A stovetop tea kettle is as simple as it gets -- and yet, users can be quite passionate about what makes a "perfect" stovetop kettle. And those kettle enthusiast say the best stovetop kettle is the Mr. Coffee Harpwell Whistling Tea Kettle (Est. $35). This stainless steel kettle has a 2-quart (8 cup) capacity, a seamless bottom so it won't leak, and a handle that users say stays mostly cool even when the water boils, although a few note that it gets warm to the touch, but not enough to require a pot holder.
Reviewers love the Mr. Coffee tea kettle's hearty whistle, quick boil times, and how well-balanced it feels in their hands. But the feature that draws the most praise on this kettle is the "stay open" trigger for its lid: Just flip the lever and the spout opens, then stays that way until you click it shut again. Users say the kettle is easy to hold and its lid easy to operate, even if you have arthritis or painful hands.
The Mr. Coffee Harpwell is handsome, too, with a mirror finish and a wide, rounded based that provides greater surface contact with the stove, which in turn helps speed boil times. Some users note that the lining of this kettle looks almost as if it has a coating, and they worry that it might be seeping into the water. We contacted Mr. Coffee and the representative there said the inside of the tea kettle is sandblasted, the outside is polished, which results in the optical illusion of a "coating."
If you prefer to avoid stainless steel tea kettles, consider the Medelco 12-Cup Glass Stovetop Whistling Kettle (Est. $9). It's made of thermal-shock-resistant borosilicate glass, the same material you'll find in glass ovenware. You can use the Medelco kettle on any stove type, although if you're using an electric range you must put the included metal heat diffuser between the burner and the kettle.
Users say that water boiled in this glass kettle tastes clean and clear, with no off tastes; and, since it's not made of metal, there's no chance of it rusting. The only things some owners don't like are that you have to take the lid off completely in order to pour, and that the directions say you should only use this kettle up to medium heat, which means it heats slower than metal kettles.
Overall, however, users are thrilled with the novelty and good looks of this glass tea kettle, and the extra security they feel they get from being able to see exactly what's going on inside there.
As a final stovetop kettle option, consider the brushed stainless steel OXO Good Grips Uplift Teakettle (Est. $50). We found some mixed feedback on this kettle from users who wish they could leave water in it overnight (you're supposed to empty it after every use), or who say the hinges on the handle come apart. But when the handle does work, users are in love with this kettle. It's an especially great choice for arthritic hands: Picking the kettle up automatically flips the pour spout open, and putting it down flips the spout closed. Its relatively gentle, multi-tone whistle alerts you when the water boils. Not only does the OXO Uplift boil water quickly and look good sitting on the stove, it's also available in a polished stainless steel finish and a 10-year anniversary edition with a cork handle.
No matter which type of stovetop kettle you use, be careful not to overfill it. If your kettle isn't marked with a "max fill line," leave at least 1/4-inch air space below the bottom of the pour spout or the bottom edge of the lid. This protects the lid seals in the kettle, which in turn protects its ability to whistle. Most users say they love being able to walk off from a heating stovetop kettle, confident that they'll hear its whistle when the water boils; but an overfull kettle will whistle more quietly than usual, or in some cases stop whistling entirely if the lid seals become damaged.