By granulating spices at home with a spice grinder, you'll have the chance to take full advantage of the complex flavors that are sometimes lost in a pre-ground version. Plus, using a spice grinder ensures you know exactly what's going into your next meal—whereas pre-ground spices sometimes contain additives that aren't required to be listed on the back of the bottle. (Scary, we know.)
While chefs love to wax poetic on old-fashioned mortar and pestles, electric spice grinders get the job done quickly and efficiently. Before you go shopping for your next spice grinder, consider these chef-bought favorites that are reliable, durable, easy to use, and even easier to clean. Our test kitchen experts and restaurant pros know a thing or two about the perfect spice-grinding tools, and these are some of their favorites:
Read on for all the details and to choose which top-rated spice grinder is right for your cooking style and space at home.
"It's very easy to use, and the best part is that it can also be used to grind nuts. Another perk is that this grinder easy to clean and maintain."
She's not the only chef who prefers the Cuisinart gadget: Donatella Arpaia uses the same one. The space-efficient grinder features extra-sharp, stainless-steel blades that can handle ingredients like whole cloves to cinnamon sticks. It's easy to clean too, with a removable grinding bowl.
Buy it: Cuisinart Electric Spice-and-Nut Grinder, $40 at amazon.com
Top Chef star Jeremy Ford avoids a traditional spice grinder at his Miami restaurant Stubborn Seed. The chef, who stars in the new truTV show Fast Foodies, says the best grinder he's ever used isn't actually meant for spices.
"My favorite spice grinder isn't a spice grinder at all—it's a coffee grinder," he says. "I use the KitchenAid one at Stubborn Seed because it's so durable. It can withstand the roughness and wear and tear of daily use in a real restaurant kitchen."
The best part? There's a bright red version of the KitchenAid tool for less than $25 on Amazon.
Buy it: KitchenAid BCG111ER Blade Coffee Grinder, $25 at amazon.com
F&W Test Kitchen editor Kelsey Youngman recommends KRUPS Silent Vortex Electric Grinder, one of the most silent grinders on the market. It doesn't take up much space on her counter; and because it's two pieces, there are no small parts to lose, according to Youngman.
"It's compact, efficient, works quickly, and isn't too hard to clean," she says. "It works equally well for tough cinnamon sticks and star anise pods as it does with fine cumin or fennel seeds. Then, I blitz white rice in it to get lingering scents and bits of spice out."
Buy it: KRUPS Silent Vortex Electric Grinder, $40 at amazon.com
But then there's James Beard Award-nominated chef Timon Balloo, who creates seasonings without a spice grinder at all. The chef prefers to take a hands-on approach with a four-cup granite mortar and pestle, which can grind pretty much anything—grains, herbs, spices.
"No matter how heavy, messy, and time-consuming it can be, I love the classic mortar and pestle," he says. "Sure, when I'm in a rush, it's easier to put spices in an electric grinder, but it's not as therapeutic and rewarding as using a manual version."
Balloo prefers the budget-friendly Vasconia Granite Molcajete version, sold for under $30. "It's wide enough to use large circular motions or pound," Balloo says. "I like to make sure the surface is rough and sealed."
Buy it: Vasconia 4-Cup Granite Molcajete Mortar and Pestle, $30 at amazon.com
Maneet Chauhan, James Beard Award-winning chef, cookbook author, and co-founder of Morph Hospitality Group, would rather use a mortar and pestle, too.
"Instead of a spice grinder, I actually use a mortar and pestle to break down my spices," she says. "This way, your spices aren't ground to powder, but instead, they are left a bit more coarse, similar to cracked pepper versus powdered pepper, which gives you a better texture."
In her kitchen, she uses the 7" Cole & Mason Granite mortar and pestle from William Sonoma, which is "the ideal size whether you're working with a small or large amount of spices," she says.
"Another trick I often do is I toast my spices before grinding them, which gives you the best flavors," she adds. "When the spices are still warm, they break and mix together more cohesively."
Buy it: Cole & Mason Granite Mortar and Pestle, $60 at williams-sonoma.com