What is the Difference Between a Teapot and a Teakettle?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

While teapots and teakettles often look very similar, these objects are designed with different functions in mind. A kettle is specifically designed for stovetop use, allowing the user to heat water for tea or other purposes. A teapot is a container for brewing tea, which may or may not be safe for use on a hot stove. Most kitchen supply stores sell a number of different kettle and pot styles and designs to meet an assortment of needs.

Teakettles are designed to be used on stovetops.
Teakettles are designed to be used on stovetops.

A kettle is a pot designed to be used over a fire or stove for cooking. The word comes from the Latin catillus, meaning “a deep dish or pan for cooking” and, historically, every household had a kettle, as it was a crucial piece of kitchen ware. Various cultures also derived smaller kettles that were specifically designed for boiling water to be used to prepare teas, tisanes, and other foods; by the 20th century, other types of cooking pans had emerged, but the teakettle endured.

Teapots are made from a variety of materials, including glass.
Teapots are made from a variety of materials, including glass.

Typically, a kettle is made from metal or heavy stoneware pottery, since these substances can withstand repeated heating and cooling. The basic design includes a lid that can be lifted to fill the kettle, and a spout for easy pouring, along with a handle so that it can be lifted or moved. A well designed teakettle has a handle that will stay cool while the kettle heats. While tea can be brewed in it, most people reserve the kettle for clean fresh water only.

A teapot.
A teapot.

A teapot can be made from an assortment of materials, since it does not have to withstand the heat of a stove. Teapots are found in porcelain, ceramic, stone, wood, metal, and glass. Hot water is poured from a kettle over tea leaves in a teapot so that tea can be brewed. Many teapots include strainers for the purpose of brewing loose leaf tea, although some cooks prefer to use tea bags for easier cleanup. In some cultures, teapots are designed for both stovetop and brewing use; heavy Japanese cast-iron teapots, for example, can be heated on the stove and used to brew and serve tea.

Loose leaf tea.
Loose leaf tea.

In addition to teakettles designed for stovetop use, some companies make electric kettles that plug into the wall and quickly heat their contents with an internal heating element. These kettles are much more energy efficient than traditional stovetop kettles, although they may not be as aesthetically pleasing.

Tea bags.
Tea bags.
Teapots may be made of porcelain.
Teapots may be made of porcelain.
Most black teas are at their best when brewed in a stoneware teapot.
Most black teas are at their best when brewed in a stoneware teapot.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

anon226368

I have never seen a tea kettle made of pottery.

MissMuffet

When I moved into my first apartment I read lots of tea kettle reviews. I like to make coffee in a French press, so having some way to boil water was important to me.

Electric teakettles make it easier to measure how much water you need, and of course I don't want to be wasting electricity. I also liked the idea of something that would switch itself off automatically, in case I wander away and forget about it!

angelBraids

My mother has been collecting teapots for as long as I can remember. She must have about 150 or so, housed on display shelves all around the kitchen and dining room!

What I find particularly hilarious is that she makes tea in a cup with a teabag on a string!

Bakersdozen

My grandparents had an ancient Aga type stove in their house. There was always a water kettle on it, keeping water warm to make a pot of tea for any visitors.

These days I use a cordless electric teakettle, but I still think nostalgically about those childhood memories. I really enjoyed reading more about this everyday item which seems to be popular the world over.

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