Steam kettles are self-contained versions of large stockpots used in range top cooking. While they are able to complete all the same tasks you could use a range top for, they offer a significant increase in productivity, convenience, and energy efficiency.

With a steam kettle, you can easily boil pasta or simmer sauces, soups, and stocks while completing other tasks. These units can be partially automated, so you don’t need to supervise them as closely as a stockpot on a range.

Steam Kettle Design

Steam kettles are enclosed by an outer wall (aka: a jacket) containing raw steam. This jacket extends from the bottom of the kettle to about half the distance to the rim. Circulation of steam within the jack provides an even cooking or heating to all of the kettle contents. Steam pressure (1 to 50 psig) determines the maximum temperature of the kettle.

Types of Kettles

When purchasing a steam kettle, you have a variety of options to choose from to best suit your needs.

Each type of steam kettle is available in both gas and electric, and many of them have a building service steam option for institutional facilities.

Steam kettles come in different capacities ranging from 1 quart to 200 gallons. Many smaller capacity kettles (less than 60 gallons) are mounted on pivots so you can easily tilt and pour.

The steam source of each kettle is either self-contained or built-in to the boiler, or it is direct or supplied externally.

Most manufacturers also offer accessories like timers or mixer attachments to further automate steam kettle cooking.

Direct Steam Kettles

Direct steam kettles are supplied with steam from an external boiler. They have a simpler kettle design than a self-contained kettle, but they require more maintenance. At least once a day, you need to “blow down” the kettle to eliminate condensate build up in the steam supply line. This is typically a manual process, but some manufacturers offer an automated system.

Self-Contained Kettles

Self-contained kettles use a close steam system. The jacket is filled with distilled water, and steam is supplied by a gas or electric boiler contained within a housing unit on the kettle’s stand. These kettles cost more than a direct steam kettle, and they have a more complex design. However, they are more versatile and can fit into any kitchen space with any gas or electric plumbing configuration.

Also, the maintenance is much easier. Each kettle usually has a sight glass through which you can inspect the water level. The jacket will occasionally need to be manually vented or refilled.

Tilting Kettles

Tilting kettles help you to simplify decanting large volumes of food products. They range in size up to 100-gallon capacity models and are available in all configurations of steam source and mounting styles.

Kettles are typically tilted with a hand operated wheel, but they sometimes come equipped with an electric motor. They are counterbalanced, so it can stop and stay in any position while tilting.

Tilting kettles also come with a pouring lip to easily guide contents into a steam pan or a serving dish. Additionally, larger units might have a tangent draw off valve at the bottom of the unit. This is very useful if you are using the unit for pastas, so you can drain before decanting.

Stationary Kettles

Stationary kettles do not tilt, but they are equipped with a draw off tangent valve at the bottom of the kettle. Steam kettles with capacities between 100 and 200 gallons are only available in stationary designs.

Mounting Styles

Smaller steam kettles with capacities less than 10 gallons can be mounted on a countertop. They can either be gas or electric heated with a direct steam configuration. They are typically tilting type kettles.

Wall mounted kettles typically have a capacity range of 1 quart to 100 gallons. They can be stationary or mounted on trunnions for tilting. They are typically direct-steam style kettles and installed as part of a battery of appliances.

Larger kettles with capacities from 10 gallons to 200 gallons are typically floor mounted. They can use direct or self-contained steam and can either be tilting or stationary. These units can be mounted on a pedestal or an open or cabinet style base.

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