Pepper Mill vs. Salt Mill: What’s the Difference?


The primary difference between a salt mill and a pepper mill is the mechanism used to grind the spices contained within them. Here we will introduce the most 3 common materials: Ceramic, Stainless Steel and Carbon Steel, which also the most being mixed up.

Even though they are used at almost every meal, did you know that good quality pepper mill grinders are made of hardened steel? Salt mills, on the other hand, are made from ceramic. And did you know that it’s crucial that you never let water into your pepper grinder?

Salt can corrode or oxidize steel, even stainless steel. Therefore it’s important you don’t decide to just use an empty pepper mill for salt; there’s a reason they are made of different materials. Choose ceramic when purchasing a salt mill; it works the best and doesn’t get damaged by the salt.

Well, there is actually a lot you should know about pepper and salt mills, things that you might not ordinarily consider but can make your enjoyment of these spices that much greater.Here are six factors you should keep in mind when you are choosing a salt mill and a pepper mill. Looks are important, of course, and you should buy ones that are aesthetically pleasing and suit your decor. But remember: take the following factors into account when deciding which ones to purchase!


Holar - Blog - Pepper Mill vs Salt Mill What’s the Difference - Holar ceramic grinder carbon steel grinder


1) Corrosion Resistant: Ceramic> Stainless Steel> Carbon Steel

Ceramic is naturally oxidized. It doesn’t rust or deteriorate even in warm environments like kitchens. This makes it the ideal material to make a salt mill from, and any of quality are indeed manufactured from ceramic.

Both carbon steel and stainless steel contain iron, and that iron will oxidize when it’s exposed to the water, and that creates rust. Generally speaking, however, you’ll have more luck with a stainless steel grinder, because just like the name implies, it resists corrosion. In fact, of all kinds of steel out there on the market, stainless steel is best for lots of products for the kitchen. And that’s certainly true of your salt and pepper mills.

Stainless steel contains iron, carbon and at least 10 percent chromium. The chromium is vital because it reacts with oxygen and creates a kind of insulating layer that protects the steel from corrosion. Keep this in mind: the higher the level of chromium, the better able to resist rust the grinder is. However, since the mill grind by time, the layer which protect against from rust will be worn out as well.

Carbon steel, on the other hand, doesn’t have enough chromium to form this insulating layer of protection, which means that the oxygen will bond with the iron, and that will result in rust. If a grinder made of this is used for salt, it will corrode eventually, furthermore, the salt will stick and clump and make an awful mess! Pretty soon you’ll have a salt mill that is completely useless.

For other dry spice such as peppercorn, they do not have the problem like salt, then it suitable for all the three material, we will discuss the pros and cons in the further following.


Holar - Blog - Pepper Mill vs Salt Mill What’s the Difference - Corrosion Resistant


2) Cost: Carbon Steel> Stainless Steel> Ceramic

Another factor to keep in mind is cost. Different grades come with different costs, but keep in mind that your pepper grinder and salt mill will last a long time; paying for one made of the right material is a wise investment!

We are not going to talk about Nylon(Plastic) material in the article. Overall, it is light, cheap, however, not durable.

High carbon steel, which is also called carbon tool steel, contains between 0.61 percent and 1.50 carbon. That means it is tough enough to grind other hard spices too, not just pepper. So carbon steel mill is the most expensive in these three.

And not all stainless steels are the same or created equal! Stainless steel with a minimum of 10.5 percent chromium content is much less expensive, but a lot less durable, than one with at least 16 percent chromium. That means it just won’t last as long or wear as well, and you could find yourself replacing your pepper grinder far more often than you should.

Even if you’re on a strict budget, think about how much you want to reduce customer complaints, and how long you want it to last. Some items are worth a little extra money because of they last!Holar pepper mills, for example, have an 18/8 stainless steel grinding mechanism. The first figure, 18, refers to the percentage of chromium in the stainless steel. The second figure, 8, refers to the percentage of nickel. Both of these elements, chromium and nickel, contribute to that insulating layer in the stainless steel that makes it resistant to rust and corrosion. That makes it almost 1.5 as expensive as ceramic, but again – you get what you pay for!

If you want an attractive grinder at a reasonable price, choose a ceramic one! You replace them far less frequently than you do stainless steel ones, so there are fewer recurring costs in the long run.


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3) Sharpness: Carbon Steel> Ceramic> Stainless Steel

Here, you should think about the grinder producing process as well as the material hardness. The material that makes a ceramic blade is incredibly hardness; in fact, it is second only to diamonds for hardness. Once it is sharpened, the blade will retain its cutting ability and will not easily wear out. Ceramic grinders stay sharp for an unbelievably long time, 10 times longer than a stainless steel blade.

Carbon steel grinders start out sharper than ceramic, which means you have a more precise outcome in your grinding, keeping their sharp edges longer than other varieties, which makes your slicing and grinding easier. And stainless steel is generally easier to sharpen; however, they tend to lose their edge more quickly than other grinders.


4) Durability: Stainless Steel= Carbon Steel> Ceramic

Stainless steel knife blades are, overall, better able to stand up to the rigors of cutting than high carbon blades. But being tougher doesn’t necessarily make them harder. In fact, experts are divided on how to define them, because for quite a while they were considered virtually identical.

Hardness doesn’t mean they are unbreakable, ceramic grinders aren’t meant to cut hard spices like caraway seeds, so that might limit their use in your kitchen. If something isn’t easily ground, they aren’t of much use, unfortunately. So things like coriander seeds or allspice berries have to be sliced or ground with a different implement.


Holar - Blog - Pepper Mill vs Salt Mill What’s the Difference


5) Consistency: Carbon Steel> Ceramic> Stainless Steel

The consistency level is due to function. A Holar carbon steel and ceramic grinder are made up of lots of small and large grooves. It’s the smaller grooves, known as grinding grooves that tackle the tough job of grinding pepper.

Within the grinding mechanism, there is a grinding head that goes inside an outer ring. These two components are a variety of grooves and teeth, and that’s what keeps them from locking together while they work.If you compare carbon steel and ceramic, the consistency of the grind isn’t quite the same. Since the different producing process, the ceramic grinders go through the firing process, which means the blade is not as precise as the carbon steel.

In a stainless steel grinding mechanism, the pepper is sort of crushed rather than ground. It’s the design of the mechanism causes the pepper to be ground differently. However, the stainless steel is hard and long-lasting, and so by and large it’s as effective, in practice, as a ceramic one.


6) Heat: Carbon Steel= Stainless Steel= Ceramic

None of these three materials – stainless steel, ceramic or carbon steel – will transfer heat to the grinder’s burr. The first reason is speed and time. For manual grinder, you won’t speed up as fast as heat up the burr. Second, the spices melt point is much higher than you think. You don’t see pepper melt when you’re cooking with it, right?  Even the melt point of salt is 801 °C.


Holar - Blog - Pepper Mill vs Salt Mill What’s the Difference - Heat


Who is the Winner?

the difference among three kinds of grinders

*A lot of your choice will depend on your preferences. If you live in a warm climate, like Taiwan, a ceramic grinder is probably your best choice.

  • Salt Mill: Ceramic Grinder

  • Pepper Mill: Ceramic, Stainless Steel, Carbon Steel Grinder

Note that since the salts will corrode the metal and turn it rusty, you cannot use a steel grinding mechanism for salt. The grinder for salt should use ceramic for a substitute.

Ceramic for pepper mill for sure. Furthermore, for mid and senior level, we recommend carbon steel grinder for pepper mill since it’s precise and sharpness, the mill could produce a more consistent pepper.

Click like if you think the article is useful. Also, leave us to comment about how you choose your salt mill and pepper mill.

This Post Has 18 Comments

  1. Hello,

    I would like to know which grinder is best from a health point of view?
    One that doesn’t leach any nasty chemicals, plastic, metal, aluminium etc. while grinding.
    I bought the Cole&mason grinder, trying to get away from plastic.
    I found out the grinding part is stainless steel, possibly some carbon, don’t remember, and the pin is aluminium.
    I presume aluminium and other metals will end up being ground in the food.
    Same with plastic. If ceramic, what are the other parts made off?



    1. Thanks for your reply, Otilia.

      Basically, there are 2 things you should avoid when selecting/using salt and pepper mill:

      1. NEVER use the grinder made of plastic (normally made of nylon) because it will crack easily, also the heat generated when grinding might cause the plastic part to release the toxic substances.

      2. NEVER use the grinder made of stainless steel/carbon steel to grind salt because the water in salt will turn the grinder rust, which might leave bits of rust in food – not good of course.

      These are the 2 most common questions we receive from.

      The aluminium pin, or shaft we normally called, actually is still durable but tends to rust a bit easier. If you wish to select the best salt and pepper mills, you might consider choosing the one with type 304 stainless steel shaft.

      In conclusion:
      – Use a carbon steel/stainless steel grinder to grind peppercorns only.
      – Use a ceramic grinder to grinder salt or peppercorns.
      – Choose the salt and pepper mills with type 304 stainless steel shaft.

      Follow these and we believe you will avoid any health threat when grinding salt/pepper.

  2. this is an amazing breakdown and analysis of different grinder, how about the material itself of the salt/peppermills itself, would like to hear your comments on wood peppermills, arcylic peppermills and electronic peppermills

    1. Thanks for your comment, KAORU.

      When we are talking about different materials such as wood and acrylic, we are actually talking about two very different materials.

      Wood is a natural material and the production normally is not harmful to the environment. It has its basic color and various patterns as well. It’s artistry, warmth, and adaptability with the decor in most houses.

      Acrylic material is easily molded and can be turned into most shapes that can be imagined. It’s transparent nature, and durable. The shock resistance of acrylic is 200 times greater than glass which makes it very hard to get shattered if it falls.

      As they are both versatile and have an abundance of great features, the choice is up to you. Just remember to pick the one that is BPA-free certified.

      About the electric pepper mills, you may want to read our another blog post called “3 Reasons Why You Should Use Manual Salt and Pepper Mill for Your Dish”

  3. I have used a carbon steel for my peppercorns for years and just recently had to buy a new set but was extremely dissatisfied to durability ( not Holar product) it is Cusimax! Both the pepper and salt mill has ceramic grinders and after a week both seemed to jam (extremely hard to turn) and didn’t grind any more! There has to be something better than ceramic for salt because I see you’re saying it’s the best so I’m lost in this because I want a dependable salt grinder that my son can use while training in the culinary arts! Maybe it’s the brand I bought or the low quality so Please advise!! Thanks !

    1. Thank you for your comment, Jenia.

      Ceramics have anti-oxidation and corrosion resistance features, which is why we use it for grinding salt. If you use carbon steel material for grinding salt, it will result in rust.

      Also, we’re not sure how it leads to clogged situation based on your description. It normally happens when adjusting from coarse to fine.

      Since some bigger granular of salt might get stuck in the gap between the bottom grinder and grinder housing, if you force it to adjust to fine, the gap will become smaller (for finer salt to come out through smaller gap) and the bigger granular of salt will jam the grinder, eventually damage the grinder mechanism.

      We suggest you gently flap the body of the salt grinder before adjusting from coarse to fine, so it will let the coarser ground fall off.

      Or, you can take apart the grinder, clean it and reassemble it to grind again. For more information, please refer to the following step:

      If the clogged situation still exists after cleaning, chances are that you have probably purchased a defective product.

  4. W0W, what great information! I never thought salt&pepper milling would be so involved. Thank you. All I need now is to find where I can purchase blades for my 50cm timber pepper grinder, which I want to refurbish rather than replace.

    1. Hi Hereward, thanks for your comment!
      For refurbishing, you may contact the brand you previously purchased from. Normally they have some components in stock for replacement.

  5. This is a wonderful and thorough post, thank you for writing it. Question: Is there a comprehensive list you can offer (or create a post for) of “hard” spices? Like the caraway you mention above that would not fare well with a ceramic grinder?

    In your reply to Otilia above you say: “Use a ceramic grinder to grind salt or peppercorns.” It seems peppercorns would be fairly ‘hard’ for a ceramic mechanism. I’d be interested in seeing a list of the ‘density’ ratings of spices in the context of ‘hardness’ for use in a stainless steel grinder vs. definitely not for ceramic.

    1. Thank you for your comment and positive words, Kiera.

      The main reason for using the ceramic grinder is due to its corrosion resistance instead of its hardness for grinding spices.

      The corrosive constituents in salt or other spices will corrode the stainless steel grinder(carbon steel grinder) and make it rust in the long run. Therefore, the ceramic grinder is the best option for grinding salt and it is the most commonly used material in the market as well.

      If you often mill hard spices, then, we recommend you use the mortar and pestle to provide you with an effective way for grinding hard and big spices.

      For rare usage, we have written a blog to discuss “13 Common Spices You Can (Cannot) Grind in Your Salt and Pepper Grinder”. If you are interested in this topic, please refer to it:

  6. I’ve read that Himalayan pink salt should not be used in ceramic grinders. What grinding mechanism would you recommend?

    1. Hello Allen, can you share the reference which says that “Himalayan pink salt should not be used in ceramic grinders”?

  7. Hi there, what’s your take on marble bs the ceramics? I’m leaning towards ceramics for both otherwise.

    1. Hi Carmen, thanks for your reply. Do you mean the marble grinder vs ceramic grinder, or just the main material of the whole mill using marble vs ceramic?

  8. Hi! Would you be able to link a stainless steel pepper grinder that you recommend that will be best quality use for stainless steel? I would only use it for peppercorns. Thanks!

  9. Hi! Don’t have a recommendation for a 18/8 stainless steel pepper grinder (could contain glass as well) that you could link? I would be only using it for peppercorns so erosion from salt wouldn’t be an issue.

  10. To detail my question above, I am looking for complete 18/8 stainless steel so The rotor/grinder, shaft would be stainless steel 18/8. The body would be either glass or stainless steel. I have not been able to find a fully stainless steel pepper grinder that does not contain carbon steel and an aluminum shaft. Very hard to find.

    1. Hello Shirin, thanks for your feedback. Kindly check your email to see if you receive our message there. Thanks!

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