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They say a watched pot never boils. But I've been watching pots -- well, kettles -- for a few days now, and let me tell you, they boil. And mighty fast, I might add. 

Electric kettles are underrated as a kitchen appliance. They're essential if you're a coffee or tea drinker, but there are so many other advantages to being able to boil water quickly, and not all of them involve breakfast beverages. Employing a bain-marie (hot water bath for baking), unclogging a backed-up drain or disinfecting a countertop are just a few household jobs that require hot water.

Electric kettles have become very efficient in 2021. They're also available with fancy features and in a wide variety of materials, including metal, glass and ceramic. Most have a concealed heating element, preventing burns and making them super safe to use (the hazard of boiling hot water excluded). They also usually offer boil-dry protection, so the kettle will turn off if you accidentally turn it on with an insufficient water level. Plus, some have dedicated tea-steeping baskets and "hold temperature" buttons so that water stays at your desired temperature for a set period of time (typically 20 minutes).

kettles

It's nearly tea time.

David Watsky/CNET

To find the best electric tea kettle, we put a few popular models to the test. It turns out that most do their most primary function -- boiling water -- at an equally fast pace, so we dug into the rest of the puzzle pieces, including quality, features, ease of use and other details to determine the best ones in a few different categories. 

Included in our test cohort are budget-friendly electric kettles, splurge pots, one Wi-Fi-enabled kettle (controlled by a mobile app) and even an electric teapot with retro charm. Below, I've detailed the testing results for electric kettles that range in price and features. Let's see which ones stand out the most. 

Zwilling USA

I like this kettle about as much as I dislike its name "Enfinigy," which is to say a whole lot. Branding misfire aside, the Zwilling kettle totally rocks. This model may not have as many bells and whistles as some of the others on our list, but for me, it's a perfect size (1.5 liters) with a sturdy build and simple, eye-pleasing design.

It also has a cool-touch exterior so the outside stays cool even as the liquid boils inside. Speaking of which, the Zwilling kettle was right on par with some of the fastest boilers in the bunch, taking only 2 minutes and 40 seconds to get to temp. 

It's not the cheapest kettle we tried by any means, but $80 is a fair price considering the quality and the added assurance that comes with a top kitchen brand like Zwilling. So with that, (ugh, don't make me say it again) the Enfinigy gets the top slot overall in our tea kettle smackdown.

OXO

While the Zwilling was my favorite overall, I would place Oxo's electric kettle right up there with the rest of the elite models. If you prefer a glass kettle to always know how much water is inside or keep a visual eye on boiling progress and kettle cleanliness, this is the one to grab. 

The Oxo Brew was actually the fastest and most consistent of any in the boil test, reaching 212 degrees F in under 2 minutes and 30 seconds in all three tests I ran. It also has a sleek and sturdy build and would fit nicely with any kitchen motif.

Beautiful by Drew Barrymore

If you haven't heard, the child actor turned adult actor turned daytime talk show host is now making kitchen appliances. And the B (stands for beautiful) electric kettle is a rather good one. 

This 1.7-liter kettle comes in at just $40 but looks, feels and operates on the level of much pricier models. It heated water in just 2 minutes and 32 seconds -- about as fast as any other -- and held the temperature most consistently. It's made from sturdy matte plastic and is one of only a few cool-touch kettles I tested, meaning the outside never gets hot. This is something a careless klutz such as myself appreciates. This kettle also has specialized tea settings including ones for black tea, green tea and oolong. 

Everything is controlled through a sleek digital interface, but it's worth noting that there's always a risk it will short out or malfunction over time. That said, at $40 this kettle was still the clear budget pick for me.

Megan Wollerton/CNET

This is a holdover pick from our first round of testing and (still) an excellent splurge for a seasoned tea drinker. The $280, 51-ounce capacity Breville with stainless steel base is technically a kettle -- but it's also a tea brewer and by far the most decked-out electric tea kettle we tested. 

It features hot water and tea buttons, with settings to specify the perfect temperature to brew green, black, white, herbal, oolong or custom and delicate teas. You can also select if you want the tea to be strong, medium, mild or custom. A digital display gives you a readout of what the brewer is doing and it has a keep-warm button that helps your water stay hot for up to 60 minutes.

In addition to that, the Breville comes with a basket for your loose-leaf tea that automatically lowers when you select your options, as well as a teaspoon measuring spoon. As a tea lover, I really liked these functions, but it's a luxury appliance that's only worth it if you're a regular drinker of loose-leaf tea and have the coin budgeted for such an expensive kettle.

Read our Breville One-Touch Tea Maker review.

 

Megan Wollerton/CNET

The $100 Oxo is another standout from our previous kettle testing and because of its gooseneck spout, is a particularly appealing kettle for pour-over or other manual coffee-making setups that require a steady, controlled pour. 

We also like that the Oxo electric gooseneck kettle has a temperature hold function, making it possible to keep your water at 200 degrees Fahrenheit. When the temperature begins to drop, the kettle turns itself back on, reheating your water. 

It has a smaller 34-ounce capacity, perfect for just over 4 cups of water. This gooseneck kettle shuts off automatically after 30 minutes.

Kettle talk

Here's a list of the eight models we tested in this latest round to find the best electric kettle:

  • Ovente Illuminated 
  • Smarter iKettle 
  • Ovente Victoria Series
  • Oxo Brew
  • Zwilling Enfinigy
  • Cuisinart PerfectTemp
  • Beautiful by Drew Barrymore
  • Smeg 

And here's a more detailed overview of each model's key specs for comparison:

Electric kettle specs


Breville Tea Maker B by Drew Barrymore Cuisinart PerfectTemp Smarter iKettle Ovente Illuminated Ovente Victoria Series Oxo Cordless Oxo Gooseneck Smeg Zwilling Enfinigy
Model # BTM800XL N/A CPK-17P1 SMKET01 KG516B KS777S 8710300 8717100 KLF03CRUS 53101-200
Price $280 $40 $86 $99 32 $45 $84 $100 $170
Color Stainless steel Black, gray, green, white. Stainless steel Stainless steel Black, red, white Stainless, white, black Stainless Stainless steel Multiple Black, silver
Capacity (ounces) 51 57 57 61 52 57 58 34 56 50
Dimensions (HxWxD, in inches) 9.8x7.8x8.5 9.21x6.39x10.51 8.8x6.1x9.7 6.1x8.3x10.8 7.1x5x8.2 10x7x10.1 9.02x6.26x11.22 8.1x11.4x9 6.73x8.9x9.76 10.3x8.7x12.9
Weight (in pounds) 5.1 3.4 2.25 3.45 2.51 3.49 2.84 2.5 3.63 2.87
Cool-touch exterior no yes no no no no no no no yes

The $80 Zwilling Enfinigy was my favorite right out of the box purely from an aesthetic perspective, so I was delighted when this kettle also performed at a high level in testing. To me, it felt the most solidly built and I dug the simple one-button minimalist design. It's also not overly bulky, weighs just over 2 pounds and has a cool-touch exterior for finger safety.

The pricey $280 Breville (from our first round of testing) is a tea drinker's dream with its custom heat options for the perfect cup of green, black, herbal, oolong or another variety. The B kettle by Drew Barrymore and the Cuisinart PerfectTemp also have these features, so either might be a good choice if you're particular about different tea-brewing temperatures. The Breville, however, is the only one of the models with a dedicated basket for brewing loose-leaf tea, making it the most specialized tea kettle of the bunch.

While the 40 electric kettle from B (Drew Barrymore's line) wasn't the least expensive model on our list, it was by far my favorite of the not-so-expensive kettles. It has a large capacity, a fast boil time (more data on that below), a cool-touch exterior and a sleek digital interface with those aforementioned specialized settings for tea. 

The Smarter iKettle also performed well in testing and I loved the sturdy, stainless steel build. It is the only app-controlled kettle in the group, which proved both a blessing and a curse. While the iKettle boiled water quickly and completely when controlled through the app, when I tried to manually boil water using the button on the side of the kettle, it shut off before it came to a full boil. If you're app-addicted, it is convenient to be able to see how much water is in your kettle and also start it boiling remotely from your device. I certainly wouldn't advise against buying this tech-forward electric kettle. I liked it quite a bit, in fact.

The pricey Smeg Electric Kettle was another high-octane kettle with a solid build and a ton of retro charm to boot. My main beef with this kettle is that it got extremely hot to the touch and also how expensive it is ($170), considering there are no special features other than simply boiling water. If you like the look, you won't be disappointed but it's not a lot of bang for the buck.

smeg

The Smeg gets style points and boiled water in a jiff but is a little pricey for what it does.

David Watsky/CNET

The Cuisinart PerfectTemp also did well in testing but its performance is not commensurate with the $100 price tag. If you're looking to snag one from that brand, I'd recommend this slightly basic model for $70, which has fewer presets but a more reasonable price. As Megan Wollerton reported in her initial round of testing for CNET, the PerfectTemp has received customer feedback and Amazon reviews stating that its auto shut-off feature is defective and poses a potential fire hazard. Cuisinart did not respond to a request for comment.

Both of the Ovente electric kettles I tested -- the $31 Illumination and the $41 Victoria Series -- are affordable options that boiled water quickly and were easy to use. That said, neither one stood out in testing and they felt a bit cheaply made. Also, both had lids that were unnecessarily detached from the kettle which means you could misplace them. Knowing myself, I probably would.

Only three of the models offered keep-warm or hold-temperature functions, so I did extra testing with these models. The B by Drew Barrymore kept the most consistent temperature over 10 minutes (209 degrees F) although the iKettle (205 F) and Cuisinart (195 F) kettles did respectably well in that test also.

best-kettle-2

Sensors attached to this RisePro thermocouple thermometer help track water temperature.

Megan Wollerton/CNET

How we test electric kettles

To test our batch of eight electric kettles, I used a RisePro thermocouple thermometer. The thermocouple measured two things: how quickly each kettle boiled 3 cups of water -- and how well each model with a hold-temperature function held the water temperature over a 10-minute period. 

For the boil test, I watched three separate thermocouple displays until the three sensors tracking the temperature inside each kettle reached 212 degrees Fahrenheit. I started each test with water at room temperature -- around 75 degrees F -- and I ran this test three times for each kettle. I also confirmed visually each time that the water was, in fact, at a roaring boil inside the kettle.

For the hold temperature test, I used the thermocouple thermometer to measure the minimum, maximum and average temperatures held during the 10-minute period. The table below displays both the average time it took each kettle to reach 212 degrees and the minimum, maximum and average temperatures for each kettle with a hold temperature function held over 10 minutes. 

Keep in mind that the thermocouple readings aren't exact and that there will be slight variation based on placement during testing. That said, I did my best to place the thermocouples midway down in the water, in the center of each kettle.

Test results


B by Drew Barrymore Cuisinart PerfectTemp Smarter iKettle Ovente Illuminated Ovente Victoria Series Oxo Cordless Smeg Zwilling Enfinigy
Average time to boil 3 cups (minutes, seconds) 2:32 3:10 2:37 2:40 2:45 2:26 2:40 2:40
Min., max. and avg. hold temp. over 10 minutes, in degrees F 207, 211, 209 181, 210, 195 199, 209, 205 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A

All the kettles I tested for boiling speed were remarkably close when the three runs were averaged, with most clocking in between 2 minutes and 30 seconds and 3 minutes. Officially, the quickest to 212 degrees was the OXO Brew at 2:26 but all the top finishers were within 20 seconds of each other give or take. Because of this photo finish, the ranking for this list really came down to ancillary attributes including special brew setting, build quality and cool-touch feature, as examples. 

Brand name and reputation also comes into play since you can't always account for a newer brand's durability. The Beautiful by Drew Barrymore kettle, for instance, performed particularly well and seems well-built but because this line is barely a few months old, we don't have much data, anecdotal or otherwise, on how long Drew's appliances will last. Zwilling, on the other hand, is a brand I've been using for years and its kitchenware mostly holds up over time. That's certainly worth something, right?

Regardless of the specific model you buy, start by thinking about how and how often you plan to use your kettle. Are you a pour-over coffee fiend? If so, the Oxo model is the best pick. Just need something sleek and simple with a decent capacity? I love the Zwilling model but the B by Drew Barrymore may also satisfy your kettle needs and for half the price.

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