Keeping kosher: How to separate meat and dairy

What does keeping kosher entail? It is easier than you think. A primer for the kosher home.

Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, | updated: 10:00

Judaism מצווה. הרב מלמד
מצווה. הרב מלמד
פלאש 90

Unity of Religious Zionism for the Sake of the Nation

From the outset, I thought to continue my custom of not expressing a position in favor of a particular party, believing that as a rabbi with students belonging to different parties – all of them with good intentions – not to limit myself by supporting a particular party, and not to disassociate anyone who prefers a different one.

In a way, as a continuation of that position, the best thing today is for all parties identifying with religious Zionism to unite in one list, thus expressing the variety of values this dear and idealistic public encompasses, from all of its sides.

Such a position will benefit the entire right-wing and traditional public, and indirectly, Israeli society at large, for religious Zionists, in all their diversities, encompass all the important ideals: loyalty to Torah and investment of vast time and resources in its study, clarification, and imparting in educational systems for future generations; observance of mitzvot with great devotion, even under difficult conditions of a secular environment; loyalty to the values ​​of Derech Eretz and human morality; love of the Nation and the Land; taking the lead in yishuv ha’aretz (the settlement of the Land); dedication to Israel’s security; volunteering in immigrant absorption; volunteering in helping others; engaging in science at a high level contributing to the prosperity of the State of Israel, and to a great extent, even to the advancement of humanity; participation in all fields of employment in the economy for the benefit of society and the economic prosperity of the State of Israel; and appreciation for all sectors of culture and art.

All these values ​​are common to all religious Zionists; differences only arise concerning the extent and centrality of each value, but this is precisely the virtue of the religious Zionist sector – that in its entirety, it gives expression to all values.

Must a Kosher Kitchen have Two Sinks?

Ideally, there should be two sinks in a kitchen, one for meat and one for dairy, in order to fortify the separation between milk and meat, in keeping with the objective of our Sages, reflected in the enactment of takanot (Rabbinic institutions) they instituted regarding distancing between meat and milk.

However, b’shaat ha’tzorech (in time of need), one sink and one marble countertop may be used for both meat and milk, provided that one makes sure the sink and the marble countertop are cleaned of leftover food. This was the practice in the majority of Jewish homes a few generations ago when connecting houses to running water through pipes began, and due to high costs, only one sink was installed in many kitchens. There are still old houses in Jerusalem in which righteous and God-fearing people lived, with only one sink in the kitchen.

Indeed, one posek was machmir (stringent) in this issue, out of concern about a distant speculation that the pouring of boiling water could bring forth tastes absorbed in a utensil, and insert it into another (Minchat Yitzchak 2: 100). Another posek required the use of separate racks for meat and milk, in order to create a separation between the sink basin and utensils (Iggrot Moshe, Y.D. 1:42). However, according to halachic rules, and according to the consensus of the majority of poskim, as long as the sink is cleaned between the use of dairy and meat, it is permissible to use one sink (see, S. A., Y. D. 95:3; Y.O., Vol. 10, Y.D. 10; Ohr L’Tzion, Vol.3, 10:11).

Dishwasher

Some people are careful to buy two trays, one for meat dishes and another for dairy, in order to safeguard the customary practice of separation between meat and dairy utensils. Some people even make a point of designating the dishwasher as being either meat or dairy. On the other hand, some people are lenient mei’ikar ha’din (according to the law, strictly speaking) to wash meat and dairy dishes together, because the dishwashing soap pogem (ruins, or spoils) the remnants of meat and dairy food (Y. O., Vol. 10, Y. D., according to S. A., Y. D. 95: 4).

In practice, one should not act leniently and wash meat and dairy dishes together in a dishwasher, since the soap does not always spoil the tastes before they are mixed together. But it is permissible l’chatchila (from the outset) to wash dishes in the same dishwasher and on the same tray, one time meat dishes, and another time dairy, but not together. However, when based on prior experience one knows that after washing very dirty dishes particles of food and oily or greasy substances remain in the dishwasher, after washing dishes, one should make sure to run the dishwasher once again on the highest temperature, in order to clean it thoroughly before washing the other type of dishes.

Some people are mehadrin (meticulously observant) to remove the remnants of food from the filters, out of concern their taste is not sufficiently spoiled, and remnants of meat and milk will accumulate in the filter. In practice, however, one should not be concerned that remnants of food in the filter have not been spoiled.

Stovetop Grate, Electric and Ceramic

One is permitted to use the same stovetop grate for meat and dairy, because even if a little meat or dairy sauce spilled onto the grate, the fire of the gas burner burns and spoils what has been spilled.

The same is true for electric and ceramic cooktops, namely, one is permitted to place on the same surface one time a meat pot, and another time a dairy pot, since the heat of the cooktop burns what sometimes spills from them.

When meat and dairy pots are cooked at the same time, one should make sure there is room between them, so that one pot does not spill-over onto the side of the other pot.

The Surface under the Grate

One should be machmir (stringent) not to eat food that fell on the metal surface under the grate, because sometimes there are remnants of meat and dairy foods. If a thick piece of food fell, one can cut and throw-out a 2 cm-thick section from the side that touched the surface, and eat the rest. However, if it is known the surface had been cleaned well, and remained clean, one is permitted to eat what fell on it, since the concern is only the oily grease on it, but one should not be concerned that it absorbed taste that will emit afterwards. Also, if dairy food fell there, and one knows that since the last cleaning meat was not cooked, the dairy food that fell there is kosher.

Induction Cooktop

On an induction cooktop, the surface on which the pots are placed is sealed. However, unlike ceramic cooktops where the heat originates in the ceramic surface, on an induction cooktop, the heat source is from the pot heated by an electromagnetic field, and from the pot the heat expands to the dish and the surface on which it is placed. Thus, these cooktops do not burn what spills over from the pots.

According to the letter of the law, if one makes sure to always clean the cooktop from food spilled on it, on those same areas it is permissible at one time to heat a meat pot, and at another time to heat a dairy pot, since the glass surface of such cooktops do not absorb, and also, all contact there is from one utensil to another.

Those wishing to le’hadare (to be meticulously observant), designate one side for cooking meat, and the other side for dairy. B’shaat ha’tzorech, one may thoroughly clean the surface, and then cook a meat pot on the dairy side, and vice versa.

Baking Oven

A person who wants to use the same compartment once for meat, and once for dairy may do so, provided he has a special baking pan for meat, and another for dairy, and makes sure to kasher the oven between the two by heating it for half an hour at the highest temperature.

However, it is Jewish custom to make a separation between meat and milk, and accordingly, many people are customary le’hadare and purchase an oven with two compartments and designate one for meat and one for dairy, or to buy an oven with one compartment and designate it only for meat, or only for dairy.

However, even those who are mehadrim not to use the same compartment in the oven once for meat and once for dairy, b’shaat ha’tzorech may heat it on the highest temperature for half an hour, and thus kasher it for the other type of food.

If one erred and cooked a dairy dish in the meat compartment without kashering it, be’di’avad (ex post facto) the dairy food is kosher, since in practice, no actual taste of meat has entered the dairy food, and at most, the steam may give an odor of meat in the dairy food, however, be’di’avd, odor does not prohibit.

Baking of Parve Challot in a Meat Compartment of an Oven

Q: What should be done when there is an oven compartment in which meat or dairy food was baked, and one wants to bake in it parve challot, namely, challot that can be eaten with either meat or milk?

A: It is the custom of many people le’hadare, and first to heat the oven on the highest temperature in order to make it parve. However, me’tzad ha’din (according to the letter of the law), one may bake a parve pastry in an oven in which a meat or milk dish was baked beforehand without kashering it, since it is clear there is absolutely no possibility it will have the taste of meat or milk.

Microwave

The same microwave can be used for dairy and meat foods if a separation is made between them. In separating, two things should be noted: first – not to place dairy or meat foods directly on the same plate; second – that a lot of vapor from the microwave cavity should not enter the food being heated.

Therefore, one should be careful not to place foods directly on the permanent plate of the microwave, rather, dairy foods should be placed on a dairy plate, and meat dishes on a meat plate, and these plates should be placed on the microwave plate. In addition, a plastic lid should be designated for dairy foods, and another lid for meat foods. And although vapors escape through the small openings in the plastic lid designed for microwaves, the vapors emitting from them do not have the power to accumulate on the walls and the roof of the microwave and transfer taste, kal v’chomer (all the more so), they lack the power to extract a taste that may have been absorbed into the microwave walls, and insert it into the heated food.

Additionally, one may determine the normal state of the microwave is dairy, and if someone wants to heat a meat dish, he should place an additional plate or other surface on the microwave’s permanent plate, and cover the meat dishes with a plastic lid or box, or wrap it in a bag. L’chatchila, this is the correct way to act when one wants to heat parve food to be eaten with meat dishes.

Kashering a Microwave

A microwave that was made treif (non-kosher), should be kashered in three stages: 1) Clean the remaining food that may have been leftover due to spilling. 2) Immerse the rotating plate in boiling water. 3) Place a bowl of water with soap in the microwave, and heat it for about ten minutes on the highest temperature, thus kashering it from the steam and “perspiration” that it absorbed while heating the treif food.

Be’di’avad, when it is difficult to kasher the microwave, such as in a place of work or when there is no time to kasher it, one can heat foods by putting them on an additional plate, and put it in a bag or box that will wrap it on all sides, even if openings are left for steam to escape. This is because in practice, since vapors from the microwave will not enter the food, even though the microwave is treif, the food remains kosher l’mehedrin (strictly kosher). Nevertheless, one should not leave a treif microwave oven in the house, rather, it should be kashered without delay, lest one forgets and heats food without a separation between the microwave and the food.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper and was translated from Hebrew.





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