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Not Using Freshly Cracked Pepper Is Criminal: Here’s How to Reform

young man cooking with his girlfriend and adding fresh cracked pepper to the pan
Rido/Shutterstock

Enhance the flavor and texture of your future dishes by switching to freshly cracked pepper for most of your cooking needs. Learn when to use a pepper mill, and why it’s so much better!

Ground vs. Cracked Pepper

Many people choose to purchase ground pepper, for all cooking needs, simply because it’s what they have come to know. However, the science behind freshly cracked black pepper may change your mind.

The ground pepper you purchase from a grocery store is made months ahead of time and therefore exposed to oxidation. This means the chemicals in your ground pepper combine with oxygen, which diminishes the pungent taste and creates a shorter shelf life for the product.

When you use a pepper mill, the centers of your peppercorns (which are not oxidized) release all the delicious essences, and it will last much longer too.

Jar of spilled peppercorns, and bowl of black peppercorns.
Emilee Unterkoefler

Why Freshly Cracked Pepper is So Much Better

Not only does freshly milled pepper release intense flavors when the centers open for the first time, but oils excrete from each peppercorn too. When these naturally occurring oils are released, an even more marvelous flavor for your cooking comes out.

Ground pepper, which is ground in factories, is exposed to elements months ahead of time, which causes the oils to disappear during the packaging process. That’s why it isn’t as intense as freshly milled pepper.

When to Use Cracked Pepper

Substituting ground for freshly cracked pepper (or vise versa) can certainly be done if needed, but avoid it if you can. Always having both on hand will significantly benefit your meals.

Cracked pepper goes excellent on meat before searing or roasting. So, if you’ve got a planned pot roast this week, whip out the pepper mill, and get to cracking. You’ll also love the flavor that cracked black pepper brings out in many other dishes. It’s a delicious finish to many salads, a great addition to a ribeye steak, or anything that needs an extra crunch.

When to Use Ground Pepper

As far as cooking goes, ground pepper is excellent for mildly flavored dishes. If you fear that the pungent flavors may overpower your meal, then steer clear from the pepper mill. Anything that requires a smooth consistency like cheese fondue will also benefit more from finely ground pepper.

Jar of spilled peppercorns
Emilee Unterkoefler

What Type of Peppercorns Should I buy?

Before you find yourself staring at all the different-looking peppercorns in the spice’s aisle, learn what sets them apart. Understanding the differentiating flavors will help you during your selecting process.

Black peppercorn is the most common type and provides your dishes with the most robust flavors. White peppercorns are, of course, much lighter in color but have a hotter taste to them. White pepper is usually used for creamy sauces or soups so that the flakes blend in to create a discreet appearance to the dish.

Green peppercorns are soft and milder, while pink peppercorns provide a much sweeter flavor to your meals. Szechuan peppercorns are mildly hot and very aromatic.

Although green, pink, and Szechuan peppercorns are available for purchase, both black and white peppercorns are most commonly used for everyday cooking needs.


If you’ve only ever used pepper from the can, no worries as you can quickly reform from this subtle tragedy. Next time you make it out to the supermarket, don’t forget to stop by the spice’s aisle and grab yourself some peppercorns for your new pepper grinder.

Create a bold and natural flavor on your next grilled steak, or finish your meals with an exciting crunch. You’ll wow your family with this delicious new addition, and you’ll be glad you did too.

Emilee Unterkoefler Emilee Unterkoefler
Emilee Unterkoefler is a freelance food writer, hiking enthusiast, and mama with over ten years of experience working in the food industry. Read Full Bio »

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