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Nov 26, 2006 05:31 PM

Refilling a disposable pepper or salt mill

I'd like to try to get the top off of my empty Trader Joe's salt mill. My McCormick pepper mill is also nearly empty. I'd like to try to reuse them with whole spices such as cardamom, cumin, etc.
Is there a trick to getting the top off? Has anyone else tried this? Will it work?

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  1. Not sure about the McCormick's, but I refilled my TJ salt mill recently--I had to tap it on the counter a few times to dislodge the salt dust in the threads, but I was able to get the top off pretty easily. I didn't try other spices though, as I have some of that red salt from Hawaii I wanted to grind.

    1. Definetly not easy. The collar that twists to grind the pepper has lip inside that sits over the over the bottle locking it on. I used a small screwdriver to pry it up a little over the lip. Then wrapping the collar in tape I took some channel lock pliers and pulled off the collar, not easy but it can be done. Then I took a sharp utility knife and cut a thin sliver of plastic of the inside lip. NowI have an inexpensive, reuseable grinder.

      1 Reply
      1. re: goziner

        Thanks Goziner. Just used one small screwdriver to hold it apart and the second to go around the bottle. Viola! took a few seconds and after filling, snapped it right back on. I didn't cut anything off the inside since it was pretty easy and we probably won't need to refill for at least a year. Thanks for forging ahead and solving this question!

      2. -----

        My personal feelings are to use a $4 mortar and a pestle for all the odd spices and herbs. You will get more control of the crush consistency in that case. Better yet is creating yourself some blended crushes that really spices up a favorite dish.

        However one of my friends that insists on recycling those will drill a 7/16 inch hole in the bottom using a special glass bit. He can get small corks in the local craft stores or use adhesive circles (office stickers), for plugging up the hole. He has noted to me that after about 2 maybe 3 refills the unit is rather shot.


        1. Hmm....McCormick I never could figure out and didn't really think it was worth trying to figure out given the cost, but one thing I found with the TJ's mills we got more recently (both salt and pepper) is that they have easy to remove tops (they just unscrew) and thus can be easily refilled. Did I just hit a good batch? This is a matching pair of sea salt 3.3oz and black pepper 1.8oz, clear tops as well as clear bottle, if you're looking for them in the store. I dunno if the design changed either before or after I bought them, but these were bought sometime in the last couple months.

          I don't remember how much they cost. It seems possible you could probably find an equivalent cheap grinder for the same few bucks you would spend on these. Or maybe not. I gather each of these was about 3 bucks, maybe a little more. They are somewhat larger than the McCormick grinders.

          1. Why continue buying cheap mills that are meant to be disposable? The grinders wear out quickly. Decent mills can be purchased for as little at $7 - $10. Better quality peppercorns and salt will cost far less from Penzey's or even at the supermarket, packaged without the gimmick. You'll have the nice, good quality ones for a long time and enjoy using them on your table.
            I hate buying things that don't last.

            3 Replies
            1. re: MakingSense

              I bought a refillable clear vinyl pepper mill. I hate the way it grinds, too fine. I taped up the old disposable one and I'm using that. I feel like I wasted £4.

              1. re: MakingSense

                Usually true but.

                I have a grinder that is 100+ years old and still good.
                The only time anything was done to it was via dad in 1974.
                He actually replaced the inner part of the grinder.

                I did ask then why bother, per even then grinders for this were cheap.

                Its the coffee bean grinders that canbe expensive.
                Especially if getting combo units.

                But nowadays, more of us (even with $$) need to save.
                I would prefer to resuse a grinder nowadays even as cheap as they are,till they are not usuable... But since I have 4 of the very old ones, and using two soley for pepper related, I use up the re-usuables quickly and when possible empty them out.
                But my cheapie grinders are glass containers anyway..

                1. re: MakingSense

                  In fact for my very old grinder its inards are easy to replace. and those parts are as cheap as disposable grinders.

                  In the end, the cost savings in reusing versus fancy has proven to equal out and not really be advantagous either way in the end.

                  However, short of spending $$ on trying to reuse grinders, I say to those who say why be so cheap, you must be wealthy to complain about other peoples efforts to save a buck.

                  I know millionaires who are rich soley becuase they save money on resusing all sorts of stuff... and some of them dont even live rich except for the bank acct.
                  Btw, one of them is a next door neighbor and is only 45, and we live in a soso avg part of town.