One-Handed Pepper Mills

Published April 2011
Update: July 2012
Since this review was published, a few readers complained that the handles of our winning Chef'n Pepper Ball broke, so we went back into the kitchen to grind 1/2 cup of pepper every day. That did it: The handles, which collapse when twisted off the base for refilling, refused to click back into place after less than a week of heavy-duty grinding. Our previous runner-up model is now our top recommended one-handed pepper mill.

How we tested

One-handed pepper mills hold one obvious advantage over the usual two-handed twist styles: They free up the other hand to stir a sauce or turn a whole raw chicken for seasoning. One-handed pepper mills can cost well over $100: We set a ceiling of $50, which allowed us to include mills in many styles and sizes, both manual and electric. We put six to a range of tests, focusing on the quality of each grind (from fine to coarse), the output of each mill (the efficiency in producing 1 teaspoon of ground pepper), and ease of use.

To win us over, any one-handed pepper grinder would have to match the output of our favorite two-handed mill, which produces plenty of perfectly ground pepper with minimal effort. Alas, only a few electric models and just one manual version matched the output of our two-handed favorite; the rest took twice as long, or longer, to produce the same amount. One electric model produced uniformly ground pepper at five settings as quickly as our winning two-handed mill. And one manual model proved easy to fill and adjust for different grinds, and it operated one-handed with no need for batteries or electricity. Neither model would compel us to retire our favorite two-handed grinder, but at just $11.95, our winning one-handed model is worth picking up—with one hand, of course.

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The Results


Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.


Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.


Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.


Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.


Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.


Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.