Portable Pepper Mill

318NTJ54B2L._SS500_.jpegI never go anywhere without my portable pepper mill. I have one stashed in my desk and another in the glove box, and still another couple in the kitchen. Trader Joe's sells an outstanding disposable model for a couple bucks, but by far my favorite is the thumb-operated pump mill made by Vic Firth. The sleek designed cylindrical metal and glass device stands 5-1/2-inches tall, and you can tell from its weight that it's a serious tool. Fill the tube with peppercorns, push the plunger, and presto! Delicious, calorie-free pepper. Here's the thing about pepper. It improves just about everything: Steamed vegetables, salads, brown rice, popcorn (try it!), cheese, meat. Whatever you're eating, it will get a real pick-me-up from fresh ground pepper. The stuff that comes out of ordinary pepper shakers bears no relation to pepper, and it might as well be cardboard. I don't go anywhere without my pocket pepper mill. My husband cracks wise that I should have a holster for my pepper mill. Not a bad idea! My son's girlfriend has even taken to calling me "Pepper Mom". Vic Firth Pump and Grind Pepper Mill $18 Don't forget to comment over at Cool Tools. And remember to submit a tool!


  1. I replaced my traditional salt & pepper shakes with two of these. It also works great with rock salt!

    1. Vic Firth still makes drum sticks, right? If so, I see what you did there… “rock salt”

  2. These really are fantastic.

    My mother-in-law had been trying to find a pepper grinder that could be operated with one hand and didn’t have ‘rabbit ears’ for a while, (the push button, it turns out, is much more comfortable), and this is what we found. The in-laws are happy with them, and I had so much fun playing with them in the store that I do think I’ll have to get some next time we think there’s money to go kitchenware shopping, (I have uncharacteristically little self-control when shopping for the kitchen).

  3. I tried these a few years ago and absolutely hated them. It was way to much work on the thumb to produce anything more than a tiny amount of pepper or rock salt. If you actually had a recipe that called for pepper in it it took at least two people trading off.

  4. I’m amused by the idea of a “portable pepper mill” — I’ve never seen one that *wasn’t*. I now have visions of some 12-ton industrial pepper mill the size of a building.

    1. It doesn’t weigh 12 tons, but at 110 cm, I think this no longer qualifies as portable. I guess you could classify it as ‘luggable’…

  5. The pepper mill works well and is nice to have in areas where one would not keep large kitchen-size tools, BUT, it does not have a cap and sprinkles pepper everywhere after you are done peppering your food.

  6. If you want to save a few bucks, there’s a listing on amazon for 2 of them as a salt and pepper set. There is also an even cheaper set made by PepperMate, though they are probably not as sturdy. Of course, I’ve had plastic things outlast metal things simply because the plastic things were well built and the metal things were not.

  7. I can pack this along with my portable record player and solar-powered fondue set.

  8. I’ve never seen one of those push-button design pepper grinders that wasn’t useless. Granted, this one may be different, but it seems to be a function of the mechanism to me. Why not just buy a Schwartz pepper-jar with an integral grinder for the desk at work? I’ve had one of those in the kitchen full of rock-salt for a decade and it’s still fine (the pepper grinder is £2 one from Ikea, and is the best pepper grinder I’ve ever owned).

  9. I need to get one of these. I won’t carry it everywhere, but the pepper mills I have don’t do all that good a job, and this one comes recommended by someone who sounds pretty darned committed to her fresh-ground pepper.

    I’m surprised at the skepticism here towards Cool Tools. Its editor, Kevin Kelly, has, to say the least, a quite distinguished history as a curator of news and reviews of the useful, fun, and interesting. Look him up. His is not just another d00d-l33t-gadgets!! site.

    As for this particular review — folks, you’re reading Boing Boing, a site by self-proclaimed happy mutants, and arguably largely for others fitting that description. What is Pepper Mom if not a perfectly delightful and fitting addition to these pages?

  10. I own one. It was a gift. The grinder does not put out enough pepper for me. You can sprain your thumb trying to get enough pepper out of this thing.

  11. My uncle has had an automatic grinding pepper mill for at least ten years. You simply turn it over and it switches itself on. I think this particular one was from Sharper Image, which would explain why this is only now being classified as a Cool Tool.

  12. Food guy Jeffrey Steingarten wrote once about his friends who traveled everywhere with their own salt, in a little wooden box. So, I’m guessing this whole traveling condiment thing might be more widespread than we might think. Anyone travel with a bottle of Sriracha?

    1. No, but I have been known to travel with my own bottle of cholula. I once had business that repeatedly took me to Kalamazoo, Michigan. Try as I might, I could find no roadside diners or other servers of breakfast who had anything hot to put on eggs other than tabasco. I now make it a habit to bring my own bottle anytime I have to be more than, say, 700 miles from the Mexican border.

  13. Not sriracha, but I do carry a short jar of ground cayenne pepper in my pocket. (My Dad carries one, too.) Almost no place is going to have it as a table condiment; the closest they get is tabasco sauce—and tabasco sauce adds vinegar as well as heat.

    It’s especially great on biscuits and gravy, or on chicken noodle soup when I have a cold.

  14. I gotta say, as someone who enjoys their pepper, this appeals to me. And the idea of bringing my own pepper along is one I had not contemplated but just makes sense. I eat lunch in a work cafeteria that only has the little paper packets, and I often long for my kitchen grinder. TL;DR – I for one appreciate this post. And my wife probably would too. It’s criminal how much pepper we eat.

  15. I never go anywhere without my portable pepper mill. Once, when I was approached by a mugger on the street, he asked me to empty my pockets, and my pepper mill fell out. He was so impressed by the sleek designed cylindrical metal that he just asked if he could have the pepper mill! Unfortunately I ran into another mugger a block later, and since I didn’t have a spare pepper mill, he just took my money, beat me, and left me for dead.

    When I got out of the hospital, the first thing I did was buy two more portable pepper mills! My thumbs haven’t set quite right so I can’t really get the delicious, calorie-free pepper out of them, but now I know that I’m prepared for any situations involving less than three muggers!

    Thanks, Cool Tools!

  16. I’d like to think someone so obsessed about pepper that they feel the need to have their own supply with them at all times would know that black pepper is not calorie free–it is a fruit after all. There are about 16 Calories per tablespoon. That’s not many, but it is also not zero.

  17. I was looking for something just like this to use as a camping grinder for years. I’ve tried several camping grinders and they all suck. Then I found this and I was excited. Then I took it apart and realized it is cheaply made. Very disappointing.

    So I was surprised to see it promoted on your site.

  18. after years of lurking, i registered just to initially comment on this article.

    i love fresh ground pepper. lots of it. when the pepper is freshly ground it has a complex texture of flavours that a pepper shaker can’t have. once the pepper is cracked it loses it essential oils. most notably is piperine. piperine greatly helps digestion & assists the efficiency of getting nutrients from the food that it is eaten with.

    i have been wanting a portable grinder for a while. i will check into this product.

    i really appreciate these “cool tools” articles. it is great to learn about them after they have been used extensively.

    i do have to laugh @ all of the comments from people ripping into their thesaurus just to make a verbal stand against something as mundane as a sincere product review.
    that time could have been spent on reading an article that they like. they should go do that & comment on articles they like & cultivate them.

  19. Moderator note: I’ve reamed out half the comments in this thread since they were off-topic and, in some cases, offensive. If you have meta-commentary, you can place it in the Comment thread. If you have offensive commentary, I’ll leave it to your imagination where you can place it.

    1. One thing I don’t like about those disposable grinders (and other grinders that you have to flip over to use) is that the partially ground up pepper falls back and gets mixed up with the whole peppercorns every time you flip it over. So you soon have a jar of mixed whole and partially ground peppercorns, with the partially ground corns rapidly getting stale.

      Also, I don’t understand the reason for salt grinders. Salt doesn’t get stale, so freshly grinding it has no benefit.

      1. Also, I don’t understand the reason for salt grinders. Salt doesn’t get stale, so freshly grinding it has no benefit.

        For some it is the (false) belief that fresh ground = better taste, but for most salt grinders, it’s the opportunity to buy a large grain salt (or a variety of fancy large grain salts), and still conveniently use it in situations where finer salt is desired (without pregrinding indeterminate amounts).

  20. Well, I or one have been looking for a small portable high quality pepper grinder for a while now. I just bought in. WIsh me luck.

  21. I do protest… If you love pepper as I love pepper and as any good pepper lovin’ bastard should, you cannot love this pepper mill. I too have this pepper mill, and on top of getting carpel tunnel thumb from its use, statistically my food doth become cold as a stone on an early spring morning in the Laplands before I am done putting even an mildly acceptable dusting of pepper grinds on my meal. Two pieces of sandpaper and a bunch of peppercorns would do a better job, but again, only if you really like pepper. If you are only feigning pepper-o-philia, then proceed to your nearest BB&B and procure this device.

  22. Did the deleted comments include all the is-that-a-pepper-grinder-in-your-pocket-or-are-you-just-happy-to-see-me jokes?

  23. Until it’s about the size of a bic lighter its just not portable enough, for me atleast.

  24. Pepper grinder? Pah-leeze. I never go anywhere without my portable, pocket butter churn. Hand-carved of the finest tiger-oak, with teak inlays. Just pre-fill the bottom chamber with your favorite sweet cream, and the top chamber with salt (royal emerald sea salt, natch). Whenever you need a dollop of butter for that slice of sourdough baguette, just depress the titanium-spring-loaded button at the top, not unlike activating a ballpoint pen, a few hundred times, and soon the internal paddles will have done their work. Just slide the extraction lever down to dispense the freshly-made dairy goodness. Yum!

  25. Not to draw this out any further, but if you use something like this as a salt grinder, be sure it’s got ceramic grinders instead of the typical steel. Salt will destroy steel but not ceramic.

    Personally I rock out the Unicorn Magnum because it just works like nobody’s business, but that would mark me as a pepper nerd, which seems like it’s open to mockery to most in these parts.

  26. Also, I don’t understand the reason for salt grinders. Salt doesn’t get stale, so freshly grinding it has no benefit.

    The salt out of the big carton tastes funky to me after using a salt grinder for a while. The grinder probably just uses better quality salt.

    As to salt getting stale, it could certainly pick up ambient odors/flavors while sitting around. Not that the grinder would make any difference.

  27. When I look at that…naughty things come to mind……lmao. I love pepper as much as the average joe but I don’t think I’d go as far as carrying around a pepper mill.

  28. Who looks at a pepper mill and thinks, “Ooh, this could be a little more sonic”?

    1. Everyone should think “Could this be a little more sonic?”

      It would make me happy.

    I hate spicy food, but know a few people who carry melt your face hot sauces with them.

    Personally, I spent 3 hours the other day geeking out over a “professionals only” paper convention that was in town. Sadly, I couldn’t front the mad cash to go and couldn’t work out a way to sneak in. A girl can dream, can’t she?

    Everyone has their “it” that trips their trigger in the most fantastically ridiculous way. That’s one of the few things I like about people.

  30. Also, I don’t understand the reason for salt grinders. Salt doesn’t get stale, so freshly grinding it has no benefit.

    You have to add anti-caking agents to shaker salt to prevent it from absorbing moisture from the air and clumping. With a grinder, that’s unnecessary.

  31. The thumb-operated pump mill made by Vic Firth is great.I will definitely buy one for my kitchen

  32. TThis looks pretty nifty and besides being a pepper mill it could take the place of a roll of quarters in your hand for a fight.

    Thank you mods.

  33. Clever advertisement, “pepper mom”. Seriously, cool tools used to read like earnest reviews of people who really liked a product. This reads a little too much like an advertisement.

    I’m not saying ads on BoingBoing are a bad thing, I know they’re necessary – but please be up-front about whether or not you’re getting paid for “reviews” like this.

    1. Cool Tools only publishes reviews written by real people who have experience with the product. We do not accept payment to review products. For more information about our policies please check out our FAQ. Feel free to contact me at editor@cool-tools.org if you have any other questions!

      — oliver hulland, editor, cool tools

  34. waiting for the day I can buy a wine bottle caddy/bottle opener/pepper mill- for my bicycle.

  35. Dispenses tiny amounts of pepper, is not adjustable, no cap for traveling. Not the ideal travel pepper grinder. The Unicorn Key Top is adjustable at least and does dispense reasonable amounts of pepper.

  36. I have one of these. It works good.
    Vic Firth makes great drum sticks too. I am partial to the Buddy Rich signature model.

  37. I needed to stop by here to tell all you kind, informative people that intelligent discourse in comment sections really can change opinions.

    When I first read this post back in May, I was going to write a snarky comment about “First world problems” or some such thing. Then, I decided to try fresh ground pepper.

    Damn, you guys, it really does make a difference in my cooking and my enjoyment of food.

    So, Potential Troll: 0, Mindful Commentary: 1


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