See also black pepper and white pepper.
Ground pepper is made by crushing whole peppercorns, the dried berries of the plant Piper Nigrum. As the world's most popular spice, pepper is a universal condiment that can give any recipe some extra zip. It has a sharp, penetrating aroma and a hot, piney taste.
The most common varieties of ground pepper are black and white.
Black, the kind we’re used to seeing on the dinner table, is made from peppercorns that are picked when not quite ripe. It has a stronger flavor that’s slightly hot, with a hint of sweetness.
White peppercorns, on the other hand, are allowed to ripen on the vine. After harvesting, the outer husks are removed with a slow soaking in water. The result is a smooth, light-tan colored pepper with a milder flavor. White pepper is mainly used for appearance’s sake. It’s ideal for light colored sauces or foods where specks of black pepper would stand out.
When shopping the grocery store or spice market, take note of the different grinds of pepper available. Typically classified as fine, medium or coarse, each grind enhances recipes with different levels of texture and flavor.
Fine grind is appropriate for more delicate salad dressings, purées and blended foods when you don’t want noticeable pepper flakes.
Medium grind is a great general-purpose pepper for seasoning fish, poultry, soups and stews.
Coarse is excellent for hearty meats, thick sauces and foods where you really want the pepper flavor to stand out. For a truly professional finish, look for “Restaurant” pepper, a coarse, full-flavored topping for salads, vegetable side dishes and pastas.
Store in a tightly capped container away from heat, light and moisture. Always use a completely dry measuring spoon when dipping into the container and replace the lid promptly. Stored properly, ground pepper will keep for one to two years.
For the best flavor, add ground pepper to recipes at the end of cooking. Try white pepper in mashed potatoes or creamed soups like vichyssoise or clam chowder. Sprinkle black pepper on steamed vegetables, tossed salads or casseroles, or mix it equally with dry mustard and salt to make a delicious spice rub for cooking beef, pork or lamb roasts. A pinch can also add unique depth to spice cake and gingerbread cookie batters.
Try one of our favorite ground pepper recipes: