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Best Black Pepper For Cooking?

Featured image for "Best Black Pepper for Cooking?" blog post. Black peppercorns on a table.

When people ask what’s the best black pepper for cooking, there are many varieties to choose from, but one tends to stand above the others as the top choice for many chefs. Tellicherry black peppercorns, from eastern India, are considered in the realm of cooking as being one of the best black pepper varieties you can buy.

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Background

Piper nigrum, the flowering vine that blossoms into an exquisite pepper plant, is originally from the region of Malabar in Southern India. The local climate proves to be ideal for the cultivation of the spice, as the Western Ghats mountain range locks in humidity coming from monsoon rains. The highly fragrant Piper nigrum exhales a fruity and powerful aroma, making it one of the world’s most exported spices. Since ancient times, peppercorns have been one of the most valued products in the spice trade—oftentimes, they were known as “black gold” and used as a form of currency.

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Although we get to cook with far pricier and less common spices nowadays, pepper remains the crown jewel of the spice trade in sales volume and profitability. Different pepper plant types are now cultivated in many other tropical regions besides India, with Indonesia, Malaysia, Ecuador, Vietnam, and Brazil as the key competitive growers. However, it is the country of Vietnam that takes up the largest parcel of the market, being responsible for over 50% of the world’s total pepper production.

Pepper Harvesting

The best whole peppercorns are harvested while they are still unripe. The process turns unripe berries into quickly cooked and dried peppercorns. As the peppercorn dehydrates, it becomes wrinkled and shriveled, finally turning brown or black.

Any experienced cook will encounter different varieties of peppercorn, with black, green, and white peppercorns being the most popular. Pink and Szechuan peppercorns are some of the less popular, albeit delicious, varieties. While black pepper follows a process of early harvest, rapid cooling, and drying, green peppercorns are simply unripe and dried, but not cooked. White pepper means that the fruits of the pepper plant were harvested almost at the end of the ripening phase.

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Tellicherry peppercorns are harvested from the vine just prior to fully ripening and turning red. When they are left to dry, they turn black. This variety of peppercorns are left on the vine to ripen longer than other varieties of peppercorn. This extra long ripening process is responsible for the rich, deep flavor of this excellent high grade black peppercorn.

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Origins

Tellicherry black peppercorns originate from the east coast of India, in the general vicinity of the harbor of Tellicherry.

Instructions for Freshly Ground Black Pepper

This kitchen cabinet staple is a perfect ingredient for breakfast eggs, steak,  and most dishes/recipes containing fish, pork, and chicken. It is also great for experimenting with fruits, salads, and soups. It is ideal to purchase whole Tellicherry black peppercorns and use a pepper grinder too apply this delicious spice to your favorite meals. Make sure to get a pepper grinder with numerous grain coarseness settings.

When seasoning, you can combine quality Tellicherry black pepper with a variety of other spices: ginger, garlic, parsley, coriander, turmeric, thyme, rosemary, basil, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, Himalayan pink salt, and nutmeg.

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Taste Strategy

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Tellicherry peppercorns are considered by many to be the best black pepper for cooking and has a sharp and clean flavor, which is slightly hot with a strong aftertaste. The robust and full peppercorns are fragrant with fruity and citrus undertones.