Does a grind or two of black pepper on your food really matter? asked the editors of Cook’s Illustrated. We take freshly ground black pepper so much for granted that sometimes we hardly notice it. Yet it not only lends dishes a sharp bite and heat but also, by stimulating our salivary glands, “enhances our ability to taste food.”

Recently 19 staff members tasted eight samples of freshly ground whole black peppercorns—both by themselves and on white rice. These included two supermarket brands and six mail-order Tellicherry peppercorns. The top two were also tested on steak au poivre, and in both cases “the nuances of the peppercorns came through.”
In descending order, the three tastiest black peppercorns were:

Kalustyan’s Indian Tellicherry Black Peppercorns (6.99 for 2.5-oz jar) Enticing aroma, complex flavor, and only moderately hot. Contact:

Morton & Bassett Organic Whole Black Peppercorns ($5.39 for 2-oz jar) This was our “Supermarket Winner.” Made with Lampong pepper from Indonesia. Fragrant, floral, and piney.

Zingerman’s Tellicherry Peppercorns ($8 for 2.53-oz jar) Pungent, sharp, and hot. Contact: