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Parts of an Electric Kettle

The parts of an electric kettle include the body, heating element, on/off switch, thermostat, power connection and options (like temperature sensors).

Electric kettles offer a more convenient way to get boiling water when compared to a traditional stove top kettle or pot.

Electric kettles offer a more convenient way to get boiling water when compared to a traditional stove top kettle or pot. They’re not only more energy efficient than boiling water on the stove, but they produce hot water much more quickly. For folks who like to be able to have hot water on demand — be it for a fancy tea or an instant soup — an electric kettle is an excellent choice for the kitchen.

Electric Kettle Basics

Electric kettles come with a number of options that give them further advantages over the stove top kettle. They come in a variety of designs, colors and finishes, so they’ll easily match any kitchen decor. On top of saving time and energy, most electric kettles also offer an automatic shutoff, which saves additional energy and reduces risks related to stove top heat.

In addition, many new electric kettle models offer temperature variations; these are important to tea aficionados, for example, as many delicate teas should be brewed at temperatures below boiling. Having a number of temperature settings offers options and additional potential uses.

Electric Kettle Components

All electric kettles contain the same basic parts and setup, although certain elements may be different depending on the make and model. The parts of an electric kettle include:

  • Body: The reservoir for the water that is heated. This can be stainless steel, glass or ceramic, and may have an outside layer or coating for aesthetic reasons. The kettle body includes a pouring spout, a handle and a lid.
  • Heating Element: The key to the electric kettle is its heating element, which is the structure at the bottom of the kettle that produces the heat.
  • On/Off Switch: This switch turns the kettle on, which will start generating heat in the heating element. Many kettles have an automatic shutoff, although there are still models with a manual on/off switch.
  • Thermostat: The thermostat connects the heating element, a temperature monitor and the on/off switch. Once it detects the appropriate temperature, it sends a signal to the on/off switch to stop flowing electricity through the heating element.
  • Power Connection: The kettle will have either a direct cord, which connects to a standard electrical plug, or a base with a cord to attach to a standard electrical outlet. 
  • Options: The kettle may have an additional switch or selector to choose the temperature at which the kettle will shut off.

How an Electric Kettle Works

An electric kettle works by using the heating element. This element is made of a resistive material that produces heat when electricity flows through it. The heat generated as the heating element resists the flow of electricity is what warms the water in the kettle. The thermostat controls the flow of electricity through the thermostat and sends a shutoff signal when the desired temperature is reached.

Electric kettles come in two types of models: corded and cordless. In a corded model the cord is attached to the electric kettle power base, which plugs into the wall. Cordless models actually still have a cord, which connects to a base on which the kettle rests while heating. The advantage to a cordless model is that the kettle detaches from the base, which makes it easier to pour or carry around. The mechanics of both kettles remain the same.

Cleaning an Electric Kettle

Typically, an electric kettle should be rinsed out periodically or washed with a soapy cloth. Be sure to wipe down the outside as well, because dust buildup can be a potential fire hazard. Always make sure the inside of the kettle is completely rinsed before using it again. Since there’s only water in the kettle, it shouldn’t need thorough scrubbing. However, deposits can build up from minerals in the water. It’s easy to clean these out with a quick vinegar wash to descale the inside of the kettle.

To do so, prepare a solution of equal parts vinegar and water, then pour this into the kettle. Turn the kettle on and let the solution come to a boil. Once the kettle is turned off, unplug it and let it sit for at least 30 minutes so that the vinegar can do its work.

Once the kettle has cooled, scrub out the inside with a scrub brush or bottle brush and then pour out the solution. You’ll want to boil a couple pots of clean water when you’re done to help remove the vinegar taste. Once you can no longer smell vinegar in the boiling water, the kettle is ready for use again.

Uses of Electric Kettles

Electric kettles are most famously used for tea, especially kettles that have temperature options. Most varieties of bagged tea are designed to be brewed at boiling, but for fans of loose leaf tea, it’s best to consider lower temperatures. Certain delicate teas grow overly bitter when brewed around boiling temperature; some teas are best steeped at temperatures around 150-160 F, far below the 212 F boiling point of water. Electric kettles are also popular for other hot beverages like coffee, cider or hot cocoa.

Electric kettles are also used to heat water for instant soups, ramen and other freeze-dried foods. In cases where the heating coil is separate from the kettle itself, the kettle can be used to cook soft-boiled or hard-boiled eggs as well. Place the eggs in the kettle, fill it with water, then set the kettle to boil. Leave the eggs in the hot water for the desired time.

It’s also just convenient to have hot or boiling water on demand. Electric kettles can quickly provide a hot water bath for a baby’s bottle or to soak dirty silverware. Hot water on demand for cleaning can be useful as well. And when heating a large pot of water to boil for pasta or noodles, the electric kettle can help speed things up by providing boiling water faster than the stove top.

Kitchen Safety Considerations

Like any appliance that involves heat, there are risks involved with an electric kettle. The main risk is that of a burn injury, which may come from the outside surface of the kettle, from the boiling water inside or from accidental touching of the heating element. Because of these risks, it’s important to always leave the kettle unplugged when it isn’t in use and to monitor the area near the kettle until everything has cooled back to room temperature.

There is some small risk of fire if the heating element stays on too long and is near a flammable material. Most electric kettles have an automatic shutoff to protect from this, but in models that don’t, it’s important to stay near the kettle while it is in use and to remember to turn it off once water has boiled. Some kettles also have "boil dry" protection. This is a sensor inside the kettle that turns the kettle off if there isn’t enough water in it. Boil dry protection also helps avoid overheating the heating element.

With enough care and routine cleaning, an electric kettle is a great tool that will last in a kitchen for years. There’s nothing like having the convenience of boiling hot water in a few minutes to brew that relaxing tea or speed up a pot of pasta.