How we tested
Electric kettles are handy for making tea or coffee and for any cooking task that requires a few cups of boiling water, from rehydrating dried mushrooms and tomatoes to softening lasagna noodles or reconstituting concentrated stocks. The Capresso Silver H2O Electric Kettle ($55.69) won our last testing in 2008; we wondered if it was still the best kettle on the market. We gathered five stainless-steel and four glass kettles (we’ve found that plastic kettles can create funky flavors), priced from $32.89 to $99.95, to test against our old favorite. We started by timing how long each took to boil water. We then evaluated the precision of their spouts and comfort of their handles and boiled the maximum allowed volume in each one to see if they splashed or spilled. We even held a blind tasting of the boiled water to see if any imparted off-flavors. Finally, we subjected each kettle to a durability test of 25 additional boiling cycles, putting the top-ranked models through a full 365 rounds to simulate daily use for a year.
Electric kettles have improved since our last testing, as our new lineup boasted key features that weren’t standard in previous years. The kettles themselves are cordless, so you can lift them away from the heating element to pour, and 360-degree compatibility with their bases means that they don’t need to be oriented in a certain direction. Each kettle also automatically shuts off when the water boils and has a safeguard that prevents it from turning on when the kettle is empty.
That said, there were certainly differences among them. To begin with, materials mattered. We wanted to see the water level as we filled them. With glass kettles, a glance was enough. But when we filled the stainless-steel models, we relied on windows, external water-level gauges, or small etchings inside the kettles—the majority of which were hard to read at a glance. With both metal and glass kettles, we preferred those that had large light-up power indicators to signal that kettles were on or had finished their boiling cycle.
Boiling speed and capacity were critical factors. When we timed how long each kettle took to boil 1 quart of room-temperature water, averages ranged from 4 1/2 to 6 1/2 minutes. (This takes roughly 9 minutes in a covered saucepan at high heat.) We were pleased to discover that the fastest kettle was also one of the largest. It holds 60 ounces—more than double the capacity of the smallest kettle in our lineup. Although you won’t need that much for a cup of tea, it’s ideal for reconstituting a large amount of stock base or preparing a water bath for delicate cheesecakes or custards.
Finally, since boiling water can cause serious burns, a good kettle should feel comfortable and secure. One kettle, which had a slightly rounded bottom, wobbled and rocked on its base instead of connecting tightly. We also disliked models with lids that flipped back quickly or had pinch-buttons set into their lids; the former flicked hot water back at our hands, and the latter put our fingers uncomfortably close to hot water and steam. Our favorites had hinged lids that lifted slowly at the push of a button as well as comfortable handles that made them easy to hold steady, even when pouring from a full boiling kettle. Because even kettles will occasionally need cleaning, we also preferred models with wide openings and minimal small parts inside.
In the end, a newcomer joined our old favorite at the top of the class. Both have glass pitchers that allow us to see the water level at a glance, and their light-up indicators are bright and visible. They feel good in your hand, pour neatly, and sit securely on their bases. They’re also speedy; both are able to boil a quart of water in fewer than 5 minutes. The OXO On Clarity Cordless Glass Electric Kettle ($79.95) holds a generous 60 ounces of water and is ideal for cooks who want to boil large quantities of water quickly. For a slightly smaller kettle that performs just as well at a lower price, the 48-ounce Capresso Silver H2O Electric Kettle ($55.69) is our Best Buy.
We tested 10 electric kettles (five stainless-steel and five glass), priced from to $32.89 to $99.95, with maximum capacities between roughly 25 and 60 ounces, rating them on their speed, ease of use, and safety. Prices shown were paid online. Models appear below in order of preference.
WATER LEVEL VISIBILITY: We liked kettles made of clear glass and stainless-steel kettles with clear water-level indications, like big windows or visible, responsive gauges. We knocked points from models that had only interior etchings, as they were difficult to find and read, and those with water-level gauges that lagged behind the actual water level.
POWER INDICATOR: We evaluated the size, brightness, and convenience of location of the kettles’ power indicators. The best were located near the power switch and were bright enough to be visible from across the kitchen. Lower-ranked models had lights that are small, dim, or hard to find.
FILLING AND POURING: Multiple testers filled and poured from the kettles to evaluate the comfort of the handles, precision of the pour spouts, and design of the lids. Models with curved, textured handles offered better grip and security. We docked points from models with narrow openings that were hard to fill and that had lids that opened too quickly, flicking us with hot water, or had other design features that placed our hands too close to hot water and steam during use.