Pros: The attraction here is one-handed operation, see-through ball, dial-up grind settings
Cons: It's dead, now, so the cons are clear.
August 2012 -- UPDATE: This product died four years ago. It's demise ushered in a Peugeot Paris 9-in. Pepper Mill. Skip the plastic, go for the Peugeot.
I have my Chef 'n the Pepper Ball Grinder here, ready for a workout. Let me put a challenge to you. Pick up your pepper grinder and get ready, this is going to be good.
The goal is to grind your "to taste" amount of pepper into a pot/panful of simmering ________ (your favorite dish requiring ground pepper) and stirring it in until blended.
Ready? One . . . two . . . three . . . GRIND! Tick -- tick -- tick --
Sorry. You kind of knew you didn't stand a chance there, didn't you?
The Chef'n The Pepper Ball allows for this sort of "Kitchen Olympics" events, or for plain old pepper grinding that isn't really plain at all.
Just What Is the Chef 'n the Pepper Ball Grinder?
At a glance, the Chef 'n the Pepper Ball Grinder is a round, clear plastic ball (about 3 inches in diameter) with a flat bottom. Black plastic handles that look a lot like bunny ears protrude from the top (each about 3 inches long). One of the handles is stationary while the other can be pulled inward toward it.
Other "moving parts" include the sliding "door" on one side that allows a person to easily fill the Chef 'n the Pepper Ball Grinder. You open the door by holding the grinder horizontally and firmly pushing the edge that rests on the bottom of the grinder toward the center of the base -- easy to open, but won't fall open on its own. No way, no how.
Additionally, you'll find a grinder "dial" on the base. It's embossed with geometric "arrows" that indicate coarse grind (the wide end of the arrow) and fine grind (the smaller end, obviously).
It's All in the Corns
You may use whatever ripeness/variety of peppercorn you choose, but the Chef 'n the Pepper Ball Grinder comes standard with black peppercorns. This is my pepper of choice, but you may prefer another variety or a "mix".
The Chef 'n the Pepper Ball Grinder holds roughly 1/2 cup of peppercorns. The clear ball allows an easy glimpse of what's inside, so you'll never be surprised to find it empty.
I own two other pepper grinders, one in the shape of an apple (I collect apple "stuff"), and the other, a replica of a tiny coffee grinder. Both require the opening of a compartment to see whether or not they need a refill. I have them because I like the way they look. The Chef 'n the Pepper Ball Grinder is less a decorating choice and more a convenience. That's what counts when you're cooking.
Save the beautiful or theme-oriented pepper mills for the serving table. The Chef 'n the Pepper Ball Grinder will remain on duty range-side.
Ready, Set . . . GRIND!
Take the Chef'n The Pepper Ball in one hand -- which is all you'll ever need for basic use, and have a crack at it. You can keep the other hand free to stir, hold the handle of a pan or pot, or put it in your pocket to give yourself a laid-back look, if you so desire.
Previous to owning the Chef 'n the Pepper Ball Grinder, I often turned to my trusty pepper shaker when cooking in order to avoid using both hands just to grind pepper. Lazy? Not really, just often pressed for time and those few seconds often make a difference in a sauce or stew . . . not to mention the time to check on the kids in the next room.
Freshly-ground pepper makes the commercially-ground stuff pale in comparison (not to mention you never really know what's in that already-ground pepper), and you can gauge more easily how much you use. Now that the Chef 'n the Pepper Ball Grinder sits atop my range, I use no substitutes for cooking. The old pepper shaker is in the cupboard waiting for who knows what.
Cleaning is a Snap
You'll find that the Chef 'n the Pepper Ball Grinder picks up grease and grime from your stove top, if that's where you keep it, as well as residue from handling. You may easily wipe the outside of the grinder and handles with a damp cloth -- that's really the only cleaning you need to do.
I don't recommend emptying the peppercorn compartment and washing the inside of the grinder, as I doubt you'll ever get it completely dry. This could cause the grinder to bind and/or clog. Likewise, the base of the grinder should have only a damp cloth cleaning and a good drying to keep moisture away from parts that come in contact with ground pepper.
Versatility and the Chef 'n the Pepper Ball Grinder
Use the Chef'n The Pepper Ball at the table during mealtime if you wish. Children can use it easily, as my almost-four-year old daughter has shown . . . though she doesn't like those "black specks" herself!
Take the Chef 'n the Pepper Ball Grinder out to the grill with you for seasoning those steaks. It's not weather-proof, so don't forget to bring it back inside when you're finished -- plus, you may need it at the table for a little extra seasoning in another dish.
Go Forth and Grind
The Chef 'n the Pepper Ball Grinder, unlike some grinders you may have used, requires little effort to pull the grinding handle inward. The grinding mechanism doesn't get hung up on the peppercorns as I've experienced with my "crank" grinders, or even "twisting" models. You use less pressure than you would in a firm handshake.
On the "coarse" setting you'll come away with small pieces of peppercorn, the largest being about the size of the head of a pin. Down at the "fine" setting, you'll get "specks" of peppercorn. The only drawback to some cooks is that the Chef 'n the Pepper Ball Grinder does not allow for "cracked" pepper, or large pieces of peppercorn that you might like for pepper-crusted meats or marinades.
Who doesn't need an extra hand in the kitchen? With the Chef 'n the Pepper Ball Grinder, you can have one . . . if only for the time it takes to grind the pepper.