General Question

angelaclaire's avatar

Can you heat liquids besides water in an electric kettle?

Asked by angelaclaire (143points) February 18th, 2010

I just bought an electric kettle, only to find that the instructions say not to heat any liquid besides water in it. I have, however, found several recipes and suggestions online that refer to heating broth, juice, etc. in an electric kettle. Do all electric kettle instructions say to heat only water, but some people just ignore them? Or can some kettles/brands handle it, while others (including mine) can’t? If the latter, I certainly want to buy a new kettle – which brands/types can take more than plain old H2O?

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27 Answers

Val123's avatar

Hmmm. I don’t know. My first thought was “sure” you can, but after reading the details I don’t know.

I know that in college dorms (pre-microwave days) we headed soup in popcorn poppers.

dpworkin's avatar

You can, but since there is limited access it is not possible to clean the kettle afterward.

faye's avatar

Why would it hurt it? If I rinsed it really well and watched that it didn’t run dry?

dpworkin's avatar

That’s purely a matter of aesthetics, but I assume that continued use in this fashion would cause a buildup of residue which begin to interfere with the heating element.

Cruiser's avatar

Most anything other than water will have what is called a flash point and the kettle mfr knows this and wants no part of crazy experiments that result in super heating of liquids that can ingnite quite spectacularly when heated.

As an example drive around your town on Thanksgiving and watch all the beautiful porch and garage fires from people attempting to deep fry turkeys in hot oil!

Heating anything other than water will increase its flash point and chances for serious trouble is all…they are protecting themselves from litigation if you decide to heat up your Burbon in their appliance.

lilikoi's avatar

Broth and juice are both primarily water. One possibility is that the kettle has a preset amount of heat and time for releasing this heat. I once used a kettle in an office where there was just an on/off button to control it. It was just enough heat and time to bring water in the provided container to a boil, but I’m sure other liquids with different boiling points would not boil in it due to its simple design. I doubt other liquids would damage the kettle – unless you are a chemist dealing with extraordinary, non-common-household liquids.

@dpworkin makes a good point that the kettle geometry may make cleaning the residue of other liquids difficult, but I don’t think this is of any concern to the manufacturer in terms of liability (liability being the main trigger of warnings like this).

You should post a link to the product and then I’d be able to tell you probably.

If you want to make soup, why not just get a pot and put it on an electric stove? I struggle to see the point of having an appliance that serves only one purpose. I’m assuming the kettle is for an office situation or something…

rooeytoo's avatar

Cleaning is the main problem is using them for heating liquids other than water but I have been using mine to make soup for ages and nothing has happened. After use, I fill it with water heat it and then add dishwashing soap. I slosh it all around dump it out, rinse it. I don’t know how unclean it can get or what bacteria could live in there since you are constantly bringing water to the boiling point.

What @cruiser says is probably true but I don’t know the flash point of chicken noodle soup but so far I have not reached it with my electric kettle!

lilikoi's avatar

@rooeytoo Chicken soup is mostly water. Salt will raise the boiling point, obviously, but you don’t have to worry about flash points.

The_Idler's avatar

So long as you wash it with boiling water and soap straight after, its fine.

I presume you are talking about food/drink.

But still, why not microwave/hob?

angelaclaire's avatar

Since several people have asked for clarification, here is a link to the product:

Yes, I’m just talking about heating food and drink. To answer lilikoi’s question about the point of an electric kettle – it heats much more quickly and efficiently than a regular old pot on the stove. Also, it has an automatic-off as soon as it recognizes that the liquid has reached boiling, so it takes less attention – I don’t know whether or not that would help protect the liquid from exploding by reaching a flash point, though.

I guess it would simplify my question to just ask whether anyone out there owns an electric kettle that specifically says in the instruction manual that it is approved for use on liquids besides water.

Lightlyseared's avatar

I imagine it’s mainly to avoid litigation.

filmfann's avatar

If the kettle has a whistle, you may damage it if you are heating up broth.

The_Idler's avatar

The kettle, the whistle or the broth!?

filmfann's avatar

The steaming broth will damage the whistle.

Pretty_Lilly's avatar

@Val123 You attended college pre-microwave days ?? It has been around since the mid 1930’s !

lilikoi's avatar

@angelaclaire The website’s description of the item says “The 2-liter capacity is ideal for a variety of uses—hot tea, soups, instant coffees, oatmeal, hot chocolate, noodles, baby formula and more.” By “liquids besides water”, I’m guessing they mean oils, alcohols, things that are atypical of what you’d find in food and drink but common in a chemistry lab.

My old office had one exactly like that. I agree it is probably more efficient. The flash point indicates how easy a chemical may ignite and burn – I don’t even think it is possible for water to have a flash point (burning)...“Flash point” I think can also mean the point at which a substance changes state from liquid to vapor instantaneously (or maybe that was just “to flash”), which is something a refrigerant can do in an air conditioner but that probably cannot happen in your kettle.

CMaz's avatar


susanc's avatar

@filmfann, the steaming broth won’t damage the whistle any more than steaming water
will. When broth (or anything else) steams, it’s just releasing water vapor. The other stuff stays down in the soup.

filmfann's avatar

Yes and no. Try boiling broth with a lid on the pot, and then set the lid aside. You will find residue on the lid when it has dried.
The steam is water, but it carries the broth contents as well.

squidcake's avatar

Well, one time my friend decided to heat up some milk in a kettle (Lord knows why…)
He said boiling hot milk was spraying everywhere. I have NO idea why it would do that but he said it was one of the scariest moments of his life.

angelaclaire's avatar

@lilikoi, I read that description of uses (“hot tea, soups, instant coffees,” etc.) and I assumed, as I think you did, that it meant the tea itself, the soup itself, the coffee, etc. could be heated up in the kettle. No such luck (or rather, in my opinion, False Advertising!) – the instructions clarify that you heat just water in the kettle to more conveniently and efficiently MAKE tea, soup, etc. sigh… I don’t want to heat up oil or alcohol or anything atypical… I guess I’ll just use my best judgment and stop worrying about voiding the warranty.

Val123's avatar

@Pretty_Lilly I know they discovered the properties of the microwave in the 30’s or 40’s, but they weren’t commercially available or feasible for home owners till the late 70’s. I didn’t get my first microwave till after I was married in 1981, so that would be 1982 or 83.

@squidcake Well, I don’t know what property milk has in it, but if you leave a ½ a pan of it on the stove unattended it’ll boil over and make a big mess, unlike ½ a pan of water, which will just evaporate.

Oh heck @angelaclaire Go for it! If we never hear from you again, just know that we sure appreciated getting the chance to know you! RIP!

Pretty_Lilly's avatar

@Val123 I beg to differ
The Radarange, the first microwave oven in the world. It was almost 5.9 ft tall, weighed 750 lb and cost about US$5000 each. It consumed 3 kilowatts, about three times as much as today’s microwave ovens, and was water-cooled. An early commercial model introduced in 1954 consumed 1.6 kilowatts and sold for US$2000 to US$3000. Raytheon licensed its technology to the Tappan Stove company in 1952. They tried to market a large, 220 volt, wall unit as a home microwave oven in 1955 for a price of US$1295, but it did not sell well. In 1965 Raytheon acquired Amana, which introduced the first popular home model, the countertop Radarange, in 1967 at a price of US$495 !

Val123's avatar

@Pretty_Lilly OK. But MOST people didn’t start getting them in their homes until the late 70’s. Computers have been around in one form or another since the 40’s and 50’s, but they didn’t become a standard feature in most homes until beginning in the mid-80’s.

mcolletti's avatar

i am reading alton brown’s (my hero) GEAR FOR YOUR KITCHEN, and he recommends using an elec kettle to heat stock, wine and even boiling eggs – he uses a chef’s choice. he says to get one that lifts away from base and heating coils. he also suggests a braun, but the models he mentions are no longer available. if i got one that is separate from coils, it seems to me to be ok.

kritiper's avatar

You could but then you might have to throw it away because it is too hard to clean.

BethMcD's avatar

@prettylily research is great. But your response was concerning a microwave in college. NOT available and/or affordable until the 70s..

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