Everywhere you look, items made with or from silicone rubber continue to pop up like mushrooms after a long spring rain. From artificial lungs to cookie sheets, even baby bottles, this versatile, non-toxic material is becoming increasingly indispensable in our everyday lives. Now tea kettles can be added to the list of items getting the silicone treatment with the four-cup SlickBoil from Cuissential that takes advantage of silicone's flexibility to shrink to a space-saving package when not preparing a refreshing brew.

Luckily, for those concerned about unwanted chemical exposure from all-things plastic, silicone rubber is BPA-free and its heat-resistant flexibility gives the SlickBoil another desirable trait, too: it collapses into itself so when stored, shrinking to just 2.5 inches (5 cm) high. That's brilliant for folks on a space budget and less than any other commercially available kettle (doll house teas sets excluded, of course).

But why silicone, and for that matter, just what the heck is silicone? Not to be confused with the element, silicon, it has a number of interesting properties that make it an excellent candidate for cookware and countless other uses. The word itself was coined by chemist Frederick Kipping way back in 1901 to embrace a class of mixed organic-inorganic polymers known as polysiloxanes. The compound does actually contain silicon, but also carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and other elements, varying the proportions of which confers different desirable properties.

Key for its use in cookware is the fact that silicone doesn't support bacterial growth and its surface is non-stick. Although it can withstand temperatures of close to 500°F (260°C) it is flammable, so the SlickBoil comes with a stainless steel base. If you cook with open flame, just remember - keep it low enough to avoid the rubber portion, unless, that is, you like the smell of burning polysiloxane in the morning!

SlickBoil is available at Amazon.com for US$35.

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