How We Tested the Electric Tea Kettles
To arrive at a lineup of kettles, I surveyed recent recommendations from other online review sites. I also looked at the highest-rated models on Amazon and polled Epicurious editors for their personal recommendations. I made sure that the final list of contenders represented models from all the major categories—basic, temperature control, and gooseneck. Many of the models on the lower-priced end of the electric kettle spectrum are made from plastic, but given current science, I feel strongly—for both health and environmental reasons—that it’s best to eliminate plastic from the kitchen when reasonably possible (and especially in situations when the plastic will be heated). We made the decision to exclude from our test any kettles whose carafes were made primarily of plastic. (Models with silicone or plastic handles were allowed given that hot water didn’t come in contact with plastic.) We were mindful to include a few budget-level stainless steel options among the candidates.
We started by filling each kettle with four cups of cool tap water and clocking the amount of time heating the water to a boil took. At the end of the boiling cycle we measured the temperature of the water with a Thermapen instant-read thermometer to confirm that it really was 212°F.
We noticed that some Amazon reviewers complained of metallic-tasting water or other “off flavors” coming through their kettles during brewing. So, after boiling, we let the water in each kettle cool slightly before drinking it and noted any unusual flavors.
When the models offered temperature control, either manual or preset, we tested the kettles at two different settings—175°F and 200°F—and measured the results of each with the Thermapen to gauge accuracy.
When you’re dealing with boiling liquids, ease of pouring is not just an aesthetic issue, it’s a safety one. When using each kettle, we considered how the carafe felt in our hands (was it balanced? Did it have a nice grip?) and also how easily it poured. Did it leak or spill? With the gooseneck kettles especially—since they’re specifically meant to deliver more control when making pour-over, Chemex, and French press coffee—we kept an eye on the precision and the consistency of the water flow.
Yes, you’re just boiling water. Nonetheless, electric kettles do get dirty over time—thanks mainly to mineral hard water build up—so regular cleaning is important. With that in mind, we paid attention to how easily we could wipe down the carafes and whether we could easily get our hands inside to scrub hard to reach corners. Some inexpensive kettles have exposed heating elements (basically, a coil of tubing that can be cumbersome to clean), so as a rule we tried to avoid those.
On a basic level, we considered the construction of the kettles and the ease of use. Did they feel sturdy? Were they well-proportioned or bulky? Did they remain stable on the counter while boiling or did they wobble about? Were the carafes easy to fill? And once filled, did they have a window or a fill-line that made it simple to see how much was inside? Did they offer any appealing extra features, like chimes that sound to signal the end of a cycle or preset temperature settings for common beverages like green tea, black tea, and pour-over coffee?