Electric Kettles: Spilling the Tea on a Treasured Kitchen Tool

Electric Kettles: Spilling the Tea on a Treasured Kitchen Tool | Food & Nutrition Magazine | Volume 10, Issue 2

If you love eating ramen or are an avid tea drinker, an electric kettle can come in handy for boiling water. Electric kettles have been around since the late 1800s, with the current design dating to the early 1920s. Use an electric kettle any time you need boiled water, including rehydrating dried mushrooms, par-cooking pasta (for layered dishes), making instant oatmeal or grits and reconstituting dehydrated stocks. While prices for these relatively small kitchen appliances vary, the price point (ranging from $20 to $100) is not indicative of quality. The benefits of using an electric kettle rather than boiling water on the stovetop are numerous: efficiency (taking four to five minutes to boil one quart of room-temperature water compared to at least nine minutes), no loud whistling when the water is ready, near-exact precision and control of final water temperature on some models and lower risk of burning your hands when touching the kettle.

What type is right?
Electric kettles come in stainless-steel, glass and plastic. When selecting a kettle, one consideration is being able to see the water fill level. While glass versions are easy to see into, stainless-steel and plastic versions often use an external water fill gauge, which sometimes may be difficult to read. Most types of kettles have an indicator feature, such as a light or automatic shut-off, for when the water is ready; not having this indicator can be a big deal.

Some versions have cords, while others run off a rechargeable battery. There is little difference in the efficiency or precision over the final product (hot water), but choosing a cordless model allows the user the freedom to have boiling water in any location such as a campsite.

Stainless-steel and glass kettles tend to be more popular because many people do not want their hot water to come in contact with plastic. In addition, some plastic kettle users report their hot water tastes different compared to when they used kettles made of steel or glass. Some consumers may view plastic kettles as less likely to break. What is not significantly different between these versions is price, reliability or quality.

Size matters
Since the size of a kettle has nothing to do with how fast it can heat water, select a size based on your intended uses. Choosing a smaller kettle, which may hold about 2 cups, restricts the potential for versatility. However, smaller kettles are easier to travel with and can be used for single-cup hot beverages. For a single individual, a smaller kettle might be perfect.

Larger kettles, which can range from over 1 liter to 60 ounces, allow for greater versatility, such as for preparing foods, but may be difficult to store, take up counter space and are less easy to transport. For cooking or offering hot beverages to groups of people, a larger kettle is recommended.

Easy, breezy cleaning
Minerals from the water you use can build up in an electric kettle, so regular cleaning is a must. However, cleaning frequency ultimately depends on frequency of use. To clean, refer to the manufacturer’s instructions or use this method: Combine equal parts distilled white vinegar and water and add to the kettle. Bring to a boil, turn off heat and allow the kettle to cool. Dunk a microfiber cloth in the solution and wipe the outside clean. Use a dish brush to clean the inside, focusing on hard-to-clean places to remove excess mineral deposits. Pour out the water solution and rinse well. Fill the kettle back up with water, bring to a boil and pour out the water to remove any traces of vinegar that may alter flavor. Repeat once or twice to ensure the kettle is ready for your next beverage or recipe.


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Kettle – 1891. Magnet Academy website. Accessed March 25, 2021.
Stainless Steel vs Glass vs Plastic Kettles. Electric Kettles Guide. Accessed March 25, 2021.
The Best Electric Kettles on Amazon, According to Hyperenthusiastic Reviewers. New York Magazine: The Strategist website. Accessed March 25, 2021.

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Zachari Breeding
Zach Breeding, MS, RDN, LDN, FAND, is a Philadelphia-based registered dietitian nutritionist, professional chef and Clinical Nutrition Manager for The Sage: Nutritious Solutions. He is the author of The Slice Plan: An Integrative Approach to a Healthy Lifestyle and a Better You. Connect with Zach on his website, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.