The 10 Best Spice & Herb Grinders
This wiki has been updated 33 times since it was first published in June of 2015. If you insist on using only freshly prepared ingredients to produce your culinary creations, then you may wish to check out these convenient grinders, which can help you spice up your cooking in no time. And for those of you who like to mix up a custom smoking blend using popular herbs and plants, like tobacco, damiana, or mugwort, we've included a range of options for you, too. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
September 09, 2020:
We still think the Santa Cruz Shredder offers excellent usability and reliable quality, but we've removed the Wooden Classic at this time, as we're concerned about its long-term durability. Instead, we've added the Kannastör GR8TR V2 on the strength of its modular design and strong value for the cost. At the other end of the budget/quality spectrum, we selected the Golden Bell 2-Inch. It doesn't have all the bells and whistles of the former, such as a travel bag, but it's dependable enough to get the job done. And, conveniently, both choices come in several colors.
As for electric models, we replaced the Epica Electric with the Westinghouse Select Series. The latter is made to higher quality standards, although it does have one drawback — the cord is hard to maneuver into the base, even though it was created to do so. This doesn't affect how the machine operates, but it's a minor annoyance that could be a dealbreaker for some. But whether you choose this combo spice and coffee grinder or another, such as the Krups Ultimate Silent, you'll probably want to use it for one or the other. Even with careful cleaning, a grinder can retain smells from the spices, which could adversely affect your morning cup of joe.
March 01, 2019:
Because we know that manipulating items by hand can be tough for some users, we decided to replace the Space Case 4-piece set with the Santa Cruz Shredder; the latter has great texturing that makes it much easier to turn. It's something of an investment, though, so it may not be for everyone. That's why we also added the Golden Gate 4 Piece, which is priced much lower but still offers high-quality construction combined with usability. Then, we kept two electric models, which probably offer the lowest effort in use, as well as a traditional mortar and pestle from Jamie Oliver, for those who enjoy the throwback to a simpler time. Plus, this last's granite design is both attractive and eye-catching.
Iaso Stainless Steel If you're the type to worry about using aluminum tools to prepare your tobacco or medical marijuana, then you'll want to take a look at the Iaso Stainless Steel, which lives up to its name by offering a completely steel construction. This makes it strong and durable, but also rather pricey. iasogoods.com
Tom Dixon Stone Pestle and Mortar Thanks to its elegant appearance, the Tom Dixon Stone Pestle and Mortar would make a fine display piece, but don't worry, it performs just as good as it looks. The pestle is made from brass, while the base is crafted from white Morwad marble; this handy mortar has a large, rounded lip, so you can get a good grip on it while you work. tomdixon.net
The Joy Of Spices
Of course, it wasn't always that way — he who had the salt once had the control, and many region-specific seasonings weren't readily available in every part of the world.
Spices, derived from plant and mineral sources, have played a vital role in the health, nourishment, and leisure of human beings throughout all of history. The earliest hunter-gatherers relied on the bounty of the land around them to provide their families with food and medicine. Groundbreaking cross-cultural trade on the Silk Road helped to spread unique herbs, foods, and textiles across the globe. Indeed, entire civilizations have been built and sustained on the value of plant materials like spices. More than nuts and berries were on the table, too: large-scale agriculture, fermented grains and fruits, and farmers markets are all evidence that plants and people go great together.
The spice trade has been one of the focal points of agriculture since as long ago as 3000 B.C.E., and for good reason. The intricate chemical combinations locked in countless different herbs and seeds across the world have created the cornucopia of foods and flavors now available around the world. Of course, it wasn't always that way — he who had the salt once had the control, and many region-specific seasonings weren't readily available in every part of the world. Beyond just enhancing the flavor of our diets, many strong spices act as preservatives, protecting hungry consumers from food-borne illness. Today, a wide variety of the freshest whole seasonings is available, giving the home chef control over every meal while offering bold flavors that make any dish shine.
Cumin, for example, commonly found in Indian curries, provides a unique, floral note when toasted whole. Coriander is a popular hard spice that's actually the seed of the cilantro plant, and it similarly blooms into a complex bouquet of scents. Fresh-cracked black and red peppercorns produce a distinct, citrus aroma that kicks haute cuisine up a notch. Dried and ground chili peppers are another great way to impart powerful flavors to your dishes.
Plants like mugwort, lavender, and mullein are used to make herbal tea and smoking blends for therapeutic and ritualistic purposes. Different parts of the plant are used — in some cases the leaves, petals, stems, reproductive organs, or buds. These materials are often distributed whole in order to preserve their aromas and active ingredients. When it comes time to create your own homemade herbal blend, a lot of these ingredients will need to be shredded. Luckily, there are lots of options on the market to help the home chef or tea-maker with many different tasks.
Breaking It All Down
Unfortunately, it's not as simple as just tossing a handful of fennel seed into a pot of boiling water to season your peewee potatoes. The beauty of these tasty morsels is often locked inside the hull of the seed, keeping the magic to itself until it gets a little bit of love. Some of these delicious chemicals are actually bound up in the fat cells of the plant product. In these cases, you'll have to apply dry heat through roasting or sautéing them in oil to unlock their full potential and, in some cases, noticeably increase their complexity.
However, not only is there elbow grease involved, but all of these methods also require setup and cleanup, and they can't quite achieve the finest results.
Even when heated, flavors may remain strongly centered in whole spices, waiting for an eager diner to chomp on them and release them all at once. Sometimes that's ideal, but in a lot of cases, the powerful flavor is most effective when incorporated into the entire dish. So it's a great idea to break these seeds into many little pieces before adding them to your sauce, meat, or starches.
A chef's knife is the classic means of doing this. Herbs for cooking, garnishing, tea-making, or smoking can often be chopped. Harder spices can sometimes be smashed against a cutting board with the side of the blade. This works in a pinch to crack seeds, and doesn't require any special equipment. However, not only is there elbow grease involved, but all of these methods also require setup and cleanup, and they can't quite achieve the finest results. You'll have a hard time powdering coriander with a knife, and it will be pretty hard on your blade. There are some ingredients, like cloves, that are almost impossible to process finely without some added mechanical advantage. For those reasons, many chefs turn to spice grinders to make a lot of prep tasks easier.
Not All Grinders Are Alike
When choosing the right addition to your kitchen or smoking den, it's very important to choose the right model. Tough seeds like coriander, black pepper, and cumin often work well in hand mills. These grinders are also effective with broken-down, dried herbs like bay leaf and parsley. Aromatics like dried peppers and garlic can even be added to mills, enabling chefs to create their own custom, freshly ground seasoning blends for access to big flavor at a moment's notice. Make sure to choose a hand-grinder with a strong blade and sturdy components so the unit can stand up to the strongest whole spices.
Tough seeds like coriander, black pepper, and cumin often work well in hand mills.
Harder and larger items, like cardamom pods or coffee beans, will require a little bit more machinery to effectively process. For such tough substances, there are electric options available. Some of these models operate at the simple tap of a finger. Pulse control lets powered grinders work with both hard seeds as well as soft, fresh products, while minimizing physical labor. Just be certain to pat dry leafy plants like cilantro or chervil prior to pulsing, for maximum effectiveness.
Many tea drinkers and tobacco smokers prefer to grind small batches by hand. These consumers will find plenty of options to aid in their hobby. The highest quality smoking grinders are generally made of very durable metals like aircraft aluminum or even titanium. Diamond-shaped teeth work against each other to effectively tear apart soft plant matter, ensuring easy steeping or smoking.
All the versatile products available mean you can say goodbye to the world of pre-packaged, pre-ground seasonings and open up a whole new world of fresh tastes and smells by choosing the right herb and spice grinder.