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A kettle, sometimes called a tea kettle or teakettle, is a type of pot, specialized for boiling water, with a lid, spout, and handle, or a small kitchen appliance of similar shape that functions in a self-contained manner. Kettles can be heated either by placing on a stove, or by their own internal electric heating element in the appliance versions.
The word kettle originates from Old Norse ketill "cauldron". The Old English spelling was cetel with initial che- [t?] like 'cherry', Middle English (and dialectal) was chetel, both come (together with German Kessel "cauldron") ultimately from Germanic *katilaz, that was borrowed from Latin catillus, diminutive form of catinus "deep vessel for serving or cooking food", which in various contexts is translated as "bowl", "deep dish", or "funnel".
A modern stovetop kettle is a metal vessel, with a flat bottom, used to heat water on a stovetop or hob. They usually have a handle on top, a spout, and a lid. Some also have a steam whistle that indicates when the water has reached boiling point.
Kettles are typically made with stainless steel, but can also be made from copper or other metals.
In countries with 240 V mains electricity, electric kettles are commonly used to boil water without the necessity of a stove top. The heating element is typically fully enclosed, with a power rating of 2–3 kW. This means that the current draw for an electric kettle is upwards 10 A, which is a sizeable proportion of the current available for a typical home: the main fuse of most homes varies between 20 and 100 A. For this reason electric kettles, while available, are much less popular in countries with 110 V mains electricity, where electric sockets are often current limited to providing around 1.5 kWs.
In modern designs, once the water has reached boiling point, the kettle automatically deactivates, preventing the water from boiling away and damaging the heating element. A more upright design, the "jug"-style electrical kettle, can be more economical to use, since even one cup of water will keep the element covered.
In the United States, an electric kettle may sometimes be referred to as a hot pot.
Electric kettles were introduced as an alternative to stove top kettles in the latter part of the 19th century. In 1893 the Crompton and Co. firm in the United Kingdom started featuring electric kettles in their catalogue. However, these first electric kettles were quite primitive as the heating element couldn't be immersed in the water. Instead, a separate compartment underneath the water storage area in the kettle was used to house the electric heating element. The design was inefficient even relative to the conventional stove-top kettles of the time.
In 1922, the problem was finally solved by Leslie Large, an engineer working at Bulpitt & Sons of Birmingham who designed an element of wire wound around a core and sheathed in a metal tube. As this element could be immersed directly into the water it made the new electric kettle much more efficient than stovetop kettles.
In 1955, the newly founded British company Russell Hobbs brought out its stainless steel K1 model as the first fully automatic kettle. A thermostat, triggered by the rising steam as the water would come to boil, would flex, thereby cutting off the current.
Kettle on a portable stove at the Museu da Baronesa, Brazil
Graves kettle, 1984, a post-modern kettle with a bird-shaped whistle on the spout
Industrial-scale copper kettles used in a beer brewery
A Kelly kettle, designed to efficiently use the heat of a small fire in a chamber at the base
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