When you want to add some zest to your food, do you use powdered pepper? That’s the stuff that comes in envelopes or plastic bottles just for you to shake over your food. You might have gotten used to this taste, but we promise that after trying fresh-ground pepper on your food you won’t turn back.
You don’t just have to take our word for it either. Ina Garten is a world-renowned celebrity chef that swears by using freshly-ground pepper over powdered or pre-ground pepper. In fact, her favorite pepper grinder is ours, at PepperMate!
How and why should you switch to using freshly-ground pepper from a peppermill? There are several chemical and nutritious qualities that will add a certain edge to your food that powdered pepper simply cannot.
How does freshly-ground pepper improve the taste and quality of your food? It has to do with the qualities that are lost soon after breaking into the peppercorns. We’ll describe them below.
Powdered Pepper Loses Its Interesting Taste and Aroma After Only Two Weeks
Once spices like pepper are ground, they are naturally exposed to the harsh conditions of the atmosphere: humidity, temperature, light, and air. All of these components can whisk away or deactivate the components that produce aroma and its classically pungent taste.
One study looked at the effects of different forms of storage of black pepper powder (already powdered when packaged). It found that “top notes” (key aroma and flavor qualities) were lost after only 15 days of storage, making it lose its use for table use. Other “basic notes” were only retained for 45 days.
Let’s look at it this way. Most people will have a pepper shaker on their dining room table for several weeks or even months before they have to refill it. Before that, it had likely been in envelopes or plastic containers for several months. In other words, if you use powdered pepper in pepper shakers, it’s likely that the one you have sitting on your table next to your salt has long lost its interesting taste and aroma.
In short, you’ll have to add a lot to get even some of the peppery taste you’re looking for, and it will never be able to compare the taste to that of freshly-ground pepper.
Freshly-Ground Pepper Preserves the Taste and Aroma Pepper Should Have
While powdered pepper only retains its “top notes” for less than 15 days, properly-stored peppercorns, which are used in peppermills, can retain their best qualities for up to 3-4 years. This goes for all different colors and types of peppercorns.
That means that dried peppercorns retain all the pungent and tingly (how about we just say tasty!) components for much longer, essentially until it is ground. Since freshly-ground pepper is usually consumed within minutes of grinding it with a pepper mill, you get the full quality of taste and sensation that pepper provides.
For those of you who are science buffs, here’s a little information about the chemistry of the taste and quality components of pepper: The study above that showed that ground pepper lost its top notes after only 15 days also found that it didn’t happen to lose piperine, one of the main pungent components of the spice.
However, we know now that there is another, less-studied component, called piperanine (sounds pretty similar) that also contributes to the aroma and taste of pepper. This is likely more volatile and lost much more quickly than piperine.
For the Best Taste…
If you want to keep the absolute best taste in your pepper, make sure to store the peppercorns properly before filling up your peppermill. Peppercorns will have a longer shelf life if they are hermetically-sealed to keep out moisture. Long storage time with moisture could increase the chances of contamination with certain fungi.
You’ll also want to keep them away from high temperatures and the sun. If you keep them in a sealed container in cupboard with good ventilation, or on a spice rack that doesn’t get hit directly with the sun, this would be ideal.
Powdered pepper and freshly-ground pepper are not the same. Powdered pepper quickly loses complex flavor components, and it will have a much softer and flatter taste when you put it in your foods. Freshly-ground pepper preserves the components within the peppercorn.
With freshly-ground pepper, you also get the added plus of being able to choose between different peppercorn types and even combining them. This adds even more body, flavor, and character to your foods than ever before.
If you don’t believe it, try it for yourself! Eat a piece of food with powdered pepper from the pepper shaker that has been sitting on your table, and then eat the same food with freshly-ground pepper. Without a doubt, you’ll experience a world of difference.