus, they scream “Freddy refuses to grow up” to my dinner guests.
So I finally decided to buy a grown-up pepper mill. In the store, my eye immediately latched onto the OXO Good Grips Pepper Grinder (left), with its black-and-steel space capsule design. Perhaps a bit too power tool-like for my wife, but since she wasn’t around to monitor my shopping, I went for it. In my aesthetic excitement, I neglected to look for the three words that would have told me this $25 pepper mill wasn’t a great investment: Made In China.
Sure enough, within a few months, the bottom cap of the grinder refused to stay on, twice leaving a swath of peppercorns on the kitchen floor. I had to apply tape to keep this cap on, which made it look like space junk. Then after a few years of consistent use, the top part came loose, too, and I couldn’t get it to pop back in. Now it was earth junk.
As an environmentalist, I detest our 21st century disposable culture, with everything seemingly designed to wear out. Good for corporate profits, I guess, but awful for our natural resources and landfills. So this time I searched for a pepper grinder that (I hope) will be the last I ever I need to buy. The key words, of course: Made In USA.
Now I know that American manufacturing hardly guarantees high quality — the Ford T-Bird I drove in the 90s attested to that. That said, I still have more faith in this country’s manufacturing standards than in China’s, and I’ll spend more to support American workers. (And FYI, I currently drive a Ford Mustang. So far so good after 3 years.)
This time I purchased a William Bounds Key Mill WB-1 (right) for about $36. It doesn’t have the Oxo’s modern design, but the retro solid-steel top works for me. I would have preferred glass over acrylic for the clear part, but most clear grinders are acrylic these days. (Why I can get a one-time-use beer bottle in glass, but not an everyday-use object, baffles me.) The WB-1 also came with an all-important “Made In USA” ribbon, as well as a limited lifetime warranty. So although some reviewers complained that their WB-1 grinders broke, I’m confident about this one so far — it feels substantial and grinds well.
Now should this fail, I may go Euro. The Perfex Crank Pepper Mill (left) is French and made entirely of metal with a vintage look, but I couldn’t justify the $75 price tag… yet.
The Atlas pepper mill from Greece (right) is also all metal and around $60, but it looks like a prop from a steampunk sex scene. (Insert cheap pun about “spicing up an evening” here.)
So the winner in this round is the William Bounds Key Mill WB-1. I’ll let you know how it works a few hundred spicy meals from now.