Is Something Burning? Part 1 – A Whistle is Not An Alarm

A Survival Guide for the Hyper Focused

Adagio UtiliTEA KettleOnce I read through a house catching on fire.


After it was all over, and I made a comment that indicated that I’d totally missed the guys setting the sawdust pile in the attached garage on fire, my hostess calmly said she was glad to know about this superpower of mine. Now she knew that should the place ever catch on fire again, she needed to slap me on the shoulder as she ran by with the kids.

I suspect I am not the only reader capable of phenomenal powers of concentration. This trait also shows up when I am writing.This talent, if you will, requires special tools and skills, especially in the kitchen. I know more than one writer who has boiled kettles or saucepans dry, burned things in the oven, or cut off a fingernail chopping vegetables. As an expert at trying to injure myself, may I offer up a few suggestions?

For starters, consign your teakettle to decorative status, unless you’re standing guard over it heating water for a tea party. A whistler is no guarantee that you won’t boil it dry. Microwaves will not truly boil water, and that water cools down quickly. Don’t even think about putting a saucepan of water on to boil and walking away, unless a timer is in your hand–and stays in your hand.

A stainless steel electric kettle is a godsend, and the best tool ever for a writer who likes to drink hot fluids. A plastic kettle is lighter, but I couldn’t stand the taste of the boiled water. So if you’re a super taster, don’t bother with one that is plastic. A detachable base is wonderful, and the kettle must – must – turn off automatically once it hits boiling temperature. My own unit (it worked like a Trojan for six years, and died on my birthday) had an on/off light, an outside water level indicator window, and a locking lid that would not release until the base unit was turned off. It was a Chef’s Choice, and was a gift. I liked it a lot, except for one little problem – it got very hot on the outside. I burned myself reaching past it once (and promptly moved the location of the item I was reaching for…) This kettle, and many like it, must be treated as if it’s a teakettle fresh off a stove burner.

Features I wish it included? I wish it kept the water warm after boiling. After a time, I had to re-boil water. There are kettles that do this, but my older model didn’t, and you can still buy this solid little fellow in the same incarnation. I wish it had more than one heating temperature, so I didn’t have to wait for the water to cool when I wanted green tea. That feature is available in kettles, but it varies in how well it works and what you’ll have to pay for it. I really wish I could get one that is cool to the touch on the outside!

Another little problem with electric kettles – looking at reviews on sites, there seems to be about a 20% failure rate. Most people love them, but a measurable percentage report being disappointed or disgusted with the product. When I look at new contenders to dream about, I find that even the Krups Silver Art is seen by many as a failure, with some kettles flawed right out of the box. The Brevilles are highly recommended by some users, and others fear that the plastic water windows in several models may contain BPA. (A few Breville models now specify that the plastic is BPA-free.) Cost doesn’t seem to enter into quality, at least up to $100.  The Amazon reviews are eye-opening.

But when you get one that works, it will boil that water, and then shut off. That is a huge improvement over setting the kitchen on fire.

So – here is a review of 24 different units.  A friend recently recommended this Cuisinart to me.  It has tons of fans, but also has a measurable percentage that fail right out of the box. Sigh.   When budget allows, I think I’ll go for this Adagio, after weighing price, features and popularity. Not my style, but how it looks is secondary to how it works, at least for a writer who boils saucepans dry.  I’m not ready to drop several hundred dollars on a kettle, but…if the perfect one appears?  I’ll start saving up!

Do you have a favorite electric tea kettle? What are its strengths and weaknesses? Would you buy it again?

Next time, let’s talk about timers, because timing is everything.



Is Something Burning? Part 1 – A Whistle is Not An Alarm — 9 Comments

  1. I am not quite as bad as you. I forget things, but never for very long. There was a famous moment however when my kids were young. I got up early and began to write, and when they came whimpering in hoping for breakfast I ignored them. They still claim psychological damage about this, and my reply that Wite-Out is not really toxic has not impact.

  2. It’s not enough data to be significant – but I had a kettle in the UK that heated water to the temperature I wanted, for months & months. And then I moved to the US and got married, and a friend bought us a Cuisinart PerfecTemp – which was lovely for nine months, until it died. And they replaced it under warranty – and six months later, the replacement has died in exactly the same way, and frankly I can’t be bothered to fight through the replacement procedure again. I hate unrecommending something, but I really can’t recommend this unit. At the moment I’m boiling a kettle on the stove.

    • You’re caught in that 20% loop, Chaz. I am dithering because I really need something that I know shuts off every time. Did you not bring the kettle with you? I know that they sell AC adaptors for overseas travel–do you have a UK adaptor for DC here, or don’t they make such a thing? (Current may not be tameable in the other direction for a small plug…)

  3. I have always disdained electric kettles in favor of boiling water on the stove. They seemed like yet another unnecessary electric appliance. I used a whistling kettle so I wouldn’t forget and let it boil dry.

    But last summer, when I was driving out to California, I bought a cheap electric kettle at a discount store so that I could make drinkable coffee on the road. And now I use the damn thing all the time. I like the shut-off function. The water does stay warm, so it quickly reboils if I forget about it and have to start over.

    It’s something called a “Chefman”. I assume it’s some knockoff brand. I don’t know how long it will last, but it’s doing fine for now. I still have a whistling kettle in case it breaks down.

  4. I use an old British electric kettle, a Russel Hobbs, adapted to German currency. It even looks like a normal stovetop one. It has never disappointed me, and it shuts off on its own once it boils.

    The downside is indeed that the outside of the kettle gets hot, but literal decades of use have ingrained the habit of not touching it except on the handle. I once took it completely apart and cleaned every bit of it, put it back together, and it’s as good as new.

    So that’s my recommendation.

  5. I’m more than happy to use the microwave, since if you follow the hoity-toity tea instructions, the water shouldn’t be boiling, anyway, but my co-worker who drinks a ton of tea (and hot water) at work brought in a Tiger electric kettle much like this one. And I have to admit, it’s pretty wifty, with its two temperature setting, keeping the water warm, and re-boiling when necessary.

    We keep it plugged in and filled up and have hot water ready whenever we want it.

    • Good to know! When a new one is in budget, I can put it on the list. Right now I’m using the microwave to reheat a boiled decoction I’m drinking twice a day. (And if I get tea, I often cheat and use the microwave for the water.)