The 10 Best Spice & Herb Grinders
This wiki has been updated 25 times since it was first published in June of 2015. If you're the kind of chef who recognizes that only freshly prepared ingredients can produce the most delicious tasting food, then check out these grinders. They'll help you spice up your cooking and create culinary masterpieces. And if you're mixing up a custom smoking blend using such popular herbs as tobacco, damiana or mugwort, we've included options for you, too. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best spice & herb grinder on Amazon.
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.
The Joy Of Spices
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.
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.
Sometimes that's ideal, but in a lot of cases, the powerful flavor is most effective when incorporated into the entire dish.
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.
For such tough substances, there are electric options available.
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.
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