Stovetop vs kettleHome » Latest issue » Good, issue 11 » Stovetop vs kettle
Most of us don’t think twice about filling the kettle and switching it on for a cuppa. The electric kettle is quick and easy to use—but is it more energy-efficient than a pot on the element?
What’s the best way to make a cup of tea or boil water for cooking pasta and potatoes? Whichever method you use, there are steps you can take to make sure you’re using energy effectively. However, there’s probably no need to upset the routine too much as the electric kettle is a clear winner.
When using the stovetop, the element must heat the pot before the water can start to warm. If you don’t put a lid on the pot you’ll make the process even less efficient. Unless it’s mid-winter and you’re desperate for some heat in the kitchen, you’ll waste energy boiling water on the stovetop as the element or gas flame is also heating up the air.
Water is in direct contact with the heating element of an electric kettle, which is also made of better insulated material than a pot, so more heat stays in and less disappears into the air. And because the kettle boils that much faster, you’re less likely to pop out of the kitchen on another mission, leaving your pot of water boiling for longer than necessary. Provided it’s working correctly (is it just me or do cheap plastic kettles seem to have hideously short lifespans?) the kettle should shut off automatically once the water has boiled.
If you’re wondering about the microwave: don’t. It takes longer than a kettle to heat the same volume of water and it’s difficult to tell when the water’s come to the boil.
In the grand scheme of energy saving in the home, boiling water for your cups of tea in a kettle instead of on the stovetop or in the microwave won’t amount to huge power savings. However, if you extend kettle use to other tasks such as boiling the water for your pasta or spuds then, over time, you’ll save money, energy and precious minutes. (Pop the kettle on before you start peeling or scrubbing the potatoes and by the time they’re ready to be cooked, the kettle of boiling water will be on hand to tip straight into the pot.)
Some sources suggest the kettle is so efficient that it could be used for heating soup or boiling two-minute noodles. This sounds like it could get messy, and any energy you save on heating would probably be offset by the amount of water needed to clean the kettle. Flavoured teas are very popular, but perhaps cream of mushroom shouldn’t be added to the range.
To maximise the efficiency of your kettle, boil only what you need—you’ll save energy by not boiling excess water. Perhaps a colleague or family member will need retraining to stop them boiling a whole jug full for a single cup. (If your kettle doesn’t have filling guide-marks on the side, try marking cup levels with a marker or splodge of nail polish.)
When using the stovetop for any cooking, match the size of the pot to the size of the element and use a close-fitting lid to maximise energy use.
And whatever you do, don’t follow my example and try to combine the two: setting the kettle on a heated element in a moment of absent-mindedness and creating a sticky, stinky plasticky mess.
I needed a strong cuppa after that.