The 10 Best Electric Kettles
10. Equinox Royal
9. Hamilton Beach K6080
8. Oxo On Stainless Steel
7. Epica Cordless
5. Bodum Bistro
4. Cuisinart CPK-17 PerfecTemp
3. Secura Original
2. T-fal Balanced Living 4-Cup
1. Zojirushi Micom
Why Go Electric Over Stovetop?
Electric kettles offer convenience over the more traditional stovetop models. In contrast to their stovetop counterparts, electric kettles can be used anywhere with a nearby electrical outlet. In recent years, the popularity of electric kettles has increased as they have entered dorm rooms, offices, and other locations often lacking kitchens.
Electric kettles' convenience is defined not just by their portability, but also by their speed. Many electric kettles today boil water faster than stovetop kettles. Moreover, using an electric kettle is often more efficient than heating water on the stove because there is less wasted energy. On a gas stove, only about a third of the energy output will reach the kettle. The environmentally conscious should keep this in mind.
Additionally, electric kettles have a thermostat feature, which automatically turns off the heating element when the water reaches a boiling point. This feature provides additional safety, preventing the kettle from boiling dry or becoming excessively hot. This feature is particularly nice for multitaskers, who may be preoccupied with another task or in another room when the water has finished boiling. It is also a handy feature for the more forgetful among us.
Finally, there's a whole range of other advanced features available in many electric kettle models, but not stovetop models. For example, variable temperature control is an excellent feature on some electric kettle models, as it lets you heat water to a precise temperature.
Similarly, some models have the ability to keep water hot over an extended period of time. With the addition of advanced features, electric kettles can serve more specific purposes: Some kettles are particularly well-suited for making tea, while others serve as great options for those who care about portability.
When considering what advanced features are important to you, think about the features in the context of how you'll be using the kettle in day-to-day life.
Why Variable And Non-Variable Kettles Matter
Before buying an electric kettle, consider how you plan on using it. Are you heating water to precisely 170°F to brew that perfect cup of green tea? Or do you not care about the temperature, so long as it’s boiling? Will an electric kettle with a cord attached drive you nuts? Do you need to keep water hot for an hour? Two hours? Infinitely?
There are two primary types of electric kettles: variable temperature kettles and non-variable temperature kettles. Variable temperature kettles allow the user to select a specific temperature, so if brewing your tea or coffee at its ideal brewing temperature is important to you, you’ll want to choose an electric kettle that has this feature. Variable temperature controls are particularly useful for white and green teas, which need to be brewed at temperatures significantly below water’s boiling point.
Non-variable temperature kettles, as you might expect, lack this temperature control. If you want a simple electric kettle with little more than an on-off switch, and aren’t invested in brewing coffee or tea at the “perfect” temperature, or you don’t mind letting the water cool down for a minute or two before using it, then this is the type for you. These electric kettles will heat water just as well as the variable temperature type, but they’re generally cheaper and simply lack the more advanced settings.
Another feature to keep in mind is the “keep warm” feature. Typically, electric kettles with this feature are able to keep water warm at a few preset temperatures for up to a couple of hours. This means less time spent waiting for the water to reheat, but it also uses an extensive amount of electricity. This shouldn't be a surprise: Keeping your water at the perfect temperature for hours does take constant energy in the form of electricity; it's not magic.
Some kettles also include an internal filter. The filter is used for filtering out flakes of mineral scaling that come from "kettle furring," which describes the gradual build-up of mineral deposits from hard water.
Using distilled water will help one avoid this problem, as will cleaning the electric kettle regularly. Fortunately, there are plenty of tutorials describing different ways of doing this.
You'll also want to keep this information in mind if you purchase a clear glass kettle, which will proudly show off its kettle furring (i.e. your laziness and failure to clean your kettle) to any judgmental house guests.
Primitive To Present: An Electric Kettle History
It should be no surprise that the electric kettle was invented by the British. Although most histories of the electric kettle begin in 1891, when Carpenter Electric Heating Co. and Crompton & Co. manufactured early versions of electric kettles, this history begins not with a kettle, but with a book published several years prior.
In 1883, John Munro published Electricity and Its Uses, which contains a short paragraph that makes the first mention of something like an electric kettle.
He writes that, "Mr. Lane Fox has devised an electric egg or water boiler which is simply a hollow canteen of metal with double sides; the space between containing a coil of German silver wire, which is properly insulated from the walls and connected to terminals outside the boiler."
This description of the most primitive electric kettle—a kettle whose heating element was wholly separated from the water inside the kettle—describes a design shared by all early versions of the electric kettle.
However, these early electric kettle models had one serious design flaw: because the heating element was separate from the water, rather than immersed in it, these kettles took forever to boil water. Though at the time these kettles were more technologically advanced than their traditional stovetop counterparts, they were significantly less efficient.
It wasn't until 1922 that an engineer named Arthur Leslie Large developed a plug-in kettle that encased the heating element in a metal cylinder located directly in the water chamber. This new design innovation allowed electric kettles to boil water at a much faster rate than that of the primitive electric kettles. These electric kettles were primarily made out of copper and usually had Bakelite handles, lids, and plugs to prevent burns.
Electric kettles were made this way throughout the 1930s and up until World War II, which caused a copper shortage. Faced with this, manufacturers began making ceramic electric kettles instead of metal ones.
Until 1955, electric kettles were still missing one important feature: they lacked a thermostat that would automatically turn off the kettle when the water reached a given temperature. That was all fixed when, in 1955, Russell Hobbs released the first fully automatic kettle, featuring a steam-triggered thermostat. This stainless-steel kettle was called the K1. This version of the kettle serves as the basis for all electric kettles today.
While there haven't been any huge milestones for electric kettles since 1955, engineers have continued to improve the electric kettle with features like variable temperature control, filtration, and swivel bases. Today, electric kettles are continuously being improved and advanced, and manufacturers are increasingly using aesthetically pleasing designs that work well in any home.