Every home needs a kettle

The most magical appliance I ever met.

The most magical appliance I ever met.

I just made myself a cup of tea. I did so by boiling water in a metal kettle on the stove top (or on the “hob,” as the Brits would say). While I enjoy the old-fashioned nature of this exercise, every time I do it, I miss the white plastic electric kettle I had in London.

The electric kettle is the most useful, practical, and efficient kitchen device that every single British home has by default and uses on a daily basis and that no American home seems to know exists and lives perfectly happily without. Ignorance is bliss.

But, once you’ve had an electric kettle, you can’t go back.  It is a life changer. I don’t understand how most American homes survive without it. When my parents made tea, they would put a tea bag in a mug, fill the mug with cold water, and stick the mug in the microwave. If a British person saw that, they would cringe.

After I had been living in the UK for a few years, I tried to persuade my mother of the value of an electric kettle. She was not getting it. So I decided to buy her one as a gift. I made the mistake of purchasing it in the UK and shipping it to the US. Because of the different voltages in the two countries (the US is 110 volts and the UK is 220 volts), the kettle wouldn’t even bring the water to a boil.

“It doesn’t work!” she said. I swear, Mom, it is a very useful device, it just isn’t the right voltage. My attempts at persuading my mother were clearly not working. It’s like when you take a group of friends to your favorite restaurant and that ends up being the one night you get bad service/food. I swear guys, this restaurant is normally excellent, I don’t know what is going on tonight.

One explanation I’ve heard for why American households aren’t as likely to have electric kettles is that Americans drink more coffee than tea. So, while for the Brits an electric kettle is an indispensable device for their ritualistic tea consumption, for Americans, an electric coffee maker makes more sense as a staple household appliance. And indeed, most American homes do have a coffee machine;  I use one every morning to make my coffee. In British homes, on the other hand, I infrequently saw coffee makers (at least not electric ones; some people would have manual French coffee presses).

My counter-argument to all this is that electric kettles aren’t just for making tea. They are designed for quickly and easily boiling water, for all its myriad purposes. It’s so much faster to boil water in the electric kettle and dump it into a pot (to make spaghetti, for example) than it is to slowly wait for water to boil in a pot on the stove. I’m telling you, American readers, just get an electric kettle. You will never look back.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Every home needs a kettle

  1. ironically, we had one in the graduate lab in university (in tennessee)- because i worked with all foreign people who drank tea! lol!

    i am a fan, but do not have one- i think if i bring another appliance into the house, daniel may divorce me, and i will be left with NOTHING but my appliances! (on that note, do NOT tell him about the spiralizer i ordered on AMAZON today!)

  2. Ed Avis

    Microwaving water can work. If you put clean water in a smooth mug it can become superheated – above 100 degrees Celsius but not boiling. Then adding some rough edge, such as granulated sugar or instant coffee, causes it to foam up at once. Does this make a better cup of tea? I don’t know. Surely the key utensil, though, is not the electric kettle but the teapot.

    Agreed re spaghetti. Fill the kettle, splash a little bit in the saucepan on the stove, and switch on both.

    But I expect Americans would enjoy more having a boiling water tap fitted, so you don’t even have to wait for the kettle to boil.

  3. Dad

    Your parent still sticks a bag of tea (now green tea for health) into a mug filled with water into the microwave for 2 minutes. Pls explain to me the difference between stove boiled water and microwave boiled water…

  4. Rach

    I’m a Brit who doesn’t drink tea – yes, really. BUT, while I treated myself to a coffee machine a few years ago (a capsule one, rather than filter), I would still choose an electric kettle every time, if – god forbid – I had to choose only one of my appliances. Who has time to wait for a saucepan full of water to boil?!

  5. John

    I thought it was common knowledge that kettles are not widely used in the US as they take much longer to boil due to the lower voltage used in the North American electrical system? Hence the need to resort to using a cooker, which will typically be on its own separate higher voltage circuit.

    A simple google search confirms this.

    • Hi John thanks for your comment. I have seen 110 volt electric kettles in the US. While they do boil water more slowly than 220 volt kettles, they still boil water more quickly than on the stove top!

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