There’s no doubt about it – salt and pepper are the world’s most popular spices. Whether you’re a home cook feeding a big family or a professional chef in a fancy restaurant, you likely reach for your salt and pepper mills more than any other seasoning on your pantry shelf. They add zest and intensify flavor, and help boost the taste of a variety of fresh herbs and other spices. Seasoning with salt and pepper – like a prime rib roast before it goes in the oven, for example – helps food taste and smell delicious.
Remember: always use freshly ground salt and pepper rather than pre-ground. Using salt and pepper that are already ground means they won’t be as fresh and flavourful. Furthermore, both these popular spices lose their punch when exposed to light and heat. Grinding salt and pepper in mills as you need them means you’ll get total freshness and lots of flavors. If you change the setting on your mills, you’ll get exactly the right grind for whatever recipe you’re making – coarse, fine, medium, and so forth.
But there is so much more to using your salt and pepper mill than simply seasoning the Sunday roast!
In this article, we do a deep dive into how you can make the most of using your salt and pepper mill. Whether it’s ringing a colorful cocktail glass with crushed sea salt for the perfect Margarita, or customizing pepper with an herb for a special taste, using your salt and pepper mill in new and creative ways boosts your culinary skills. You’ll amaze your friends and family with exotic creations and make the most of the world’s most basic – most beloved – two spices.
Add zest to weekday meals
You’ll enhance the flavors of a simple, weekday meal when you use your salt and pepper mill. Both add a lot of taste to just about any dish you’re serving. Is Tuesday meatloaf night? Is Thursday roast chicken with veggies? These and other “ordinary” meals get a wallop of great taste when you grind fresh salt and pepper on them, during food prep and just before serving. Your taste buds will thank you (and so will the family!) once you start using your salt and pepper mill more frequently.
Even foods you might not ordinarily associate with needing salt and pepper probably taste better when you add them. Consider simple scrambled eggs. Once you start using your salt and pepper mill after making eggs, you’ll be amazed at how much better they taste. It doesn’t take a lot of either spice – a small sprinkle of sea salt adds bite and zest to even the plainest eggs. A quick twist of your wrist using your salt and pepper mill over your plate of eggs and they instantly taste better.
Blend salt and pepper with herbs and other spices
Blending herbs and spices with salt and pepper is a great way to elevate the flavors in your food. For example: try mixing salt, pepper, and oregano together the next time you make a homemade pizza. Sprinkle the mixture over the tomato sauce so it spreads evenly over the crust. You’ll be surprised at how much bigger the tastes are! Adding a fresh herb to a mixture of freshly ground salt and pepper works on all kinds of dishes – grilled veggies, seafood on the barbecue, and a whole variety of other meals.
Keep in mind that certain herbs don’t work if ground in a salt and pepper mill. Garlic, for example, is an herb that just squishes in a mill – it has lots of juice, and it can’t be ground. It has to be diced or minced or chopped, depending on what the recipe requires. For garlic and certain other spices (like sesame) it’s best to have a good-quality mortar and pestle. Test different spices by grinding them this way, and soon you’ll learn which ones are suited to a grinder, and which ones need a mortar and pestle.
Create your own seasoned salts
This is one of the best ways to use your salt and pepper mill creatively. Buy a range of dried herbs and spices – onion powder, for example – and “invent” your own unique salt. Here’s one of our favorite blends: a Mediterranean-style seasoning that combines sea salt, ground oregano, thyme, basil, and garlic powder. This is a blend that works really well on almost any grilled meat and vegetables, but it tastes good in a salad of fresh greens, too. If you like a little heat, add a pinch of paprika or dried chili flakes.
Use your salt and pepper mill to add ingredients to your own unique seasoning – doing this lets you control the flavour, so it tastes just right for you. Blending salts make for a terrific present for friends, particularly those who love foods with a zing and bite. Don’t limit yourself to only using your salt and pepper mill for your own meals – use this essential kitchen tool to make delicious treats for friends and colleagues.
Make rubs and marinades
A salt and pepper mill can be used to enhance the flavor of many foods, and one of the best ways to use your salt and pepper mill is when you’re making rubs and marinades. This is especially true if you get a mortar and pestle, as we suggested earlier. These two tools make it easy and quick to develop tasty toppers for everything from meat to poultry to salads. Customize your own rub before barbecuing chicken, for example, and suddenly a somewhat drab dish goes to dynamite! Here’s an easy recipe for a marinade: blend three tablespoons of olive oil, one garlic bulb (smashed), and a pinch of dried oregano and rosemary. Add a teaspoon of red wine vinegar. Add some freshly ground salt and pepper. Whisk together, pour over chicken pieces, and let sit in the fridge for three or four hours. This recipe is great when cooking chicken in the oven or on the barbecue.
Here’s an easy rub you can make in minutes: Combine garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cumin and freshly ground black pepper, and coarse sea salt. Use this rub on baby back pork ribs, brisket, or chicken wings – they are all delicious! Add some cayenne pepper, thyme, and oregano and suddenly you’ve got a spicy rub that sings with Cajun flavors. And the great thing about rubs like these? They keep well in a canister, as long as the lid fits snugly.
Rim glasses for cocktails
You can also use your salt and pepper mill to add an attractive and delicious rim to cocktail glasses. Mix coarse salt with spices, sugar, or citrus zest, and voila! You’ve got a customized blend that adds pizzazz to any cocktail you make.
Here’s an example: rim a glass for a spicy Margarita with coarse salt, dried lime zest, and perhaps a little chili powder. First, dip the rim in lime juice so the mixture sticks. Then dip the rim into your seasoning mixture, and we guarantee you’ll love the flavor and the look of this classic cocktail.
Give homemade popcorn a boost of taste
Are you still eating store-bought popcorn with processed flavoring? Stop! Make your popcorn delicious by making your own and using your salt and pepper mill! Forget packaged flavors and make your own unique popcorn everyone will enjoy. Tickle the taste buds of the whole gang by creating a unique seasoning – with a little sea salt, a twist of fresh, cracked peppercorn, and maybe some malt vinegar to top it off. Delicious! Suddenly this healthy snack goes from drab to delicious in no time.
Popcorn is also good with dried herbs like thyme and rosemary. Make an herb seasoning to sprinkle over popcorn to make it really sing. Use your salt and pepper mill to make a special herb seasoning for the family’s popcorn on movie night, then bask in their praise when they tell you how good it is!
Freshly ground spices for baking
You can also use your salt and pepper mill to grind fresh spices for baking. Usually, baking recipes call for spices that are pre-ground, but grinding spices yourself means the flavor is fresher and deeper. And there is nothing like the wonderful, pungent aroma of freshly ground spices baking in the oven – think of cinnamon, for example. These smells make you instantly hungry.
Did you know you can grind cinnamon with cane sugar, nutmeg, and cloves to make a marvelous topping to sprinkle in an autumn-themed coffee, or on top of dessert? These spices add depth and texture to the treat you’re making and give off a wonderful aroma.
Freshly ground spices do demand a little extra effort on your part – we know. But they are worth it! You’ll be amazed at how putting in the time takes your goodies to the next level of deliciousness.
Add depth to soups and stews
Stews and soups benefit greatly when you use your salt and pepper mill not only when preparing these dishes, but just before serving. Adding a quick grind of both over a steaming bowl of Irish stew, for example, is sure to make this classic winter meal more flavourful. Coarse pepper adds plenty of bites and takes a serving of soup or stew from commonplace to fabulous with just one quick twist of the wrist.
You can also use your salt and pepper mill to grind spices like rosemary into stews and soups. Adding spices makes these winter staples taste even more delicious. Soups and stews go from so-so to stupendous, all because you creatively used your salt and pepper mill.
Experiment with different types of salt and pepper
Experimenting with an array of salts and peppers helps you broaden your spice repertoire, and makes every meal more unique. Just as salt comes in different types – kosher, sea salt, etc. — so too does pepper. Try pink peppercorns for a change in look and taste. White peppercorns lend a softer flavor to foods than black peppercorns do. Give them all a try!
When you test different salts and peppers, you open your cooking up to brand-new tastes and a broader variety of flavors. Keep in mind that different salts and peppercorns require different amounts in most recipes, so double-check how much you need and always follow the recipe’s guidelines.
Try different ones in your salad dressings, too. Using pink peppercorns, for example, will make your dressing taste subtler and milder, which makes for a nice change from dressings with lots of bites from black peppercorns.
Add flavor to homemade salad dressings
Instead of just adding regular table salt and pepper for your homemade salad dressing, experiment with using different types of salts and peppers. To create a delicious salad dressing using your salt and pepper mill, start with a basic vinaigrette recipe of olive oil, vinegar, and mustard. Add freshly ground salt and pepper to taste, along with any other seasonings or herbs you like. You can also try adding a little honey or maple syrup for sweetness, or Dijon mustard for extra tanginess. Shake or whisk the ingredients together until well combined, then taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.
Using freshly ground salt and pepper in your salad dressing can make all the difference in the world. It can give your salad a unique, complex flavor that can’t be achieved with pre-ground spices. Plus, you can customize the taste to your liking by using different types of salts and peppers, making your salad dressing truly one-of-a-kind.
There are many different ways to use your salt and pepper mill when cooking. Infusing stews and soups with freshly ground rosemary, for example, is just one of the ways you can make the most of this essential kitchen tool. Don’t hesitate to experiment with lots of different salts, peppers, and other spices. You just might be surprised by how versatile your mill really is (and the quality of a salt and pepper mill also matters). Let your imagination be your guide, and the next time you’re making popcorn for the family, ask yourself what unusual seasoning you could try. We bet that with a little enthusiasm and lots of different spices on the pantry shelf, the sky’s the limit for new flavors and culinary delights!