Well, congratulate your kettle. It is now the most common kitchen appliance! And, the electric kettle is revving up its act and speedily overcoming the stovetop type because we are a society that is increasingly loving our specialized coffees and teas!
With the pandemic and much more of our time being spent at home, even working, there has been ample opportunity to perfect coffee and tea-making skills! Even the “pour over” method of making the perfect cup of coffee has gained traction. (I first saw this on a television series).
You may be asking yourself, just as I did, why is there a whole guide to choosing kettles? Who would have thought that kettles would inspire so much discussion? It’s just a vessel to heat on the stove, boil water and pour into a cup of tea or an oatmeal bowl, or your Ramen noodles, right? That’s what I would have thought!
I have learned, however, that the kettle has evolved quite a bit (in some ways) since 3500 B.C. in Mesopotamia. And, in other ways such as general shape and design, has not. Ironically, no pun intended, iron and bronze “kettles” were used for medicinal purposes and heated over an open flame.
This picture portrays just how similar the designs are today from thousands of years ago! The only difference is that our ancestors put the adornment on the handle, lid, and spout because of beliefs about the mystical healing properties of certain animals and symbols.
In some ways, there was much more meaning to the kettle and its embellishments than there is today. Now, for us, the teapot or kettle symbolizes warmth and style, and our ability to control the quality of our hot beverages. Lucky for us, today, we can stop and delight in the art of a well-chosen kettle!
Old Dutch Suzume 24-oz. Cast-Iron Teapot
I love this fabulously textured cast-iron kettle as it brings back memories of ancient Asian gardens with birds singing and flitting about, a hot steamy cup of tea awaiting you. This is an uncommon style, and you won’t see everyone in your neighborhood sporting one! A conversation starter, it is just as much about quality and durability as it is about beauty.
- The cast iron makes this a piece that lasts for decades
- It has a stainless steel mesh filter
- Rust retardant with its enamel-coated interior
- It has a capacity of 24 ounces
The only drawback is that it needs to be hand-washed! Find this gem at Kohl’s!
Kettle, Teapot, Electric, or Stovetop?
I had to stop and think a moment when all these words were flying around and I was doing my research! What is the difference between a kettle and a teapot? A lot of you may know this, but there is a huge difference between the two.
The Difference Between a Kettle and a Teapot
A teapot is used after your water has reached the desired temperature – (for me – that means it boils!). Teapots cannot be used to heat the water. They cannot be used on the stove or directly on any heating element. They will crack and break or melt, depending upon what your teapot is made of.
A teapot is used to steep tea, which means that you put tea bags in the teapot or use loose tea in a mesh “infuser” and place it in the teapot. Then, you pour the hot water into the teapot and let it sit for a certain amount of time (minutes). This is called letting the tea “steep”.
This allows the whole spectrum of tea flavors to come alive and infuses your water with delicious, aromatic, bold, and subtle auras of flowers, fruits, earthy nuances, spices, and a whole host of other tasty essences that you have chosen with your tea.
Enough about teapots! This article is about Kettles. Maybe another time I will write about beautiful teapots.
Kettles – Electric or Stovetop?
You may be wondering why anyone would want to buy an electric kettle. Or how anyone could do without an electric kettle. Or maybe you love your tea and you already have one! I still have a whistling kettle, but I get a new one every year or so because it seems like something is always happening to it…
The primary difference between a stovetop kettle and an electric kettle is the method it uses to heat water. A stovetop kettle needs an external source of heat, and most times this is the stove. An electric kettle has an internal source of heat called a resistor (although it does need to be plugged in).
***Something to note is that the more current electric kettle models are also the safest and have fewer health risks. This is because the newer models are considered to be cordless, which they really arent but the cord is attached to a base instead of to the kettle itself.
The heating element is also in the base, and it transfers heat into a “knob” that is inside of the kettle. When you lift the kettle out of its base, the heat connection is severed, and the base’s heating element is automatically turned off. This is a much-needed safety feature!
The lesser primary difference of an electric kettle has to do with your palate. If you can taste the difference between Earl Grey and standard black tea, you will notice the difference with a poorly made cup of tea. It really is important to use the most effective water temperature for your teas.
Tea can taste acidic and bitter when you burn the leaves by using water that is too hot, and likewise, using water that is not hot enough will leave your tea bland (all the flavors are still in the leaves!). Recommended coffee and tea water temperatures are:
- French Press Coffee – 200 degrees
- Green Tea – 155 degrees
- Black Tea – 205 degrees
- White Tea – 180 degrees
It’s always best to check your tea instructions to verify the correct water temperature is being used.
Top Pick Haden US Dorset 1.7 qt. Stainless Steel Electric Tea Kettle
This is a top-pick electric kettle because of its easy-to-read temperature gauge that allows you to choose the temperature you need without a lot of buttons and options that can be overwhelming!
- It has a water level window, a limescale filter plus a spare filter, and a light that indicates it is boiling!
- I love the auto shut-off and the boil-dry protection
- The base is a 360-degree design so you can set the kettle in at any angle – and it stays cool!
- The capacity is 1.7 quarts, and it is 12 inches high and 9 inches across
- I am not crazy about the handle, as it can be tricky to get a comfortable grip
- It also doesn’t have rapid boil, which can be pretty handy
That being said – I adore the look and design of this, and it is a long-lasting, high-quality kettle! Get this at Wayfair!
Both Electric and Stovetop Kettles Share This
What is that stuff that floats around in the bottom of your kettle water after a while? Calcium deposits. With other minerals making up a tiny amount. It’s not harmful to you, but it does affect the taste of the water and can build up and make limescale that you will have to somewhat energetically scrub off. It also affects the amount of time it takes to boil water.
This is especially true in metal kettles. If you have gone a long time without cleaning the limescale off – you stand a good chance of NOT getting it off. Ever. Sorry about that.
I do want to say that the white chalky stuff will happen in any vessel in which water is boiled. So, it happens in electric kettles as well – not just a feature of the stovetop kettle! This is also increased in areas that have hard water.
Another concern is rust! Not appetizing. Use one part vinegar and one part water, let sit 15 minutes then rinse with water. Wipe it out. That should take care of it. However, if it continues to happen, or it is cracked at the bottom because of too many “boil outs”, it’s time to retire the kettle. (Do not leave water in the kettle after using it. Drain and wipe it out every night).
Pros of Stovetop Kettles
- Much easier to clean – Your stovetop kettle can be immersed in water, and many can be put right into the dishwasher. It’s fairly easy to reach all areas, which is important for those de-scaling washes.
- Camping Friendly – This is easy to take camping and put over a fire to heat the water when you are out in the wild!
- No internal heating elements to worry about!
- Small footprint – The stovetop kettle doesn’t need any counter space!
- Elegant, charming designs! The stovetop kettle comes in a plethora of colors, patterns, shapes, and styles – it is fun to shop for!
Cons of Stovetop Kettles
- Safety! Stovetop kettles get burning hot! For everyone. Fingers, dog noses (if you have a larger dog), and your arm as you maneuver a nearby item! Steam burns, as well, mostly from a poorly made lid that doesn’t close tightly.
- Fire hazard! Not hearing the sound of your kettle telling you to turn off the power, wandering into your garden to do a bit of weeding while the water heats, or laying down and falling asleep. Water keeps boiling – funny thing – it evaporates. The kettle is subject to extreme heat and the water has gone. Cracks, burns, black, charred. No good.
- Inconvenience – you must leave your friend or family member sitting in the other room while you get up and get the kettle to prepare the tea.
- Flat water from too long a boil – yes, this matters. Water that is flat has all the air boiled out of it. Air is important for tea, just like wine and fine alcoholic beverages, because when tea is steeped, it needs aerated water (oxygen flying around inside and around the tea) to entice the unique flavors into the water and keep them locked there so that you may enjoy your cup the way it was intended to be enjoyed.
- Longer time to boil – yes, it does take many more minutes to boil water in a stovetop kettle than it does with an electric kettle (average electric kettle time is 2-4 minutes).
Favorite Red and Gold Kaushalam Hand-Painted Kettle in “Mediterreanean Mania” Design
This is one of my favorite kettles because it is inspired by Mughal art and is hand-painted with little glitter stones on it!
- It is very small and comes in 2 sizes (the largest holding 32 ounces of water, and being 7 inches across and 9 inches high). The smaller version holds 16 ounces and is slightly more diminutive.
- It is made of aluminum, so be sure to dry it out each night to avoid calcium deposits!
- It feels so rich to have a one-of-a-kind kettle – there are many other gorgeous designs as well.
- Hand-wash gently – no scrubbing the exterior – and do not use very hot water. (I could definitely do that for this beauty).
This rare, unique gem can be found on Etsy!
Top-Rated Le Creuset Enamel on Steel Classic Whistling Teakettle in Cerise Red
This is a true statement piece from one of the best quality kitchen names – Le Creuset. A must-see at Sur la Table!
This incredible red kettle is made with durable carbon steel and has non-reactive, non-porous, stain-resistant, no chip enamel over it! That mouthful is enough to make me want to have two!
- It holds almost 2 quarts, and there are maximum and minimum fill lines inside.
- A flip spout top and a metal handle that locks so you can tip and pour it neatly!
- Whistle tone and compatible with all stove types.
- Curvy detailing and vintage-inspired lines.
This is a whopping 4 pounds – so it may be too heavy for some.
Pros of Electric Kettles
- Generally all around safer due to the outside being cool to the touch and having an automatic shut off before a “boil-out”.
- Faster Heating – Electric kettles heat your water to the desired temperature much faster than stovetop models. On the average, it takes anywhere from 45 seconds (rapid-boil setting) to 4 minutes.
- Automatic shut off – Anyone who has boiled a kettle dry and paid the consequences knows the importance of this. Electric kettles are designed to turn off when there is no more water left in them. Also, once you remove the kettle from the base, the heating element in the base shuts off!
- Great for hotels! Easy to bring along and use on trips where you will have an electricity source.
- Mobility – Take the kettle out of the base when the water is heated and put it anywhere in the house you need it!
Cons of Electric Kettles
- Possible older style Internal Heating Element Safety – To ensure that your electric kettle is current with safety and health regulations, please, please read the fine print. Remember “Nickel emissions” information (when the kettle’s interior heating element is somehow compromised or broken and it touches the water)and remember that it has to be BPA-free.
- Cord Placement- Always be careful about where the kettle base cord is in relation to anything that could pull your boiling water over and severely burn a child or anyone else.
- Counter Top Clutter – Many times the cord just isn’t long enough to place it on the table while it is heating. You have to wait for your electric kettle to reach the desired temperature before you take it out of its base and set it on your table.
- Limited design choices – You will definitely see a big difference in the variety of choices between stovetop kettles and electric kettles. Electric kettles tend to be geared toward a more utilitarian function, and many represent this aesthetically.
- Unfriendly Bases – What I mean by this is a base in which you must strategically place your electric kettle. Sometimes bases are not designed in a 360-degree style and the kettle has to face a certain way in order to properly fit into the base. Inconvenient.
Important Kettle Features to Consider
There are many features to entertain in this day and age when buying a kettle, other than aesthetic value! It seems more and more things we use are getting more and more features and options as the age of technology race us into the future.
Some features to evaluate would be:
Generally Only For Stovetop Kettles
- Stay Cool Spout Cover – This is for stovetop kettles only – you’ll want to pop open the spout cover while not burning your finger.
- Spout – Ah, the spout. There is one feature pertaining to the spout that is convenience related, and that is the width of it. Having a wider spout means you can fill it or add more water to it through the spout. No need to open the lid, releasing steam.
For Both Stovetop and Electric
- Quiet Material (if there is such a thing) – Metals will tend to bang around more and make noise, plus they scratch more easily and show fingerprints and dog nose imprints. Glass is a good option, and also you will tend to be making slower and more careful movements with glass so that you don’t crack or break it. Half material/half user.
- Wide Base – For stovetop models, this is helpful to ensure it covers the whole heating area so the sides don’t get hotter than they already will get, and so the heat is not lost but gets right to the water fast! For electric models, this is a bit more important due to the fact you probably will want a more sturdy and balanced receptacle to hold your hot water! There’s no one knocking over the kettle inadvertently with an elbow or a suddenly repositioned book. Or a dog paw on the table, heaven forbid. Or a cat.
- Water Level Indicators – Ideally there should be two of them, one on either side of the kettle so that both right and left-handed people have the same advantage! (Southpaw here). This avoids having to turn it all around to find out where the “line” is!
- Water Capacity – Standard stovetop kettles come in at about half a gallon of water (64 ounces or almost 2 liters), while electric kettles are usually several ounces less than half a gallon (57 ounces or 1.7 liters). Relative to your mug or teacup size, you can get 10 smaller cups (6 ounces) or six larger mugs (10 ounces) from 60 ounces of water or 1.7 liters. Manufacturers enjoy measuring the kettle’s capacity metrically probably because the most devout tea drinkers live in areas that use the metric system.
- Handle – If it is a stovetop kettle, ensure the handle remains cool at all times, and that there are at least 3 inches between the handle and the body of the kettle so you don’t burn your hand. For both electric and stovetop kettles, get a handle that is wide enough to feel comfortable and sturdy in your hand. A full kettle of water should also feel balanced, and not tipping to one side.
- Lid – Lids can be lost, regardless of kettle type. Set it down one minute and it’s gone the next. If this happens to you, get a lid that is hinged and attached to the kettle. This is optimal. The lid should also be large enough for you to fit your hand in the kettle to clean it, for those times when the brush just won’t do the job. The “handle” of the lid that you hold to pull it out should also be cool all the time.
For Electric Kettles
- Cool to the Touch – This is an invaluable feature of the electric kettle if you have children, elders, or pets in your home frequently. Even keeping a stovetop kettle on the back burner doesn’t protect someone who can reach it. I would buy an electric kettle just for this feature alone. Usually, this feature comes from a double-walled, vacuum-sealed construction.
- Keep-Warm Setting – Similar to the benefit of an insulated vessel, this is a button that keeps your water at a specific temperature for a desired length of time. This ensures there is no cooling off that is possible with water that “stays hot” longer.
- One-Touch Boil – This is great if you don’t want to worry about setting an exact temperature, or fooling around with multiple buttons. One-touch and the water boils. This is also great for forgetful people and those who just want one button they can push because they aren’t used to anything other than the stovetop kettle. Great for households with a variety of needs!
- Large Switches and Setting Control Buttons – Nothing worse than finger fumbling around in the dim light trying to remember if the “on” switch is the 2nd or 3rd one in from the left. That’s my life, it seems. Happy? Third from left. Satisfied? First on the right. These large buttons are wonderful for elders or people with poor eyesight or those with shaky hands!
- Brightly Lit Controls – This goes hand in hand with the feature above. Never worry if an appliance is actually “on” again! Again, good for those that prefer (that would be me) easy-to-read functions. Who thought of putting the dishwasher buttons so they are under the counter ledge and you can’t read them? This eliminates that same quandary. It also allows you to determine the state of your water after the lights have been turned off to save electricity, or when you are looking for a relaxing and dimmer ambiance and have lowered the lighting.
- Quiet Boil Option – This is a fabulous feature for those that need to keep a quiet atmosphere, or for those that just like waking up in a restful and serene environment. There is no ping or clicking to signal when the water is ready, so no being on “alert” for the noise that may wake up the baby or the rest of the house. There is a lighted signal that lets you know when your water is ready. It could be flashing or steady, different colors are common as well.
- Rapid Boil Option – This gets your water ready in 30 to 45 seconds! Great for when you are in a rush to get out the door.
- Gooseneck Spout – This is a must if you are using a French Press or the “pour over” method for your coffee. It distributes the water exactly where you want it to be, allowing you to aerate the grounds and properly saturate them before letting them breathe out for 30 seconds, and then start again.
- Various Temperature Settings – Practically a must-have for electric kettles, since one of the main reasons people get electric kettles is to control the temperature of their water. This effectively lets you enjoy different types of teas and coffees in the manner that they were designed to be enjoyed. Ranges from boiling, (about 100 degrees) to 212 degrees are needed to ensure all hot beverages are getting the heat that they need. (Ensure your tea leaves aren’t burned and bitter, or that they are not still an “untapped resource”!)
Mega Chef 3 qt. Stainless Steel Whistling Stovetop Kettle
This has a beautifully polished design in stainless steel that makes it easy to clean.
It is durable and sturdy and has a removable lid and a one-finger flip spout.
- This is stovetop safe and works with Induction, Glass, Gas, or Electric stovetops
- The capacity is 32 ounces or 1 quart
- Smaller dimensions of 8 inches high and 9 inches wide
- It whistles when it’s done working!
Here Are a Few Great Kettles That Should Last You Without Breaking The Bank
Ovente 7-Cup Red Stainless Steel Kettle
This is a top-rated favorite of mine for the price. You will get your money’s worth and more! It’s very shiny and sleek with its popping red sleek design.
- This is double-walled, meaning that it has 2 layers of stainless steel inside it and that is what touches your water. There is a third layer outside that is BPA-free plastic. No leaching from this.
- Double duty comes easily to this red gem which can serve both hot water and cold beverages! The double-walled inside keeps the liquid both hot and cold respectively.
- The body and the handle always stay cool and safe to touch.
- It has a great 360-degree base so you can just plop the kettle down without worrying about which way it is turned.
- Auto shut-off for both when the water is done boiling and when there is no more water in the kettle!
Red Tea Kettle Ideas Guide: In Conclusion
Whether it is electric or stovetop kettles that we are discussing, you almost certainly have one of them and perhaps more than one. While stovetop kettles are the go-to for many people who want simplicity and ease of use, the safety concerns of stovetop designs may outweigh the perceived benefits – especially today when there are many easy, simple and SAFE electric kettle options.
If you have young children or elderly persons in your home often, or if you are forgetful (like me) then the deciding factor will be safety and ease of use. An electric kettle will win out for that.
I am a big fan of the stovetop kettle, but too many mishaps over the years such as scorched kettles, fire hazards, burned hands and arms (mine) from inadvertently touching the side, or the steam coming from the kettle have made me look a bit closer at the new electric options.
There are many features that you could opt for when buying an electric kettle, but you can also choose one with minimal features that is just as easy, maybe easier, to use than stovetop kettles. It really comes down to change for some people – something unfamiliar or new – and the comfort of an old family friend used for decades.
Talk to others, read a bit on simply designed electric kettles, and think of how easy it would be to push one button to boil water and touch the kettle and not get burned.