Introduction: Reuse a "disposable" Spice Mill

Picture of Reuse a "disposable" Spice Mill

I've developed a taste for fresh ground pepper, but as someone on a low salary I don't want to buy an expensive pepper mill. Some spice companies sell peppercorns, sea salt grains, and dried spices etc. in neat little grinders, but you're not supposed to be able to refill them, which is a bit silly since you can buy bulk spices much cheaper from most supermarkets.

Step 1: Oops

My first attempt at getting the plastic grinder top off the glass container went badly. I tried to use a spoon to pry it off, wedging the end of the spoon into the lid and banging it on the table. It made some cracking noises, which I thought was glue. It turned out that I'd broken the rim of the glass bottle off.

Step 2: Soften the Plastic

Picture of Soften the Plastic

Later when I had another empty pepper grinder, I decided to soften the plastic before prying it off more gently. I set my oven at 250F and put the grinder inside for about 10 minutes.

The room smelt like pepper =)

Step 3: Remove Lid and Refill

Picture of Remove Lid and Refill

Pry off the top gently. REMEMBER: hot glass doesn't look hot!. Use a potholder.

Refill with peppercorns or whatever other spice you like. I don't know if maybe some others might be too hard for the plastic grinding surfaces to handle. You may have to experiment. Also, if you look at the size of the teeth (on the underside of the top) it can't handle very big objects.

Step 4: Replace the Top

Picture of Replace the Top

Bang it lightly with your fist until it clicks. Enjoy fresh ground pepper.


richfiles (author)2017-07-25

All it took was some hot water from the sink... Granted, my apartment has some HOT water, but all it took was just a few seconds of heating, once the water was at full hotness.

LiftAndLove (author)2013-02-01

Kinda a dumb question, but can you put rice in there and use it to make flour?

Probably not because hand-cranked pepper mills usually spit out little chunks, not fine powder. You'd be better off using a blender. Any reason you can't find rice flour for sale?

mesagoat (author)xenobiologista2017-04-04

about that rice flour, as you said earlier xeno...

"totally depends on which part of the world you live in, which shop you buy your groceries at, and which brand you're looking at."

mos' o the "grocery" stores in the food deserts of this DisUnited States, are little more than repositories of toxic junk. something healthy, and non-gluten, like rice flour is beyond the scope of human comprehension for some of this store managers. blessing's to the food hackers, diyers and healthy thinkers out there.

I can, but me and my ex are starting a farmers market booth that sells baked goods, and I thought It'd be better if it was more 'hand made'. Plus from what I hear rice flour isn't as cheap as rice.

Yeah you DEFINITELY need a bigger mill if you're going to want enough stuff to make bread, and one that can grind finer. Try Googling "hand mill flour" or something.

Haha okay. But I have to make the mill, because since I'm not allowed to get a job yet. I'm looking around though.

LauraF139 (author)2017-03-04

Thanks so much for this hack! I looked up the grinder after it was empty to figure out how to refill just to find it was designed to NOT be refillable! I was mad that the marketing tricked me into thinking I was buying something environmentally friendly but in reality it's worse than my regular shaker! Shame on Morton! Then I found your page and by softening the plastic, which I wouldn't have thought of, it worked like a charm! I had already bought the course grind salt by Morton which is right next to it on the grocery shelf, again tricking me into thinking it was refillable, so I was very happy! I'll be doing the same for the pepper! Yay

CierraC1 (author)LauraF1392017-03-07

I have the Morton Pepper mill shown in your picture. Did you refill the one shown above?

LauraF139 (author)CierraC12017-03-10

I did the salt grinder first because it emptied faster but the pepper one is the same

LauraF139 (author)CierraC12017-03-10

Yes the hack above was dead on! I was mad they tricked me into thinking it was refillable but it is actually designed to be one-use only. By heating the plastic you can pry off lid and refill! I had tried to pry it off cold but could tell it was going to break. After refilling it it pops back on but don't wait too long do it while the plastic is still warm. I used a butter knife to pry under the tabs and after a few tries back and forth on each side it came off! It takes a little muscle but not too bad.

mattcintosh (author)2015-09-26

my problem is the grinders with the peppercorns are actually *cheaper* than just the peppercorns in a bottle. The weights were almost identical, but the grinder was about 50 cents less... go figure...

SueM126 (author)mattcintosh2016-11-23

I love the peppercorn medley but don't like that the bottle isn't refillable. It's wasteful to keep throwing thing in the landfill or recycle bins. I went on a Google search to find that this mix isn't exclusive to this brand, However, like you, I found the price of the item in bulk is more expensive. I love that this grinder has 3 settings and is easy to use, so I wrote the company asking them to change their ways.

Pricing totally depends on which part of the world you live in, which shop you buy your groceries at, and which brand you're looking at.

At the time and place when I wrote this, this was the most economical option for me to get fresh ground pepper, and it seems to have been useful for a few other people too. If it doesn't work for you, feel free to ignore this.

I just mentioned it because I had one I was able to take the lid off, but when I got to the store, I was frustrated that the ones with the lid were cheaper than the ones without. Same brand and everything.

Its like they were punishing you for actually buying a real peppermill.

ThatC (author)2016-05-01

Great tips here! I heated grinder container in microwave for about a minute, then held container in left hand using pot holder, then using my right hand, pried lid off with the tip of potato peeler as suggested below. No trip to Trader Joe's, no buying anything, just a minute (literally, no more than one minute) and the container to re-use!

ata1anta (author)2016-04-11

I bought a McCormick and a Morton's grinder. The McCormick had good action and I'll be using this for my "refilling." The action on the Morton's is terrible, it jams after a twist or two and the opening to be able to remove the protective lid can dig into your hand if you're not careful. Just my observations.

fishhead455 (author)2008-02-14

I have found in the local supermarket a new grinder,empty, with metal teeth. They come apart basically the same way but will last much longer than those with the plastic teeth. I tried it for grinding sea-salt but the teeth corroded and became useless...but for pepper it will work. Hope this will help as it follows the path of being reusable even though it is bought as new.

ata1anta (author)fishhead4552016-03-11

You need a special mill for salt - ceramic or plastic - as the salt will corrode the metal with a quickness.

Riscyg (author)2016-02-13

worked fine for me, thanks.

I used a cup of hot water instead, being eco friendly, and saving water :p

Held the plastic jar lid upside down in it for 20-30 seconds and it popped off easily with just a pull - wearing heat protective gloves on both hands.

Great tip.

wdanielbern (author)2015-11-20

If any of you live near a kroger store they have a store brand and they have a screw off top with a coarse or fine selector

geanp (author)2015-08-05

try using a hair dryer. Lid was easily removed afte 15-20 seconds of heating

purplekimchi (author)geanp2015-08-13

I tried it using the hair dryer and you are right. Though I never would have thought of that if I had not found this Instructable first.

The sad thing is that I have a nice-ish mill, but it is so easy to adjust the coarseness on these particular disposable ones that I use them most times, unless I'm setting the table for a special occasion.

geanp (author)2015-08-05

mezzodiva54 (author)2014-06-14

What an inordinate amount of trouble to go to! Go to Trader Joe's, buy one of their assorted bottles of salt, pepper, sugar, whatever. What it's finished, UNSCREW THE TOP and fill it with whatever your heart desires. SCREW THE TOP BACK ON. No prying, heating, banging, etc., etc. There, fixed that for you.

mrhaney24 (author)mezzodiva542015-07-19

but you have a perfectly unused bottle you can't fill and stares at you everytime you walk by .lol

KyleB3 (author)mezzodiva542015-04-09

I was reading this and then noticed that my Trader Joe's "Rainbow Peppercorns" grinder, which I was preparing to refill had a screw of lid!!!! Yeah Trader Joe's !!!

Spyder66 (author)mezzodiva542015-03-05

Those are not pepper GRINDERS.

SarahS9 (author)mezzodiva542015-02-25

1. The first and last time I visited a Trader Joe's in my area they had a very pathetic spice selection. None of the spices came in screw top jars.

2. I want this for a nutmeg grinder as replacement grinders at the same price point are plastic and the 'fancy' ones are $100. Given the hardness of the spice, I can't simply substitute this with one designed for black pepper.

There, UNfixed that for you.

Thanks for the information that TJ's grinder bottles come with screw tops - good to know. You may not have realised however that Trader Joe's doesn't have stores in most states of the USA, let alone other countries.

ptabakaru1 (author)2015-06-02

Everyday Essentials (I believe Walmart, or Shaws supermarket) uses screw off grinders for salt and pepper they are real easy to remove and refill.

dgunn-knight (author)2015-05-28

thank you! i knew the hoarder in me would find a use for the empty jar in my kitchen, lol.

TXcat22 (author)2015-05-22

Some good ideas here, thanks for posting. In the past, when visiting the Outback Steakhouse, I've asked the server for some of their salt and pepper grinders. :-) (author)2015-04-30

I put the empty McCormick pepper grinder in the microwave for 30 seconds, then ran it under hot running water for 30 seconds, then used a kitchen towel to hold the bottom of it and a rubber jar opener square to hold the top & it popped right off with very little effort! No need to heat up the big oven in the summer this way! (author)2015-04-30

I put the empty McCormick pepper grinder in the microwave for 30 seconds, then ran it under hot running water for 30 seconds, then used a kitchen towel to hold the bottom of it and a rubber jar opener square to hold the top & it popped right off with very little effort! No need to heat up the big oven in the summer this way!

JesslynC (author)2014-12-29

Just tried this and it worked perfectly. Thank you for posting! I'm pretty handy and resourceful, but COULD NOT get into the McCormick pepper grinder, very frustrating! This method was so fast and so easy - - much better (and safer) than fiddling with various objects trying to snap the top off.

greg.schmicker (author)2014-12-21

ok so I put a disposable in the oven and it popped off like a hot knife through butter after trying for 20 min or something like that without it. just make sure to use a kitchen rag that goes without saying. so there someone who wants to kill an afternoon running around town to then drop cash on a grinder from a store. the type I used was called kotanyi and was a black pepper mill. I heated it in the oven for about 12 min at 125 c.

ElizabethH1 (author)2014-11-03

Thank you! This worked perfectly. I was just able to remove a McCormick pepper mill lid (just like the one pictured) using this method. I had not been able to pull, push, twist or pry it off, as some other users have suggested is "easy". Not so for me.

Thanks also to the person who suggested using a potato peeler as a prying tool. Perfect for the job!

I will be using this method (and my "disposable" mill) again and again :)

WeW1 (author)2014-10-17

Saxa salt grinder very easy to just flip out the seal on the top white part of the grinder. Thin blade knife (I used a normal "knife and fork" type knife) forced into the side of the top seal b/w the white and the blue, run it around the edge and the top-seal pops straight out, very little force required. Fill up, force the top seal back in by pushing around the edge all the way around (once again, not a lot of force required). Simple.

WeW1 (author)2014-10-17

Saxa salt grinder very easy to just flip out the seal on the top white part of the grinder. Thin blade knife (I used a normal "knife and fork" type knife) forced into the side of the top seal b/w the white and the blue, run it around the edge and the top-seal pops straight out, very little force required. Fill up, force the top seal back in by pushing around the edge all the way around (once again, not a lot of force required). Simple.

lloyd.witt2 (author)2014-09-08

pretty straight forward. 10 minutes in a 250 degree oven, grabbed the top and bottom with oven mitts, and it top popped right off.

I let it cool for a few minutes, cleaned it out and filled it up. The top went back on without any issues. Like new.

So far this worked on McCormick Sea salt and Pepper grinders.

frank.burns.94651 (author)2014-09-04

As just an average guy and office worker, I don't figure my hands are all that strong. But I just grabbed the bottom in one hand, the top in the other, and sort of bent and twisted at the same time, and the McCormick top to the pepper grinder just came right orr. Not exactly child's play, but I didn't need hot water, a spoon or anything like that. Maybe people are afraid the glass is going to break, but I'm sure I don't have that strength. If you are squeamish, hold it with a rag in the bottle hand.

Kratoklastes (author)2014-03-09

I so utterly love you, internet.

Didn't use the oven (that would be madness), but a couple of minutes under running hot water, combined with a finely-tuned combination of guile and mindless violence... and the lid of our "Saxa" hitherto-unopenable pepper-grinder popped off.

And all the while I was (metaphorically) slapping my forehead, (metaphorically) saying

"Of course, idiot... the surround is so obviously thermoplastic that you ought to be ashamed of yourself for not thinking of this solution without recourse the the interwebs. Call yourself a smart dude? Pshaww, I say!"

Emay12345 (author)2013-12-28

Thank you for this!! I just did it for a disposable imported spice grinder I had and it worked like a charm!

Emay12345 (author)Emay123452013-12-28

I could NOT pry mine again, thank you for this!

imactony (author)2012-12-10

I just refilled my disposable pepper grinder using the hold/twist/pull method. How easy was that?! Within 30 seconds of applying an even pulling pressure with small continuous back and forth turns, the top simply popped right off.

eddiev2 (author)imactony2013-10-21

haha I was thinking the same thing! I actually came across this after I had already pulled the top off. It only took a couple of tries. This article actually made me laugh a bit considering how easy it was.

NMichael79 (author)2013-08-23

I read all the comments and after watching some you tube videos and trying to yank the damn top off myself, I was about to give up. It makes me mad that McCormick sells a perfectly good grinder that could easily last several years and yes, could be refilled with other spices or blends. So I think the best idea anyone has mentioned or shown thus far is that you can soak the lid in near boiling or very hot water to soften the plastic to make it easier to pry off. I would have already tried that if my grinder was empty but I'm too impatient to wait and I wanted to do it now since my grinder is already more than half empty. A problem with these grinders that somebody else mentioned here is that it looks like they are made to be kept upright (with the grinder pointed skyward). But then every time you flip the damn thing upside down again, lots of already ground pepper leaks out and can make a mess. That is a disadvantage to turning it up and down again. The partially ground kernels mix with the non-ground kernels and then by the time you get close to empty , the stuff inside all looks mostly like coarse granules.

So I had my own idea after I tried to yank several times. I don't really have the arm strength to pull it off even after holding my hand on the cap for a few minutes. It doesn't warm the plastic up near enough. But this is something I have done with some other kind of cap... I know, it was those damn child safety lids that come on prescription bottles (the kind that click). It is possible to defeat the stupid caps if you need to clean the area underneath them while still retaining the outer cap for a better grip. So this is the same concept. The inner white grinder plastic is a different material than the outer black cap plastic material. I might make a you-tube of this since it's my original idea as far as I know. Nobody else I know thought of this first:

First flip the McCormick grinder Upside down so that the grinder faces the ground. Get a medium sized butcher knife or smaller. BE REALLY CAREFUL IF YOU DECIDE TO DO THIS. DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS IF YOU ARE UNDER 18 YEARS OLD AND WILLING TO ACCEPT THE RISK THAT YOU COULD ACCIDENTALLY CUT YOURSELF IF YOU ARE NOT VERY CAREFUL. There that's my disclaimer.

Now what you're going to want to do is to get a cutting board and set this on top of a clean counter top. Place the upside down grinder and set it on top of the cutting board in the direction you would use it to grind pepper. Make about a 1 to 1.5 centimeter vertical cut downward from the lip of the plastic where it meets the glass toward the upside down mechanism. Cut through the black plastic by teetering the knife up and down slightly while applying medium pressure. Cut from lip opposite from the red adjustment ring toward the cutting board. Take your time. Easy does it. Grasp the bottom glass part of the grinder with one hand and the medium-small chopping knife with the other. It may take a few passes till you can get all the way through the plastic to the glass cutting downward toward the red grinder adjustment ring to the length of 1-1.5 centimeters. GO SLOWLY. Be careful because the knife can and possibly will slip out of the cut and hit the cutting board. Once you got it at least 1 centimeter and you are sure you cut through to the glass, you are done. Flip the grinder back upright. Grasp the grinder top and Gently pull it off. It should come off really easily. If it doesn't, try CAREFULLY cutting this incision a little deeper till you reach the glass beneath the inside of the lid. It worked for me. I refilled the pepper back up to the top and it still grinds just fine. This hack will not effect the grinding mechanism, but will make the glass bottle, permanently refillable. Yay! Problem solved! Shame on McCormick for making a one time use overpriced product just so that they can reap double profits!


By the way, this type of pepper grinder probably isn't a long term solution for grinding because the plastic does probably eventually wear out, especially if you refill it with harder types of spice. If the plastic mechanism wears away, that means that it's grinding away into your spice which is not so good to be eating, especially if you wind up cooking the spice on high heat or grilling over open flame. Then, it would really not be good OVER TIME. Please America I love you but keep this in mind!

Yours truly,


callmeshane (author)2008-02-20


There is a heap on how primitive people ground stuff.... like before they invented the power point and things.

TWO flat stones.

Hand made rotary mills.


Sum Lynx.

And sumfing rooly educational... on water wheel driven mill stones.

I would not be surprised if once upon a time, that people actually WALKED to their friends places, or the shops, or to go fishing.

Perhaps, the may be some really easy ways to grind stuff, without the need to get the grinding device from a packet.


Geez, there's no need to be such a smart aleck. Of course there are a million and one ways to pulverize stuff, but what I'm aiming for here is CHEAPNESS plus CONVENIENCE. I'm planning to buy a small mortar and pestle at some point in the future for grinding herbs, but it would be really annoying to have to whip it out every time I wanted a bit of pepper on my food.

About This Instructable




Bio: Virologist, Dremel owner, hardcore bike commuter
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