The Salt & Pepper Rule

Which shaker DOES the salt go in?  Does it matter?  There is an actual salt and pepper rule. To identify the salt and pepper shakers, it all has to do with the number and size of the holes and your level of commitment to insanity.

Tall, slender antique silverplate salt and pepper shakers on natural linen tablecloth, various other vintages shakers in background.


People are creatures of habit and of doing things just because that’s the way they’re done. This is the only explanation for why we leave pie to the end of the meal instead of the more obvious choice of EATING IT FIRST. It’s just the way it’s done.

Unless it’s Blueberry pie because blueberry pie as you probably know is one of  The 4 True Pies all of which can be eaten before, during or after meals.

The other thing most of us do is put the salt in the shaker with the most amount of holes.  The pepper goes in the shaker with the fewer amount of holes.  That is the “rule”.

The Salt & Pepper Shaker Rule

Contemporary, white, sleek ceramic salt and pepper shakers.

Because we’re law abiding citizens and we like to follow rules to help maintain a balanced life and orderly society, we do this.  We follow the salt and pepper rule.

Well I am here to tell you right now that society is about to become unhinged. It might make more sense to break the salt and pepper rule. I know. Everybody calm down.

I broke all the rules when I went on record declaring I didn’t like the Instant Pot after testing it for a month

Here’s the reasoning behind my thumbing my nose at social norms for salt and pepper.   Pepper is bigger and lighter.  It has a harder time flowing out of the holes.  Salt is finer and heavier.  It has an easier time flowing out of holes.  So doesn’t it make sense to put the pepper in the shaker with more holes, and the salt in the shaker with fewer holes?

Yes.  I think it does.  It does make sense.

Overhead shot of pig shaped ceramic salt and pepper shakers on wood board sitting on bale of straw.


And before you start running for the bomb shelter and screaming through the streets, consider this.  I actually changed my salt and pepper shakers over 9 years ago.  And since then society has stayed pretty much the same.  Aside from … you know.

Of course I don’t really use my salt and pepper shakers.  I have the pepper grinder I turned myself  for all my pepper needs.

Scandinavian design pepper mill turned from wormy maple.


And for salt I keep it in a wood bowl and usually just use my fingers to grab some. Why yes, I *do* get salt under my every time I do this. 

Adding pinch of salt from fingers to oatmeal in copper pot.

I know about now you’re thinking about switching around your salt and pepper shakers but you’re worried.  What will people think of you?  What will happen at the next family dinner when people shake the salt and pepper comes flying out?  Nothing.  Nothing will happen.  Frankly their eyebrows will be so long they won’t be able to see which is which anyway.

Fun Facts About Salt

1. Until 100 years ago or so, pound bars of salt were the basic currency in Abyssinia (now called Ethiopia). Some say in very small regions it is still treated as currency.

2. In the early 1800s salt was 4 times as expensive as beef on the frontier – it was essential in keeping people and livestock alive.

3. Kosher salt is indeed, not kosher. It gets its name because the larger salt you know as kosher salt, is what was used when koshering (removing blood from) meat. Larger, salt crystals allowed the surface blood to be removed without absorbing into the meat. So kosher salt could be washed off without affecting the taste of the meat unlike a fine salt.

4. There are 32 references to salt in the bible, the first one being in The Book of Job.

5. Salt is poisonous.  But only when consumed in large quantities.  That’s why  in China it used to be a way of committing suicide.  And quite a reputable one at that. All the upper crust chose to commit suicide by salt because it was so expensive.  Even in a suicidal state there’s time for elitism.

6. One of the first known taxes in the world was issued in the year 2200 BC by the Chinese emperor Hsia Yu. He taxed salt.  Perhaps it was a way to cut down on suicides.

7. Throughout time, salt has typically been used as money. At one point it was known to trade at the same value as gold. So one ounce of salt was worth the same as an ounce of gold.

Fun Facts About Pepper

1.  Historically, pepper was also worth a lot of money, but my sense is that the pepper people are just trying to keep up with all the good salt stories.

2.  Andddd that about concludes the “interesting pepper facts”.


Not convinced by the salt and pepper rules? You can drill bigger holes into your shakers. Read my tutorial about it here.


The Salt & Pepper Rule


  1. Great post! Love your Salt and Pepper shakers! Check out our vintage collection at

    Jan and Jill

  2. Lynn Clark says:

    Methinks the Big Question is … who appointed Salt & Pepper Godz? Why do we need rules about it? Karen’s grand followers prove yet again the infinite variety of opinions on every topic. It’s so much more fun to follow your personal choices and surprise your family and guests – change up what’s inside the shakers every time you get new ones. And it gives you a chance to watch them sit at your table, counting the holes in the little piggies or owls or elegant crystal shakers, trying to figure out what is inside. Just think of it as creating a mystery for everyone to solve. Take bets and collect the winnings so you can afford to buy that lovely pink Himalayan salt next week. Keep life interesting! =)

  3. Darcy says:

    I really thought, based on the title, that this was going to be about your approach to “silver foxes.” Very disappointing, Karen.


  4. Janet Schaller says:

    I have been known to switch the tops in eating establishments so that the pepper has the bigger holes. I really like pepper.

  5. Laura says:

    I’ve always put my salt in the shaker with fewer holes. I always thought that was the way it was done. Also, I’m not a huge fan of salty stuff. Huh.

  6. Annabelle says:

    If you really want to rock your world, transition to one handed (battery operated) pepper grinders. Mine gives life meaning and makes cooking a whole new experience.

  7. Marcia says:

    Oh geez….please do not tell my husband about this. He would make me change out all of our salt and pepper shakers. His reasoning is that he likes pepper better and thus wants more pepper to come out. After 42 years of marriage, yes, we still disagree about this.

  8. Patty DeMaria says:

    I was astonished when I travelled to Ireland and found that all the restaurants there keep the pepper in the shaker with the most holes! It was a blinding epiphany!! (I have since recovered my sight, no worries)

    As a person with arthritis in both hands I loathe and detest the salt and pepper grinders restaurants have chosen to use, no doubt to appear more hip and trendy. Don’t make me work for my food! Fortunately I have no compunction about asking the server to salt and pepper my food for me these days.

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