Black pepper: what's your take?

Feathers11

In poking around the internet today, I came across this article about black pepper:

Why I Haven't Cooked with Black Pepper in Years

I read a while back that black pepper can burn, and without actually investigating it further, I just stopped using it prior to cooking, adding only afterward as flavor. And, then, most of the time, I forget. I do use it over eggs and with turmeric dishes. And I have some whole peppercorns that I add to soups sometimes. But I could very happily go without black pepper in much of my cooking now. We are not a family that has salt and pepper shakers on our table, so no one is missing it.

Any thoughts on the article? What's your use of black pepper?

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Comments (40)
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Sherry

Couldn't live without it! Goes in and on everything.

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gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

I use freshly cracked black pepper in most dishes that call for or need basic seasoning. Never had it burn, even when using over an open flame, like when grilling a seasoned steak.

And I always include a couple of grinds over a dressed green salad.

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foodonastump

I love black pepper. There was a time that I had a tendency to be heavy-handed but I recognized that and adjusted. I don’t just add it to everything as a matter of course, but eggs or tuna salad or a whole host of other things would seem incomplete without a light sprinkle. Just because some people use it as an crutch doesn’t mean it’s not a legitimate ingredient. As such I find the closing paragraph pretty silly. Especially the part about not replacing a broken pepper mill. Even if you use pepper just once a year it should be fresh ground.

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Olychick

I like the flavor of black pepper when it's the main flavor, like salt and pepper chips, or I make a delicious Parmesan Black Pepper biscotti. But I don't add pepper to much food as a seasoning. And I am one who chokes on coarse ground black pepper, so always skip the offer by servers to crack some fresh pepper on my salad.

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Anne

I love fresh cracked peppercorns. I put pepper on most everything. Not into salt. I don’t like white pepper though. I know for cauliflower soup and white Mac and cheese it calls for white pepper but I don’t see what is wrong with seeing the flecks.

Makes me happy to see an over easy egg with pepper cracked over it.

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Anne

Also, during the shut downs where I have used all my ground beef (we raise beef with a friend; they do the heavy lifting and we help financially for a small portion of the processed meat. WinWin) I purchased some Bubba frozen burgers. When I cook them in a cast iron skillet I do a heavy coat of pepper for flavor and they are delicious. No taste of burn.

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plllog

Ridiculous article. How can I trust her opinion when she's never owned a decent peppermill? I recommend Atlas.

Yes, some people, especially restaurant cooks, scorch the pepper, but that's not the pepper's fault.

Yes, some people put an overwhelming amount of pepper in or on a dish, or choose coarse or cracked where fine to medium grind is called for, but that's not the pepper's fault.

Yes, the big deal about pepper in old Europe, chief among all the spices from the Spice Road, was to mask the funk of poorly preserved foods, but that's not the pepper's fault.

I don't use a lot of pepper. I think the only times I use pepper at the table is for soup, as in Mother forgot to season the soup again. Or...maybe I've tried it for a singularly tasteless slab of beef. I do cook with pepper, however. I don't scorch it, I don't overdo it, I pair the grind with what's being cooked, and I use other kinds of peppercorns when appropriate. My peppercorns are too fresh for pepper crusting--that takes seriously stale peppercorns to be edible. I do use pre-ground pepper for some things--I find that the flavor, at least in what I have, holds up much better than most people give it credit for, though the usefulness is that it's dryer and mellower than freshly ground while still being full of flavor. Pepper, perhaps, requires attention and a careful hand. It's not for bathining in, nor for avoiding. Even Mr. Picky, who claims to hate pepper, actually likes quite a bit of pepper if it's handled correctly.

I agree that a lot of fresh ingredients, don't require seasoning. They can take it, but they're fine nude.

Pepper is an ingredient, not a panacea. Pepper is lovely when appropriate and unwelcome when it's playing the bully.

I have no issues with how much pepper anyone uses or doesn't, according to their tastes, but let it be because you like it or don't, rather than you just can't be bothered learning how to use it properly!

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cloudy_christine

Tellicherry peppercorns, ground at the table. Especially on steak, and on a few other things. It's a mild, pleasant pepper. Growing up with dust pepper, I avoided it entirely. But freshly ground and fine enough, it does add something. I don't use it much in cooking. When a recipe calls for, say, a teaspoon of pepper I do a ridiculous thing, waving the pepper mill over the pot and grinding it a couple of times.

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Feathers11

Well, I'm guilty as charged because I don't know much about pepper use (that's not the pepper's fault, but mine). I have found it's an inevitable pairing with salt in so many recipes. It wasn't until I started omitting it that I realized I don't miss it in most dishes. As noted above, I can't imagine eggs without it, and I certainly love freshly ground over salads like caesar and in blackened spices. I only use a mill and haven't bought standard shelf pepper in years, and I'm an admitted eye-baller when it comes to staple spices like salt, pepper, sugar, garlic etc. I don't see the need to add it back, though, in the majority of my cooking. Salt would be a different story... I need salt.

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nancyofnc

DH puts do much freshly ground black pepper on everything that his dinner looks like ants have invaded. He uses very little salt. Tellicherry is his preferred and even takes (now sequestered = took) his pocket sized pepper grinder when eating out. He was over the moon when I made a dish called Cacio e pepe - translates to pepper pasta with Grana Padano (at $19 per pound we buy just a little of it), or a good aged parm, or nicely with pecorino romano. Finding bucatini is hard but available, spaghetti is just OK but loses some of the Italian charm.

He'd like an Atlas peppermill but at $68 he'd have to amend his will.

I also use green, pink and white peppercorns for their color, not necessarily for flavor. Really pretty for everything bagels.

Best way to get cracked, not ground, pepper is to put peppercorns in a plastic bag and bang it with the bottom of a cast iron skillet, preferably on concrete outside or someplace it won't kill what it is resting on.

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cloudy_christine

The pink "peppercorns" (they're not really pepper, they're from a different plant) are really, really strange. They have a non-food quality. I made something with them years ago and just the memory of smelling them in the jar was very unpleasant.

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plllog

Feathers, I don't think you're guilty at all. You've made an informed choice and gone with what you like. That's legit. It's the writer complaining about pepper rather than learning how to use it who bugged me. But I appreciate your posting--this is an interesting discussion!

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2ManyDiversions

It is an interesting topic! I like fresh pepper quite a lot. For me, lettuce in salads is improved by the flavor of pepper. The only things I can think of where I tend to use quite a bit would be sausage gravy, chicken gravy, and potato soup. I used to be heavy handed with salt, but now rely on a wide variety of of spices and herbs, and that includes pepper. Eons ago I used to buy preground pepper, but when I bought a couple pepper mills I liked, I far preferred fresh ground/cracked. Oh, I should mention AnnT's peppercorn sauce. Love it. And I also like the green peppercorns in brine, rinsed and used 'thoughtfully'.

Huh, I have a pink peppercorns, they don't smell odd... But I also don't care for the flavor on anything other than fish.

I also use white peppercorns, but not as often as I find they don't have the flavor I like. Some recipes call for them only to keep from "ruining" the visual appeal, which seems silly to me... Unless one uses so much it resembles an ant colony!

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bragu_DSM 5

Tellicherry peppercorns, ground at the table..


ditto, personified

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colleenoz

We use a lot of freshly ground black pepper. DH is especially fond of it.

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Lars

I very seldom use black pepper. There are rare instances when I do use it, such as when I sauté mushrooms and then add a bit of black pepper and continue to sauté. Generally I do not like uncooked black pepper, but there are some exceptions, such as hummus and salad dressing. Basically, my main use of raw black pepper is on salads.

Most often I use cayenne or chili sauce for heat, and I make my own smoked chocolate Habanero sauce that I use in place of black pepper. I generally prefer cayenne and chili sauce to black pepper. I will put black pepper on baked potatoes, but it takes me a very long time to use up the black pepper that I have in my pepper grinder. When I make hummus, I use both cayenne and black pepper, but in small quantities. My favorite use of black pepper is with garlic, lemon juice, and dill, which I combine in a mortar and pestle. I use this paste to make ranch salad dressing.

I feel the same way about black pepper that I feel about salt - it does not belong in everything and it is way over used.

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annie1992

That article hits one of my "buttons", the assumption that everyone thinks alike. The author has decided that all grinders are junk and that no one should bother to use pepper, because that's what they think/feel/say.

I do like black pepper, and use it often, but not on everything. It does go on my steak, in spite of the assertion of the author of that article. I'm not wild about hot/chili type peppers but I like black peppercorns a lot. Unlike the author, I dislike lemon on steak, that just sounds terrible, I mostly like lemon desserts, I don't even put lemon juice in hummus.

I've got a not-too-expensive Old Thompson pepper grinder in stainless steel and it's worked just fine for years now, in spite of my daily grinding of pepper on my morning egg. I don't know where the heck that person got their pepper grinder, but they need to shop better.

As I have often said, taste is not objective, it's subjective. Everyone likes what they like. (shrug) I like the Tellicherry peppercorns, freshly ground. I haven't purchased that pre-ground grocery store dust since I started hanging around here about 20 years ago and found out about pepper grinders. (grin)

I did buy a 4 peppercorn blend once and there was something in there that just didn't taste good, I thought I'd gotten a bad batch of eggs when they tasted "off" a couple of days in a row, then I realized it was the pepper. Thank goodness!

Annie

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Islay Corbel

There are so many different peppercorns. As you've all said, it depends on what individuals like. The article was just silly. A writer saying that some unheard of cook "suggests" or its "likely" that it's bad......rubbish.

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lindac92

Can't imagine eggs nor corn nor a baked potato without black pepper....or potato salad....or a tossed green salad....or a steak about to go on the grill.
Don't like the attitude of whoever wrote that article....like us plebians are the only people who use a pepper grinder!
I have had an Atlas for easily 30 years. Ran across a store that was closing and I bought it for about $30....big bucks for a pepper grinder back then.
I have had more than my share of pepper grinders over the years....including really cute ones that matched my dishes and a set of 4 with salts to match, small hold about a teaspoon of pepper corns....with sterling silver outsides.....pain to polish and a pain to fill. So the Atlas goes on the table with the sterling and the china.
I keep a good supply of the preground stuff to go onto a rub for a big roast or to put into a BBQ sauce where grinding that much would be a pain.

I even keep szechuan pepper corns in a "doesn't work as well as the Atlas" grinder for special things....although I do know it's a different breed of cat.

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sleevendog (5a NY 6aNYC NL CA)

"Pepper is lovely when appropriate and unwelcome when it's playing the bully."

That's about how I see it. Excellent with beef. Whole peppercorns in stocks. No grinder at the table. I use it in the kitchen but not on everything like most cooking shows. They salt and pepper everything like it is some chef rule.

A peppercorn recall a 1/2 dozen years ago had me thinking more about how we use spices. Many cultures use whole spices, toast them, then grind fresh. Then into hot dishes while cooking. At the beginning, or towards the end depending on the spice.

Most spice houses irradiate peppercorns since they often go straight into a grinder.

I could barely get past the first paragraph in her article. And it is not true. That was written in 2016. I clicked on her profile and saw a recipe she wrote in 2018. Caught my eye because I made killer short ribs last night and was curious about her recipe.

Loaded with fresh ground pepper, lol. And all over the finished dish. Linky, HERE

Really nice recipe ideas for other dishes. (I used an Asian type recipe using miso and porcini mushrooms)

She was obviously having a pissy bad day back in 2016

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foodonastump

Haha, actually not her recipe though, she just promoted it.

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beesneeds

I like black pepper a lot. I grind my own. I use it whole a lot in pickling and making stocks. I also like white pepper. They have their own flavors. Sometimes I like to use dried nasturtium seeds or leaves for a pepper kick, or other spices/herbs that give heat and spice.

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bbstx

I do not add pepper at the table. It very often makes me sneeze something fierce - a sneeze so instant and so violent that it means sneezing into my dinner napkin. It affected my father and my grandmother the same way.


The one pepper that I cannot abide the smell of is white pepper. I would rather see black flecks of pepper in the dish than catch a whiff of white pepper.


Pat Conroy in his cookbook Recipes of My Life, tells of having a meeting at a restaurant. He said the first thing the man he was meeting with did was open the pepper shaker, pour it into the ashtray, and hand it to the waiter to take away. I cannot remember who the guy was, but he was a “personage” who refused to eat pepper that wasn’t freshly ground.

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l pinkmountain

Hubs and I are working hard to decrease our salt intake. Pepper helps with a lot of things, and I like the taste when not overwhelming. Pepper already ground up is pale, but easier. I like some pepper better than others. I also love the mix of types of peppercorns, green, white, black . . . white alone not so much. I haven't tried red alone either. I just buy the mixed for my pepper grinder and really like it. When used as a light hand, it can enhance things so that you don't end up wanting a lot of salt on it.

However, yesterday I was surfing some Italian recipes on the Web, and found a recipe for pepper sauce for pasta. That one intrigued me. You made a pepper broth. Topped with cheese was about all that was in it. These simple recipe with a few good ingredients fascinate me. That's how hubs prefers to cook. Me not so much, I'm a global type person who is always throwing in a bit of this or that into a pasta or soup. I would like to try the pepper pasta. Sounds very similar to fettuccine alfredo. I have had that dish where the pepper tasted like a wonderful star, and other times overwhelming and bitter. So apparently there is an art and science to using pepper. Always favorite topics for me to ponder. Pepper hacks, lol!

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Lars

I use white pepper for white fish, and I have white peppercorns in one of my pepper mills.

Sometimes I put black pepper on zucchini, squash, or asparagus before I grill it, but I never put it on afterwards. I also often omit it, and sometimes I omit the salt as well, as I do find that the vegetables taste sweeter without it. Everyone's taste buds are different, and so everyone will have different preferences.

I sometimes make quesadillas with a flour tortilla, sliced ham or turkey, sliced mushrooms, black pepper, and Provolone cheese. I heat the tortilla in a covered pan on medium low heat for about 5 minutes, or until the tortilla is crispy. In this amount of time, the mushrooms and pepper get somewhat cooked and the cheese is melted. This is one dish that I always add black pepper to that is not a salad or salad dressing.

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carolb_w_fl_coastal_9b

I love fresh ground black pepper and like tigereye, use it in/on almost everything.

Pre-ground pepper is flavorless & useless, IMO.

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CA Kate z9

I have two grinders by the stove: one for tellicherry peppercorns and one for my personal mix of all sorts of herbs and spices and peppercorns. But I do have a small can of ground pepper for certain recipes, but rarely use it.

I recently read an article about other 'wonderful' peppercorns and so I ordered a small package of each from Curio Spice Co.: Kampot Red, Kampot White and Kampot Black. Now I need 3 small grinders, one for each. ;-)

Has anyone ever tried these?

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Gooster

I just wonder if the original blogger is a supertaster or somewhat more sensitive to pepper. And if she was experiencing grit in a salad she needs to turn the little dial and try a smaller grind. I don't always use pepper, but I can actually detect dishes where a touch of pepper is needed. They just end up tasting flat to me, like mashed potatoes or many soups. @pinkmountain -- the pasta dish is the cacio e pepe as described in the article and nancy previous. It's a great, simple, classic dish but is very pepper forward.

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l pinkmountain

Hubs might not mind that kind of pasta dish, he likes pepper.

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Lars

For pizza, I always sprinkle red pepper (cayenne) flakes on it and never black pepper. I use red pepper flakes in a lot of other dishes as well, and I grow and dry my own red peppers for this. I get bored with just black pepper, and I have several different kinds. I also have a pepper mill that came with additional storage containers that can be switched out when I want a different pepper in the grinder. I think that grinder has been discontinued because it is too convenient.

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CA Kate z9

lars, what was the brand of that pepper mill? I found a really good little one that got put away because it is small. I thought I might be able to use that for my various peppers.

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lindac92

Carol-B...I am here to tell ya that pre-ground pepper isn't all bland and tasteless.....I mistook some for poppy seeds one time and very liberally sprinkled it on top of some bread I was baking....
Hoo-weee!! Made your eyes water.

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Lars

Kate, I believe it is an Oxo, but I'm not sure because it is in L.A. and I am not there at the moment. When we go back, I will look at it to see what the brand it. It came with an extra canister with lid for storage alternate peppercorns. I don't even remember where I bought it, but I did choose it because of the extra storage.

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plllog

Not Lars here, but Peugeot has a great reputation and have their version (though you could just get three less fancy, decent mills for the same price):

https://www.amazon.com/Peugeot-32968-Zanzibar-USelect-Interchangeable/dp/B01L8RRPWY

There's one for half the price of Peugeot by MasterMill with five chambers to select from, but it doesn't look like a quality buy, given the lack of reviews and market penetration I've been able to find:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B087V4XRPP/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=mastermill&qid=1588180254&sr=8-1&th=1




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Lars

I did find my pepper mill, and it is Kuhn Rikon, and appears to be discontinued, as I suspected. It works very well, and I use it all the time, especially since I can easily switch inserts.

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Gooster

@pillog -- that is a great Peugeot grinder. I have several of the classic single pepper kind (much less expensive, work quite well) and like the ability to separate different things to grind like that.

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plllog

With the Peugeot, I think, beyond their renown as makers or quality mills, I think a lot of it is about looks. Great kitchen sculpture.

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bragu_DSM 5

Made some black pepper chicken for supper ... that was very good, and simple.

Had it over brown rice.

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agmss15

I love pepper. Freshly ground. I have had a few dishes where it was too much or burnt.

I recently made the pizza version of cacio de Pepe in my wood fired oven.,I was interested in the technique which involved cooking the pizza crust with a few ice cubes - and then adding the cheese/pepper. The water from the ice and the Romano cheese make a sauce. I really liked it but I need to work on technique a bit.,

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plllog

So, never trust received wisdom. Getting groceries is no long a question of choosing between the seven major stores, and more minor ones, that are fairly close to home. It's choosing a store + app well ahead of when one wants delivery and making sure one anticipates all needs...and hoping the store has everything. I feel lucky. Many of you don't have delivery, nor choice. I feel extremely lucky considering how many are out of work and out of food and who get through the line at the food bank to find they've run out of food for the day. I give more than I spend to the food banks. But I'm being far more careful than usual to use things up, even if it makes weird food (as long as it tastes good, I'm okay with it, but triple cream cheese on bread with kung pao beef with waterchestnuts was really out there).

So I looked up recipes to use a pound bag of sugar snap peas that I hadn't wanted anyway, and wanted to use before they croaked. There were some that sounded different and good, but I should have checked multiple sources. Still, the peas came out fine, and I did make some adjustments for the better on the fly.

One was a pickle that called for white peppercorns. Subbing dry for fresh dill didn't bother me, but I wasn't about to try to turn tellicherries into white peppercorns and the black would have been too sharp, so I picked through an old (old) container of a blend, and picked out enough white peppercorns.

The second was supposed to be a crunchy snack. I cut back the amount of cheese and spice because what the recipe called for would have been parm snacks with peas, not pea snacks with parm. This one called for a teaspoon of ground black pepper. By eyeball, I decided 3/4 tsp. would be plenty, but no way I was going to grind that much pepper for peas! But the jar of fine grind in the rack was half gone, so also must be old. Sure enough, it wasn't pungent when I opened it. Oh, no! Black grit! So I tasted it and it had a very mild flavor. No zing, but not grit. For using up a scant half a pound of pea pods, I wasn't in the mood to argue, so I used it.

PEPPER!! Old and sad, old and aromaless... Made hot and moist, they're PEPPER! I did the pickle in two jars, one with a whole szechuan pepper in it. I took a pea off the top, after they'd cooled (per recipe the brine was heated, but they weren't canned. Just jars in the fridge) Zowie! That pea was hot and peppery. I looked at the jar. I'd labelled the one with the dry red pepper in big purple letters. It was the other one.

The baked peas? Peppery enough to to make one sneeze! I mean, hot! Not too much. We like heat. But not played out black grit. Oh, no. Not that. Pepper's in the house and came to seduce my poor innocent sugar snap peas.


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