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Kosher Kitchen Rules

By Catalogs Editorial Staff

top 10 kosher kitchen rulesContributed by Info Guru Lindsay Shugerman

To the uninitiated, keeping a Kosher kitchen might seem overwhelming. There are so many rules, so many details. It can be hard to know where to start.

But as someone who has kept a Kosher kitchen for over 10 years, I can tell you it’s not as complicated as it seems. Once you get everything started, the new “rules” will become just an everyday part of your shopping and cooking routine.

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10. All processed or packaged food must have a certification

Star K kosher

One of the most basic rules for creating and maintaining a Kosher kitchen is to make sure all packaged or processed foods are marked with a certification called a hechsher. These work as a stamp of approval, letting shoppers know that a certain food is certified as Kosher by a Rabbinic authority.

Lest you think that limiting your shopping to certified Kosher foods will mean giving up many kinds of foods, let me assure you that many of the name brands you now buy in your grocery store have a hechsher. That means you can probably continue to eat many of your favorite sweets (like Ghirardelli Chocolates! Oh yes!), cereals, canned goods, frozen foods and baking mixes in your newly Kosher home.

9. Produce gets its own rules

top 10 kosher kitchen rules washing veggies

But what about foods that aren’t packaged or processed? Does some what to approve your lettuce and carrots? Thankfully, no. But to keep your kitchen Kosher, you do need to take extra care with these items. Fruits and vegetables have to be well washed before cooking or eating. And that includes every leaf of lettuce or spinach.

It’s not the dirt that’s an issue. It’s the tiny bugs and worms that could be hiding among the leaves. Bugs (with few exceptions) aren’t Kosher, so you need to do your best to make sure not a single one ends up in your salad or soup.

8. Meat and milk cannot be served at the same meal

top 10 kosher kitchen rules meat versus milk

This is probably one of the most confusing sets of rules for people new to Kosher cooking. In a Kosher kitchen, food is divided into three categories. Meat (which is anything made from an animal, except fish), milk (anything which includes even a little dairy) and parve (food that isn’t either meat or milk, like eggs or vegetables.) Parve foods can be served with either meat or milk foods.

The source of the rule is a single line in the Torah where we are directed to not cook a kid in its mother’s milk. From that single line, arose a whole body of rules designed to make sure that never happened, even accidentally. That means that cheese sprinkled on your spaghetti and meat balls is now a no-no. Ditto for that cheeseburger or cheesy chicken dish.

7. Meat and milk dishes don’t share the same pots and pans, either

top 10 kosher kitchen rules  cookware

If you’re not a vegetarian like me, your Kosher kitchen will need to have two of almost everything, from dishes to silverware. You’ll even need two sets of cookware to keep meat and milk foods completely separate. Some people add a third set of cookware and cooking accessories to use with parve foods.

You can chose different colors of dishes and cookware for each category of food, to avoid mistakes.

6. Kosher meat is more than a label

no pigs

When it comes to meat, the rules for keeping Kosher get much more complicated than they are for things like green beans or breakfast cereal. There are of course, rules about which animals are allowed (no piggies, please.) There are rules about the condition of the animal’s health. And there are even more rules about the way in which the animal must have died (no road kills, please. And hunters? No thanks!)

And because the Torah forbids eating blood, Kosher meats must be drained of their blood before cooking, a process that usually involves salting, then allowing the meat to drain.

5. And then there’s Passover …

top 10 kosher kitchen rules passover

In a proper Kosher kitchen, you’ll need to prepare for Passover, too. Dishes, silverware and serving dishes used for foods that contain leaven (a class that includes most common grains) cannot be used during Passover. And this is true for meat, milk and parve dishes. Even in my vegetarian Kosher kitchen, the everyday tableware must be packed away. Some people also pack away cookware, while others use various means to prepare pots and pans to be ritually acceptable for Passover.

Once that’s done, shelves, cabinets, drawers, and all appliances are thoroughly cleaned. The rest of the house is cleaned, too, so that not a crumb of leaven remains. Once that is done, the special set of dishes used only on Passover come out.

4. Your appliances in a Kosher kitchen

top 10 kosher kitchen rules appliances

If you have a stove and oven which has been used to cook non-Kosher food, you will need to kasher them to make them Kosher. For a self-cleaning oven, that could be as simple as a thorough cleaning of all parts not reached by the cleaning function, and then running the longest oven cleaning cycle you have. For cooktops, it might be a thorough cleaning with boiling water. For traditional burners, you will need to leave them on high for a given time.

Dishwashers need to be kashered by scrubbing the inside, removing and scrubbing all removable parts, and then running it on the sani-cycle. Once it’s done, most people say that it must be designated meat or milk, while others allow for both as long as it’s run empty in between the two. Fridges can just be emptied and well scrubbed.

Your Rabbi should be consulted if you have any questions about kashering your own kitchen.

3. Table linens need to be separate for meat, milk and Passover

top 10 kosher kitchen rules table linens

For me, having extra sets of table linens is more of a plus than a difficulty! But it’s also a requirement for a Kosher home. This includes tablecloths, cloth napkins, placemats, and table-runners.

2. Even cleaning supplies count … sometimes

top 10 kosher kitchen rules cleaning products

Cleaning supplies that come into direct contact with dishes and cookware generally need to have a Kosher certification. That includes dish soap, scrubbing soap pads and dishwasher detergent. And as with table linens, dish towels, potholders and scrubbing supplies need to be separated by meat, milk and parve, plus the same three categories for Passover.

Things like glass cleaner and floor cleaner do not need to be Kosher.

1. Different people read the rules differently

top 10 kosher kitchen rules different opinions

Okay, now that you’re feeling like you have a good idea about what makes a kitchen Kosher, I need to throw a wrench into it. Because except for the biggies like cleaning for Passover or not eating pork, there are different opinions on almost every aspect of keeping Kosher.

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If you’re thinking of making yours a Kosher kitchen, do a lot of reading. Ask people. Ask a few Rabbis. And then jump in. It’s not nearly as hard to do as you might think.


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