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Dec 12, 2011 06:28 AM

Kosher kitchen question from a non-kosher non-jew


Okay - while I know a little about keeping kosher and grew up with a few friends who kept a kosher kitchen, I have never cooked kosher. I'm not trying to cook kosher, so everyone can relax . . .

I was watching some new show on Bravo as I was falling asleep last night (Chef Roble - catering something) and he was preparing a kosher meal for an event. He was in a kosher kitchen and went to turn on the stove and the Rabbi came running over saying that he had to turn on the flame. I never knew that or had never heard that part of a kosher kitchen (not surprising, just saying).

So my question is - for people who keep a kosher kitchen at home, how do you turn on the stove at home if the rabbi is supposed to turn on the flame?

Just curious.

  1. It's not that a rabbi has to turn it on, it's that a Jew has to turn it on. I'm assuming the rabbi in question was the kitchen's mashgiach (kosher supervisor), in charge of making sure the chef didn't do anything that would make the food—and the kitchen—trayf.

    Food cooked by a non-Jew is called bishul akum and is not kosher, even if made from kosher ingredients. If a Jew lights the fire, then the food is bishul yisrael and kosher. Pilot lights go a long way toward helping with this problem; unfortunately most stoves these days have electronic ignitions, not pilot lights. If you Google "bishul akum", you'll get way more information than you can possibly ever want.

    And, for posterity's sake (not your specific question), no, just having a Jew light your home stove is not a way to make kosher food. Your stove, pots, utensils, etc. would be trayf because G-d alone knows what kind of chazerai (junk) you made before.

    9 Replies
    1. re: Das Ubergeek

      aaaaahhhh - yes the chef was not jewish, so that makes sense and the rabbi was watching everything they did to ensure everything was kosher (ironic pun intended). Watching the rabbi pick through almost every leaf of basil looking for a bug was my favorite part.

      The way the rabbi explained it (granted on a reality show) made it sound like he, the rabbi, needed to light the fire - not just he, a jew, needed to light the fire.


      1. re: thimes

        If a mashgiach is on-site, one of his duties is to light the fire. If this had been in a private home, with no supervision, any Jew could have lit the fire. Any Jew could've for the show, too, but when the mashgiach is around, it's his job. The rabbi probably also had to inspect the fruit to make sure it was from trees on their fourth (or later) growing season, to avoid a problem called "orlah".

        1. re: Das Ubergeek

          How would you inspect fruit to determine the tree's age? In any event, outside Israel you needn't worry about fruit being orlah; unless you know for a fact that a particular fruit is orlah you can assume it isn't. Even if you know the supplier who's selling it to you has only one orchard which he planted only two years ago, you can assume that this fruit is not from his own orchard but from one that is more than three years old. Only in Israel do you need a hechsher on fruit that certifies, among other things, that it comes from a tree that is old enough.

          1. re: zsero

            You would inspect the fruit's hechsher—and I have met people determined to apply the rules about orlah to all fruit, regardless of origin. Just when I think I've seen the most detailed attention to halachic law, someone comes along with an even more conservative approach.

            For example, some rabbonim will accept any US-produced milk as cholov yisroel because the inspection standards are so strict and the laws about purity and cleanliness so detailed that it would be unlikely in the extreme that anything untoward could happen; they don't send a mashgiach to dairies. Some, however, require a positive affirmation that the milk is, in fact, cholov yisroel.

            I didn't see the show, though, so I can't say what the story was.

            1. re: Das Ubergeek

              Inspect the fruit's hechsher?

              While I know some fruit suppliers are engaging in the ridiculous practice of getting hechsher for fresh fruit, that is definitely the not the general practice.

              Maybe inspecting for country of origin, but there is not that much fresh produce coming in from Israel into the US.

              More likely inspecting for bugs.

              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                It is halacha lemoshe misinai that outside Israel one assumes fruit is not orlah unless one knows for a fact that it is. If you've come across someone who worries about orlah in chu"l, please inform them that they're actually violating bal tosif.

                Chalav Yisrael is a different story. First of all Reb Moshe's heter to consider commercial milk to be chalav yisrael is a huge chiddush, and not everyone accepts it. Second, even he said that a person who cares about hiddur mitzvah should not rely on his heter, and he himself did not rely on it. So there's no question that milk that is actually supervised, i.e. CY in the traditional sense, is at least highly preferable, and according to many/most it's halachically required.

                The mashgiach on the show is surely checking for bugs, not orlah.

                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                  Hey, DU, how's it going? Rav Moshe Feinstein effectively said that all US "company milk" is cholov yisrael, but although many hold that it can therefore be used, plenty hold by other decisors who rule strictly on the subject. I can go into it in greater detail, but it isn't necessary at this time. Then, except in Israel, everyone holds that since most fruit trees bearing commercial fruit well over 3 years old, it can be presumed that any given fruit is from those trees. However, if one knows for a fact that there even could be a problem, one is not allowed to use such fruit. So if one knows a particular orchard averages under 4 years old, one should think twice about using the fruit. Zev Sero is a good resource for such things, and explains it properly below.

                  Parenthetically, you were one of the few people I wished could have eaten at Smokin'! before I closed it. Normally, I don't care much what other people think of my food or my wine, but you have the breadth and depth of food experience such that I was anxious to hear your take on my meat.

                  1. re: ganeden

                    I'm willing to accept whatever explanation for it, just that people's personal commitment to kashrut varies and thus, so too does their willingness to eat things.

                    I wish I'd known—I would have made a point to stop in!

                2. re: zsero

                  Please explain the reason why the fruit must be from an orchard that is more than three years old.... Why must the tree be of a certain age? What about trees that bear fruit because of grafting?

          2. Das Ubergeek (or others): a friend keeps a kosher kitchen. When she brings food she prepared to my house & warms it up (still in her kosher pans), is it still kosher? When I've asked, she shrugged her shoulders and said "it's food."

            5 Replies
            1. re: pine time

              I'm no rabbi. How observant someone chooses to be is his or her own business, so if she feels comfortable with that setup, then that's fine; someone else might have conniption fits at the idea. I would think most people would be OK with it—after all, kosher meals at, say, hotel banquets tend to come in from a remote kosher kitchen, heated up onsite with the wrapper and seal bearing the hechsher (certification mark) intact.

              I'm trying desperately here to present this neutrally. I'm sure someone else will come in and tell me I'm all wet, but the fact is that the line of what's acceptable is a personal one, or at least a discussion between a Jew and his or her rabbi.

              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                well done, D.U.!
                you've earned a new moniker of Das Uber Talmudic Scholar, and that's a compliment.

              2. re: pine time

                Pine...What ubergeek says below is correct, but to split hairs... is the friend bringing her regular pans or disposables...and is it double wrapped?

                It makes a difference.

                1. re: vallevin

                  Hmm, never thought about it, but she does bring in disposables, which she leaves behind. Not double wrapped. Kosher? And, Das Ubergeek, appreciate the diplomacy--I've been in some ultra-orthodox Hindu kitchens, and the requirements were quite a lesson.

                2. re: pine time

                  If she's bringing the food in her own pan and warming it up on your stove top that shouldn't be a problem at all. She may want to cover it to prevent other food from splashing in, if there is any cooking next to it, but that's all. Or if she's warming it in your oven she'd want to cover the pan to make sure nothing stuck to the roof of the oven falls in.

                3. I am not a jew but I often prepare meals with kosher ingredients for my jewish mother in law who keeps kosher...does this mean i have been preparing non kosher food? who knew!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Monica

                    Oh my - Monica you may have opened a huge can of worms ;)

                    But yes, you have not been preparing kosher food. You started with kosher ingredients but that isn't the same thing. The rule list is HUGE to keep the ingredients kosher.

                    I also often use kosher ingredients (chicken and salt in particular - though I'm sure many other things qualify but those are the only 2 I seek out) but I could never tell someone who is kosher that what I made is "kosher" - (and I think most kosher people would know that, smile at you, and just not eat if it was that important to them). The kosher friends I had growing up had multiple sets of pans/dishes/utensils, one had 2 dishwashers - the list just goes on and on. And from the show I watched and the initial response to my post, if you turned on your stove and you're not jewish then you've already failed before you began . . . . .


                    1. re: thimes

                      Monica - it depends on how you define kosher. If your MIL eats your food and she only eats "kosher" food, well then your food is kosher. This is almost like the No True Scotsman fallacy. Kosher as a set of rules has major grey areas where authorities disagree. Even more so, people who keep kosher have even grey areas of practice where they consider food kosher even if it is not done by the absolute book (one of the most prominent one being people who eat dairy in non-kosher restaurant).

                      I'm sure your MIL knows where your food is coming from. If she eats it, it is probably good enough for her. You don't need to worry unless she says something.

                  2. Sounds like this is the show you were watching. Maybe this article will help you a little.


                    1 Reply
                    1. re: rockycat

                      Yup - that was the show. I wonder why the writer (a rabbi) felt they weren't well represented by the show?

                      "Bottom line: The food might have been good, but I don't think Matisyahu, his family, or mashgichim (kosher supervisors) were very well represented in this reality TV episode. I think he would have been better off turning down Bravo's offer to film this event and instead just dipped into his own pocket to pay the famous chef to cater the event."

                      I didn't think they were presented poorly at all - or at least that wasn't my take away from the show by any means. Oh well, I enjoyed it.

                    2. Folks, it seems the question has been answered and is now heading down the path of debating who is sufficiently kosher in their standards. We're going to lock this now and would remind people that our focus on this board is discussing delicious kosher food, not the actual rules of kashrut or whether something is/isn't sufficiently kosher.