Spice Shelf: Black Peppercorns

  • Pin It
  • print
  • email to a friend
By The Paula Deen Test Kitchen

Peppercorns are the dried berries of a smooth, woody vine called—you guessed it—a pepper plant. Depending on when the berries are picked, the pepper is white (very ripe), black (half ripe), or green (un-ripe). (Pink peppercorns actually come from a completely different plant.) Black pepper is the most pungent, flavorful, and widely used of all types of pepper, and for good reason! It’s as versatile as it is delicious.

Peppercorns should be stored in an air tight, glass container in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight. Whole black peppercorns stay fresh for over a year.

There are three main advantages to buying whole peppercorn and grinding it yourself.
1) It’s more flavorful! Keeping your peppercorn whole locks in the flavor for longer
2) You know what you’re getting! Many brands of ground pepper are often mixed with other spices.
3) You control the grind! You pick how fine or course to grind your pepper depending on intended use.

Whole peppercorn should be heavy, compact, round and free of blemishes. It’s also important to remember that the typical cook is peppering almost everything; this everyday spice is not the place to penny pinch. Typically good quality pepper is not much more expensive than lesser quality pepper.

Pepper has played an important role in history. Pepper catalyzed spice trade, which lead to the exploration of new worlds, and helped develop major merchant cities in Europe and the Middle East. It has been used as a currency (to pay taxes and ransoms), a sacred offering (to honor gods), and a seasoning. From a culinary perspective, pepper was used not only to spice up bland foods, but also to mask not-so-fresh food flavor, which was especially important before preservation was prevalent.

Tips and Tricks
- If cooked for too long, pepper can start to loose its flavor and aroma. For an extra peppery flavor, add pepper near the end of cooking.
- Black pepper improves digestion and reduces gas because it has antibacterial effects. So if you’re eating chili… pepper up!
- The outer layer of the peppercorn stimulates the breakdown of fat cells.

Pepper starts losing its pungency and flavor the instant it’s ground. If you have a pepper mill (and need a relatively small amount) grind as needed. You can also grind pepper in small batches (and keep it in an air tight jar). If you’d rather pre-grind pepper in small batches, test for freshness before using. Rub a small amount of the ground pepper in the palm of your hand, then smell and taste it. If the aroma is weak, or the taste is bland, throw it out! (Caution: sneezing may occur.)

Vanilla and Peppercorn Crusted Rack of Lamb with Vanilla Bean Butter Sauce
Hot Spiced Apple-Pear Cider
Pickled Vegetables
The Lola Burger
Pickled Shrimp Michael’s Recipe
Paula’s Savannah-Style Blue Crabs
Mustard Peppercorn Crusted Ribeye

Read More From On the Shelf.

You May Also Like These Blogs:

You May Also Like These Recipes:

Leave a Comment

Reader Comments:


You are the best Mrs. Deen. I like your recipes and cook for my family. Best regards from Panama.

By irma villamil on May 16, 2013

Paula Deen
Paula Deen
The Lady's Blog
The Queen of Southern Cuisine muses about her recipes, life and family. See Posts

Brooke Deen
Brooke Deen
Deen Mother
Advice on raising two boys (three counting Jamie). See Posts

Brandon Branch
Brandon Branch
Southern Style
Decorating Inspiration from Paula's Design Director. See Posts

Julia Sayers
Julia Sayers
Hot off the Press
Step behind the pages and let the Associate Editor of Cooking with Paula Deen fill you in on what goes into creating every issue. See Posts

Lisa Scarbrough
Lisa Scarbrough
Thrift Store Mommy
Mom on a dime advice from Paula's Digital Properties Manager. See Posts

Andrea Goto
Andrea Goto
Mom 2.0
Tips from a real-world mom with comedic tendencies. See Posts

Martha Lee
Martha Lee
Earth Mother
Practical, earth-conscious ways to live and parent in the 21st century. See Posts

Susan Greene a.k.a BUBBLES
Susan Greene a.k.a BUBBLES
Bubbles' Corner
Ideas and advice from a 21st Century young at heart Grandmother. See Posts

Cindy Edwards
Cindy Edwards
Southern Proper
Etiquette advice from a true Southern belle. See Posts


Paula, I love watching you and your family. I miss seeing your show, I watched you everyday. My son lives in Charleston S.C. He took me to the Lady & Sons to eat. Oh my goodness! People are always telling me that I look just like the cooking lady Paula Deen. I always tell them that you are my hero. May God Bless You Mary Ann
Mary Ann Tharp in A Summer of Burgers on August 15, 2014 at 10:48 pm

Add a few spoonfuls of parmesan cheese to the flour and cornmeal breading and it kicks the tomatoes up another notch. Bev
in Crispy Fried Green Tomatoes on August 15, 2014 at 10:33 am

I just bought Paula's Peach Salad Dressing and wondered if anyone has a good recipe that they use it in?
Melissa in Taste Testing 101 on August 13, 2014 at 8:36 am

Congrats Bobby. Loved the family picture miss you Paula on TV will be watching online. Jack is getting big. Looks like his mom but Matt aka moose has your face. Your eyes cheeks hair even falls to his face like yours except to the left. Good luck on your next venture. You give us other 60+ yr women strength to move on. Keep up the good work.
Carol Bryant in Love at Last on August 11, 2014 at 6:12 pm