A Tale of Two Kettles.

It was the best of boil times, it was the blurst of boil times…

But seriously, things you never really think about in life.  A few weeks ago it was front entrance cleanup day.  As Kenny can attest to, this also includes the woodstove, as it is adjacent to the entrance, and I figure that cleaning out the ashes and carrying them out the front door is a good time to just clean the entire area.

One other group of things I clean at the same time are the implements that we commonly use on the woodstove.  Most obviously, our kettles.

In spite of having the water reservoir on the stove, we’ve found it to not be as usable as we first would have imagined.  I suppose it is a bit challenging to fill, or remember to keep filled.  Not to mention that it doesn’t have a lid, so it gets rapidly contaminated with dirt and debris.  It’s just much easier to use kettles – and they tend to heat up faster anyway.

But I digress.  I was cleaning out our oldest kettle (the one we generally use for non-potable water) and happened to scrub off a nodule of rust on the bottom rim.  I thought this was a good thing, but as it turned out, that was some load bearing rust, and when I buffed up the kettle, refilled it, and placed it on the stove, lo and behold – water began to puddle under it on the stovetop.  Rats.

Doubly annoying was the fact that only a week or two beforehand, I had sent off a kettle to the thrift store, deciding that it wasn’t needed any longer.

Off to the shops to purchase a spiffy replacement.

I found a suitable model at Walmart for $12.98.  It seemed to fit the bill nicely.  Stainless steel, whistling…  Handle?  What else do you look for in a kettle?  Well, let me tell you…

Walmart Kettle.  Looks normal, doesn’t it?

It almost never boiled.  It got warm, it got hot, but to boil?  You had to have it on the stove for hours, or get the stovetop surface in excess of 400 degrees.

So anyway, after discussion with Donna, and reminding myself about the psychological issues associated with sunk costs, I hit up Superstore for another kettle.  I found what for all intents and purposes looked to be an identical model for $12.00.  (Actually, they had a good one for $10.00 on clearance – but it was bright, bright red – I didn’t think that would go with our decor).

Superstore Kettle.  Looks identical, doesn’t it?

He’s crazy! – Is what you might say, if you thought I bought an identical kettle hoping it would produce different results.  But here’s where my tale becomes a bit more gripping (to those of you in the market for a kettle)…

I had examined the Walmart kettle to see if there was an explanation for its mediocre performance, and noted that the large, flat portion of the base of this kettle was actually inset compared to the crimped outer edge.  This had the effect of lifting most of the kettle off of the flat surface of the stove – so virtually none of the kettle was in direct contact with the stovetop.  There was a permanent, fraction of an inch spacing between the kettle and the stove.

What’s this?!  The rim of the kettle is flush with the cutting board, meaning that the main base of the kettle inside the rim is not making contact with the heating surface of the stove!

The Superstore kettle, on the other hand, clearly had the flat portion of the base extending below the crimped bottom rim.  It put almost the entire base against the stovetop for maximum heat transfer.

Ahhh, the rim is lifted off the cutting board – that must mean that the base of the kettle is actually in direct contact with the stovetop – much, much, much better boiling action!

On a gas stove, this difference would likely never be noticed – the flames lick the bottom of the vessels in virtually any circumstance.

Same with electric – either you put the kettle on a smaller element such that the rim doesn’t space it off; or else you just don’t notice the efficiency because your electricity is so amazingly cheap you can just turn it up to effect a boil.

Those of us trying to heat items with a flat woodstove top though – it pays big dividends to purchase cookware with wide, flat bases that make maximum contact.

As always dear readers, let my mistakes be your tuition in the sometimes pricey school of life.

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