A hard-working, everyday piece of kitchen kit – the humble salt and pepper mill needs to stand the test of time. Essential for seasoning your food to perfection, whether that’s while rustling up a meal, or sitting at the dining table.
However, there’s really no need to spend a fortune and you can expect a good quality set to last many years, with some in our round-up even coming with a lifetime guarantee.
We hadn’t considered this before, but as well as grinding tough black peppercorns and rough sea salt, many of the sturdy mills with good quality mechanisms are also capable of crushing whole spices too – a handy kitchen hack we’re happy to have discovered.
Personally, we prefer a grinder that dispenses the fruits of its labour from the top, that way kitchen mess is kept to a minimum, however, some of these clever contraptions even come with their own pretty plate, so whatever your preference, there’s an option for that.
And if grinding by hand sounds like too much effort, we’ve even included a battery-powered option, which will dispense freshly ground seasoning at the touch of a button.
At the other end of the gadget spectrum is a simple salt and pepper shaker, if you don’t require freshly ground condiments.
Another thing to consider before selecting your mills is where your set will be kept when not in use. Do you want a stylish pair, worthy of keeping out on display? Or would you rather something small and compact that will stay tucked away in a cupboard until you need it.
When testing we were looking for user-friendly sizes, easy to fill contraptions that looked chic at the same time.
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Menu norm bottle grinder salt and pepper set: £60, Harvey Nichols
In stylish, muted shades of grey and off-white, this Scandinavian salt and pepper mill set is as good-looking as it is functional. Each mill is comprised of two parts which simply pull apart for you to fill the bottom half. As well as grinding coarse sea salt and black peppercorns, these would also work well on whole spices and seeds, with a choice of three settings which determine how fine you’d like the result. The outer shell is made of silicon, which is easy to wipe down and each mill is finished with a light wooden top. As the opening is at the top of each grinder, you won’t leave a trail of salt and pepper in your wake when out of use.
Zara Home berghoff salt and pepper grinder: £19.99, Zara Home
Reminding us of something we might see in a rustic Italian trattoria, these sleek black salt and pepper mills will look just as great in the home. Measuring 27.5cm in height, these tall mills are made from wood and have a sturdy ceramic and stainless steel grinder mechanism. To fill, unscrew the knob at the top, remove the lid and fill to the top – which should keep you going for some time.
Tower electric salt and pepper mill set: £22,99, Wayfair
Save the elbow grease and invest in a battery-operated pair of mills instead. Making light work of grinding salt, pepper and other spices, just hold down the button on top and an LED light will appear, making it even easier to see what you’re doing. They’re stylish too, sporting a very on-trend marble and rose gold design, paired with an acrylic section allowing you to see what each grinder is holding. A good option for those with arthritis in the hands or other mobility issues.
Cole & Mason gourmet precision+ Lyndhurst ash inverta salt and pepper mill set: £99.99, Cole & Mason
New for 2019, the Precision+ grinding mechanism is billed as Cole & Mason’s “best pepper grinder ever”. The new technology has been created to release more pepper per turn and will come from the top of each mill, to keep your kitchen sides free from residue. With a pleasing weight and smooth carbon steel mechanism, these mills are available in either Nordic white with steel or chestnut and rose gold designs which should fit into most kitchen colour schemes. These offered the widest grind choices, with six options for pepper and three for salt and we found filling each mill from the base very easy. Although one of the most expensive brands we tried, these mills are covered with Cole & Mason’s lifetime mechanism guarantee.
Anthropologie bistro salt and pepper shakers: £16, Anthropologie
Reminding us that not all salt and pepper mills need to be purely functional is the fabulously eclectic homeware brand, Anthropologie. Designed in an elegant, black, white and gold tile effect pattern, the set contains a pair of shakers for your salt and pepper, labelled with a large S and P respectively, as well as a very handy dish to collect any rogue crumbs. There is also a butter dish, various sized canisters (ideal for sugar cubes, tea bags and the like) and coasters in the same design.
John Lewis & Partners hammered copper salt and pepper mills: £45, John Lewis & Partners
The trend for hammered copper in homeware pieces shows no signs of dying down. Unlike clinical silver or showy gold, this more muted metal has the ability to soften décor, with a warm glow which works back with a number of kitchen colour palettes. This simple and pretty set is very straight forward to use, with just the one grind setting. To fill, just you just twist the silver tip, remove the top half of the mill and simply pour in your salt or pepper before reassembling – leaving the pair to shine on the kitchen counter whilst not in use.
STAUB salt and pepper shaker Set: £9.95, STAUB
Cheap, cheerful and unapologetically low tech, you won’t find any mechanical grinders in this set. Instead, a simple shake and you’re away. Measuring a diminutive 7cm in height, they take up very little space in compact kitchens and add a cheerful pop of colour in this rich dark blue hue. Obviously, you’ll need to buy pre-ground salt and pepper but despite the simplicity, French brand STAUB is one you can trust, hailing as they do from the food-lovin region of Alsace. Crafted from the brands signature ceramic, we’re confident these are built to last, despite the reasonable price tag.
The verdict: Salt and pepper mills and shakers
We’ve been the happy owners of this set for years and they show no signs of giving up on us yet. Well priced, stylish and simple to use, the Menu norm bottle grinder set is a design classic.