One of the most common kitchen tools I rely on is my trusty electric kettle. I easily use it more than 10 times a day. Learn what advantages it has over a microwave and stovetop kettle for boiling water.
As far back as I can remember, I’ve grown up with an electric kettle and always had one within reach in adulthood. Maybe it’s cultural. Chinese people are habituated to drinking boiled water because not all tap water is potable in smaller Chinese cities and towns.
It’s not just China. In New Zealand, where tap water is almost always safe to drink, I saw my friends’ homes outfitted with an electric kettle.
How else would you get ready for tea and biscuits during morning tea (a.k.a. elevenses) and afternoon teatime?
When I moved to the U.S., the prevalence of stovetop kettles shocked me. How was it possible that Americans, who are supposed to be technologically advanced, are still using a metal pot that you stick in a flame to heat water?
Despite having lived in the U.S. for over a decade, I still stubbornly stick to my electric kettle.
Benefits of electric kettles
Here are the main reasons I love using an electric kettle:
- Energy efficient
- Faster: Electric kettles heat water quicker than stovetop kettles and the microwave (though induction stoves can boil water very quickly)
- Auto shut off: Set it and forget it, the electric kettle won’t burn your kitchen down if you leave the room.
- Isolated heating: An electric kettle won’t heat up your kitchen in the summer the way a stovetop kettle would.
- Higher-end models have temperature control: Helpful feature for coffee and tea connoisseurs
TIP: Boiled water from a kettle is also a great way to reheat food without a microwave or turning on the stove.
Downsides of an electric kettle
For a balanced view, here are some shortcomings of electric kettles:
- More appliances on the countertop: Especially if you consider that a microwave can heat water, an electric kettle adds yet another device (though, stovetop kettles have the same disadvantage).
- Nostalgia: I know a family member who bought the same stovetop kettle that she grew up with. It’s comforting for her to own the same kettle that her mother did.
- Whistle: Some people seem to really enjoy the whistling alert the stovetop kettle emits when water boils.
NOTE: You can get an electric kettle with a whistle so you can still get this feature if it’s important to you.
Electric kettle uses
The ability to boil water quickly comes with many benefits in the kitchen. In addition to obvious uses for an electric kettle, such as making tea and coffee, I’ve found it faster to cook pasta and noodles, make simple syrup, and rehydrate mushrooms by starting with hot water that was boiled in the kettle.
Yes, you could use a stovetop kettle for these purposes. But having to boil water on the stove takes longer and veers into the realm of cooking from scratch. (Plus, sometimes you might not have a stove if you’re remodeling your kitchen.)
Different types of electric kettles
Kettles come in different sizes and price points. You can get one as cheap as $15 and as expensive as $400. Here are the most common types of kettles. I’ve owned plastic, glass, and stainless models as well as corded and cordless. So I can weigh in on the pros and cons.
Glass: Glass kettles, especially if they have blue LED lights when they’re turned on, look the coolest. I got many compliments from friends who saw the kettle when it boiled water.
WARNING: The downside is that glass breaks. If you or a pet accidentally knocks over the kettle, it’s likelier to crack than other models.
Plastic: Plastic models are often the cheapest of the pack. I find that lower-end white plastic models can turn yellow after a year, especially with frequent usage. Getting a brightly colored plastic kettle or a higher-end plastic model avoid this problem. Some people are turned off my boiling water in plastic.
Metal: This is the most common material that kettles are made of. I like the stainless steel models because they don’t yellow, rust, or crack like plastic, ceramic, or glass kettles can. If you don’t like the look of stainless steel, you can buy a metal kettle that comes in different colors or a kettle with a non-metal exterior and a stainless steel interior.
Gooseneck kettles offer an elongated and curved neck. The beautiful design comes at a higher price and offers more precise pouring. It could be a good choice for coffee and tea drinkers if money isn’t an issue, and the ergonomic pour is important to you.
Cordless: I highly recommend a cordless kettle so you can easily move it around the kitchen and dining room. Cordless kettles aren’t much costlier than corded kettles.
WARNING: If you have a corded kettle, avoid accidentally yanking the cord out when you move the kettle because you forgot it’s plugged into the wall. I’ve done it a few times when I had a corded kettle and it really didn’t feel safe when it’s full of boiling hot water.
Another benefit of a cordless model is portability. If you don’t have room in your kitchen or you prefer your kettle near where you prepare coffee and tea (which may not be in the kitchen), you can move it easily.
Ceramic: I’ve never used a ceramic kettle. They seem like a beautiful option (the heating element inside is metal). They offer a different look than the metal kettles. The downside seems to be they may crack like glass if you drop it.
Hot water dispenser: A hot water dispenser can boil water and keep it hot indefinitely. It’s like a cousin to the traditional kettle. While expensive, it’s convenient if you like hot water on demand throughout the day.
Which kettle do I use?
The first kettle I ever purchased was $15 from Walmart. It was corded, plastic, and contained an exposed element inside.
It worked well for college. All my roommates used it. But I’ve never bought another one that cheap because it was hard to clean the exposed element (hard to descale), and the plastic interior yellowed after 6 months, which disturbed me.
My current electric kettle is this stainless steel model. I’ve had it for 5+ years (after my glass blue LED light kettle broke). It’ still running strong. I’ll happily repurchase this stainless steel model if I have to replace it because this kettle has been very reliable.
FINAL NOTE: I may end up eating my words when we get an induction cooktop if I discover it’s faster (and more efficient?) to boil water with a stove-top kettle on the induction burner. We’ll see once we complete the kitchen remodel.