The most common kettle is the tea kettle, used to heat water directly on the stove for tea or similar beverage, while the tea pot is a ceramic vessel that holds the hot water and steeping tea on a table top. This traditional cookware is made in a variety of metals, sizes and styles.
Steel is good kettle material because it's strong, and the disadvantages of cooking with steel don't apply to a kettle. Food sticks to a hot steel surface, and requires hot oil to fill the minute crevices of the metal. It also heats unevenly, a challenge in cooking, but not an issue with boiling water.
A stainless steel kettle is also more rust-resistant than many other materials, which is important because some tea loyalists leave water after use for the next brewing. Kettle companies urge that the remaining water be poured out after use, but some die-hards compromise by at least buying steel kettles with a removable lid for inside cleaning.
Many teapots made in Japan are cast iron, which distribute the heat evenly throughout the pot to best draw out the flavour of the steeping tea. However, not many hob tea kettles are still made from iron.
Cast iron is heavier than steel and aluminium, and requires seasoning, vigilant cleaning and drying to prevent rust. However, Old Mountain manufactures pre-seasoned cast iron cookware, including a popular iron tea kettle. The kettle requires special care, according to the company, but iron still heats evenly, retains the heat and is a versatile cooking material. It's also traditional and attractive.
The kettle and other cast iron cookware must be seasoned before use, requiring the application of vegetable oil and high heat, according to some methods.
Old Mountain cookware comes pre-seasoned, but still shouldn't be cleaned with regular dish detergent or scrubbed with abrasives, to keep from removing the seasoning. It should also not be placed in cold water, which can crack the vessel. It's best to clean cast iron cookware by placing it in hot water and bringing it to a boil. Scour off rust with a mix of sea salt and vegetable oil, and a washcloth, according to the Mother Earth News.
The Kelly Kettle Company, based in Ireland, manufactures and sells a variety of kettles for outdoor use. The kettles are made from aluminium, copper, stainless steel or tin, which are durable but also heat-conductive.
The original camping kettle is available in three sizes in aluminium, and one size in stainless steel. They heat over an open fire, which can be just a small kindling of dry grass, birch bark, sticks or pine cones. The small, cylindrical kettle boils water in three to five minutes for tea, coffee, bathing and cooking, regardless of weather conditions. The fire is fully contained within the kettle and fire base, according to Kelly.