Crushing it with iron
Have you ever struggled to twist a feeble plastic pepper grinder? Or made a lumpy spice paste in a cheap blender, scraping down the sides every other blitz? You may be suffering from a common modern day kitchen frustration. It’s called ‘lack of crushing stuff with heavy objects’.
Swedish cast iron masters Skeppshult are familiar with this ailment, and want to bring back into our lives items that are solid, hefty and functional. Skeppshult are the last remaining foundry in Scandinavia producing cast iron cookware, having been in operation since 1906. They’re best known for making the kinds of statement pots and pans you’ll hand down to future generations, and their whole range is covered by a 25 year guarantee.
But as well as beautiful dutch ovens and heavy woks, Skeppshult craft utensils which use the heft of cast iron to their advantage. Their range of spice grinders are both elegant and a doddle to use, satisfying that urge to pulverise ingredients by hand.
Here are our favourites.
Our best-ever pepper grinder
If you’ve ever bought one of those disposable plastic pepper grinders that can’t even be refilled, you’ll be familiar with the chunky, uneven grind. One particularly stubborn peppercorn can render it almost impossible to twist, before the top pops off and floods your bolognese. Rubbish.
Investing in a nice pepper grinder is more of a game-changer than you might think. Satisfying to use, much less wasteful and you use it pretty much every day. Skeppshult’s cast iron pepper grinder is our absolute favourite, and a bestseller with our customers too.
In an elegant, minimal design complete with a walnut wood top, you’ll be captured by the satisfying weight of this pepper grinder when you hold it. Employing an ingeniously simple mechanism inside, the inherent crushing power of the cast iron makes it exceedingly easy to use. Like all Skeppshult products, it’s been made to last, with extra reassurance coming from the 25 year cast iron guarantee.
Sister to this pepper grinder is Skeppshult’s cast iron salt bowl - a simple matching container for your sea salt flakes or table salt (for clarity, it’s not a salt grinder). If you prefer grinding coarse salt and still want a matching pair, Skeppshult also make these beautiful salt and pepper grinders, in a more traditional cast iron and beech wood design. They employ a ceramic grinding mechanism which is just as effective. Or if pre-ground pepper is your preference, check out this pair of cast iron salt and pepper shakers. All perfect gifts for cooks or new homeowners.
A seriously solid mortar and pestle
You’d be forgiven for thinking a mortar and pestle, being essentially a bowl and smashing stick, is hard to get wrong. But there’s a few factors that go into making one work really well. The pestle (the stick) has to be sufficiently heavy so that it breaks things effectively, with a decent surface area to mash with. It has to be strong, to withstand the force of pounding. And both elements want to have a slightly textured surface to assist with grinding ingredients.
Wood and ceramic usually don’t cut it weight-wise, and aren’t very durable. A big, traditional granite one works brilliantly, but weighs an absolute ton. Ticking all the boxes comes Skeppshult’s cast iron version - weighty yet compact, elegant yet durable. It makes swift work of dry spices, with its broad, textured pestle.
If you’re looking for something extra special, Skeppshult’s cubic mortar and pestle combines function with modern design. Its striking geometric aesthetic brings a little Scandinavian elegance to your regular spice crushing.
These products should only be used for dry spices, to protect the iron from corrosion. However, they're protected with a layer of canola oil seasoning, just like a cast iron pan. If you do notice any rust spots, you can remove them with wire wool and reseason in the oven.
Something for the specialist
Skeppshult’s ingenious spice mills aren’t your everyday kitchen item. If you or someone you know is the sort of person who toasts dry spices in a pan and then pulverises them to make truly incredible curries, this item is a revelation.
Inside this unassuming little object is an arrangement of pyramid-shaped grinding surfaces, made of seasoned cast iron. Simply pop your cumin seeds, star anise, peppercorns or coriander seeds inside and lightly push and twist to completely crush them up. The weight of the cast iron makes applying pressure easy, so whilst the spice mill is reassuringly heavy, it’s very easy to use.
You can even use this grinder to store any unused herbs and spices - the inner section is partly hollow and has a natural walnut wood stopper (with a silicone seal) to keep things fresh. Check out these spice mills in both a small or large version.
So, if you’d like to work out some frustration on an unsuspecting peppercorn through the medium of cast iron, hopefully we’ve given you some options. Take a look at the full Skeppshult range here - or if you’ve got your eye on some pans instead, make sure you read our guide to seasoning cast iron.