While a kitchen remodeled or designed for kashrut observance
with two sinks, two stoves, and separate working areas is
certainly a great convenience, it is by no means a necessity.
“Milchigs” and “Fleishigs:” In
keeping with the total separation of meat and dairy required
in the kosher kitchen, separate sets of dishes, pots, silverware,
serving dishes, bread trays and salt shakers are needed.
These different sets should be kept in separate cabinets.
Also necessary are separate sets of draining boards, draining
racks, dish sponges, scouring pads, dish towels, and tablecloths.
Dish soap, cleanser, and scouring pads used for dishes and
pots must have a hechsher (kashrut certification).
A very practical and widespread practice in Jewish homes
is to plan the different sets of meat and dairy utensils
around a color scheme. A traditional example is red for
fleishig (meat) and blue for milchig (dairy). Draining racks,
sponges and dish towers are key elements in this color system.
Choose your own color scheme and use it as a reminder for
yourself and anyone else who will be working in your kitchen.
(The dishes themselves need not conform to a strict color
scheme, but should be readily distinguishable.)
One must be especially careful to mark utensils that look
similar for both meat and dairy, such as knives, ladles
or wooden spoons. Distinguish between such utensils by having
a different color or design, or paint a line on the handles
according to the color scheme. Plastic tape, color-coordinated
sings, or paint of the same color may be used to mark other
The separation of meat and dairy must be maintained throughout
the kitchen. Consult you Rabbi as how to clean and kasher
surfaces or appliances that were non-kosher.
KASHRUT QUESTIONS IN THE KITCHEN
In any kosher kitchen, it is only natural for questions
to arise. What happens if you stir a pot of chicken soup
with a dairy spoon? How are the spoon, pot and food affected?
Can you kasher a particular type of pot, and if so , how
must it be done? Whether one has just begun to keep kosher
or has been doing so for years, it is important to ask a
sha’alah (question in halachah or Jewish Law) of a
Rabbi competent in halachic matters each time a situation
in kashrut or any other area of Jewish life needs clarification.
Until the question is answered, set aside the utensils
and/or food in question. For example, if a dairy knife was
used to cut meat, remove the knife from the meat and wipe
off all traces of meat from the knife, then set aside both
the meat which was cut and the knife which was used. When
there is a question, use only cold water. Never rinse these
utensils with hot water.
Consulting A Rabbi: When a question regarding a utensil
or food arises, consult an Orthodox Rabbi as soon as possible.
Keep in mind the circumstances and details involved in
the situation. The Rabbi will tell you whether the utensils
need to be koshered, and how to do it. (See Kashering Utensils
above.) He will also indicate if the food is permitted.
Some of the circumstances to describe to the Rabbi are:
*type(s) of food involved,
*type(s) of utensils, dishes or pots involved,
*the manner in which food was prepared (cooking, frying,
*whether the mix-up occurred in dishes or in cookware,
and before or after the cooking process,
*the temperature of food or utensils: whether hot, cold,
or room temperature,
*when the utensil was last used prior to the mix-up, and
for which foods it was used,
*the amount of food involved.
Another type of question that can arise is when a pareve
utensil comes in contact with hot meat or dairy foods, in
which case it may become fleishig or milchig. In this situation,
a sha’alah should be asked.
With each situation that arises, a new question should
be asked, for the answer to each case is determined independently.
One should not draw one’s own conclusion based on
an answer to a previous sha’alah.
Kosher Food Guidance
II. KOSHER POULTRY, AND FISH
III. KOSHER SLAUGHTERING
IV. MEAT AND MILK IN THE KOSHER KITCHEN
V. BAKERIES, BAKED GOODS, BREADS, ROLLS, PASTRIES AND BAGELS
VI. DAIRY PRODUCTS
VII. NATURAL AND HEALTH FOODS
VIII. WINES AND GRAPE PRODUCTS
IX: TRAVELING KOSHER
The Hebrew word kosher means proper as it relates to dietary
(kosher) laws. It means that a given product is permitted
A Kosher symbol means that the organization providing that
symbol, stands behind the product and guarantees to the
best of their ability that the product is kosher. The sources
for the laws of kashruth are of Biblical origin and expounded
in Rabbinic legislation, through which the Rabbis interpreted,
or added preventative measures to the Biblical regulations.
These laws are codified in the book called "Code of
Jewish Law", and are discussed in the ancient, medieval,
and contemporary writings of the Rabbis.
The laws of kashruth can get complex and extensive. The
intention of this guide is to acquaint the reader with some
of the fundamentals of kashruth and provide an insight into
their practical application. Given the complex nature of
the laws of kashruth, one should consult an observant Rabbi
when a question involving kashruth arises.
Though an ancillary hygienic benefit has been attributed
to the observance of kashruth, their ultimate purpose and
rationale is simply to conform to the Divine Will as expressed
in the Bible.
Not too long ago, most food products were made in the family
kitchen, or in a small factory or store in the community.
It was easy to inquire if the product in question was reliably
kosher. If rabbinical supervision was required, it was attended
to by the rabbi of the community, who was known to all.
Today, industrialization, transcontinental shipping and
mass production have created a situation where most of the
foods we eat are treated, processed, cooked, canned or boxed
commercially in industrial settings which are likely to
be located hundreds or thousands of miles away from home.
Furthermore, it is often impossible to tell from the label
what ingredients or processes have actually been used. This
last assumption is based on the following facts:
A. The law does not always require listing ingredients
or all ingredients used, especially when used in relatively
small amounts or in amounts less than the law requires to
be listed on the package.
B. The consumer has no way of knowing if the ingredients
listed are derived from non-kosher animals or other non-kosher
sources, or if the machinery used was not kosher because
it was also used to process non-kosher products.
C. The technical name of the ingredients printed on the
label may not be adequate to inform the consumer of what
is actually being used, and if it is or is not kosher. (See
Guide to Common Food Ingredients)
D. The use of general ingredient terms such as 'spices',
'flavors', is as good as no information at all.
Because we all have the tendency to take for granted that
certain products are kosher even if they do not carry reliable
kashruth supervision, the consumer is urged to be mindful
1. Because of the complicated and intricate nature of food
production, foods which we consider "obviously kosher"
may not be kosher at all, and may require rabbinic supervision
2. Some ingredients which we might believe are simple,
such as 'chocolate flavor' might be made up of over 30 separate
3. Before eating ask yourself, "Is There a Kashruth
II. KOSHER AND NON-KOSHER MEAT, POULTRY, AND FISH
The Torah (Leviticus Chapter 11) lists the characteristics
of permitted mammals and fish, and enumerates the forbidden
fowl. The only mammals permitted are those which chew their
cud (ruminants) and are cloven hoofed.
The Torah does not enumerate specific characteristics to
distinguish permitted from forbidden birds. Instead, it
enumerates 24 forbidden species of fowl. The Shulchan Aruch
(Code of Jewish Law) states that we may eat only those birds
for which there is an established tradition that the bird
is kosher. In the United States, the only poultry prepared
for the kosher market are chicken, turkey, duck and goose.
The Torah establishes two criteria in determining kosher
fish. They must have fins and scales (cycloid and ctenoid).
All shellfish are prohibited. Unlike meat and poultry, fish
requires no special preparation. One, however, should not
eat fish with meat. Filleted or ground fish should not be
purchased unless one is assured that it comes from a kosher
fish. Processed and smoked fish products require rabbinic
supervision, as do all processed foods.
III. KOSHER SLAUGHTERING
The processing of kosher meats and poultry requires that
the animal be slaughtered in the manner prescribed by the
Only a trained kosher slaughterer (shochet) whose piety
and expertise have been attested to by rabbinic authorities
is qualified to slaughter an animal. The trachea and esaphagus
of the animal are severed with a special razor-sharp, perfectly
smooth blade causing instantaneous death with no pain to
After the animal has been properly slaughtered, a trained
inspector (bodek) inspects the internal organs for any physiological
abnormalities that may render the animal non-kosher (treif).
The lungs, in particular, must be examined to determine
that there are no adhesions (sirchot) which may be indicative
of a puncture in the lungs. If an adhesion is found, the
bodek must examine it carefully to determine its kashruth
C. Glatt Kosher:
Though not all adhesions will necessarily render an animal
treif, some Jewish communities or individuals only eat of
an animal that has been found to be free of all adhesions.
"Glatt" literally means smooth, indicating that
the meat comes from an animal whose lungs have been found
to be free of all adhesions. Of late, "Glatt Kosher"
is used more broadly as a consumer phrase meaning kosher
There are special cutting procedures for beef, veal and
lamb, called "Nikkur" in Hebrew. Many blood vessels,
nerves, and lobes of fat are forbidden and must be removed;
a costly and time-consuming procedure.
The Torah forbids the eating of the blood of an animal.
The two methods of extracting blood from meat are salting
and broiling. Meat once ground cannot be made kosher, nor
may meat be placed in hot water before it has been "koshered".
The meat must first be soaked for a half hour in cool (not
ice) water in a utensil designated only for that purpose.
After allowing for excess water to drip off, the meat is
thoroughly salted so that the entire surface is covered
with salt. Only coarse salt should be used. In processing
poultry, both the inside and outside of the slaughtered
bird must be salted. All inside sections must be removed
before the koshering process begins. Each part must be soaked
and salted separately. If the meat had been sliced with
a knife during the salting process, the surface of the cut
must be soaked and salted as well. The salted meat is then
left for an hour on an inclined or perforated surface to
allow the blood to flow down freely. The cavity of the poultry
should be placed open side down. After the salting, the
meat must be thoroughly soaked and washed to remove all
According to rabbinic law, meat must be koshered within
72 hours after slaughter so as not to permit the blood to
congeal. If meat has been thoroughly soaked or rinsed, an
additional seventy-two hours is granted for the salting
An alternate means of "koshering" meat is through
broiling. Liver may only be koshered through broiling, because
of the preponderance of blood in it. Both the liver and
meat must first be thoroughly washed to remove all surface
blood. They are then salted slightly on all sides. Subsequently,
they are broiled on a perforated grate over an open fire
which draws out the internal blood. The liver must be broiled
on both sides until the outer surface appears to be dry
and brown. In addition, when koshering a liver, slits must
be made in the liver prior to broiling. After broiling,
they are rinsed off. Separate utensils should be used for
the koshering of liver.
F. The Kosher Butcher:
Koshering and nikkur are usually the responsibility of the
kosher butcher who must be a trained and reliable professional,
as well as a man of integrity. In addition, the store must
be under strict kashruth supervision.
From the time of slaughter, kosher meat and poultry must
be properly tagged and labeled until it reaches the consumer.
This requirement dictates that rabbinic supervision be maintained
until the meat reaches the consumer. In the processing of
meat, a metal tag called a plumba, bearing the kosher certification,
serves as an identifying seal.
H. Caterers, Restaurants, Resorts:
Caterers, restaurants, and hotels should be supervised by
a reputable Orthodox Rabbinic authority.
It cannot be assumed that kashruth is maintained simply
because a kosher impression is created by an advertisement
or by a statement, "we serve a kosher clientele."
Too often, 'vegetarian' or 'dairy' restaurants are assumed
to be kosher and beyond the need for supervision. Unfortunately,
this is a prevalent misconception. For example, sea squab
and sturgeon are non-kosher fish popular in many such eateries.
Fish, baked goods, cheese, shortening, oil, eggs, margarine,
dressings, and condiments are among the many foodstuffs
requiring supervision in 'vegetarian' and 'dairy' restaurants.
Even those food items that are kosher in their raw states,
could be rendered non-kosher when prepared on equipment
used for non-kosher food. In these restaurants, as in all
other food serving establishments, reputable kashruth supervision
is the best guarantee of kashruth.
IV. MEAT AND MILK IN THE KOSHER KITCHEN
The Torah forbids cooking meat and milk together in any
form, eating such cooked products, or deriving benefit from
them. As a safeguard, the Rabbis extended this prohibition
to disallow the eating of meat and dairy products at the
same meal or preparing them on the same utensils. One must
wait at least three hours after eating meat products before
any dairy products may be eaten. However, meat may be eaten
following dairy products with the one exception of hard
cheese (6 months old or more), which also requires a six
hour interval. Prior to eating meat after dairy, one must
eat a solid food and the mouth must be rinsed.
The kosher kitchen must have two separate sets of utensils,
one for meat and poultry and the other for dairy foods.
There must be separate, distinct sets of pots, pans, plates
B. Washing Dishes:
In a sink used for both meat and milk dishes and products,
dishes and utensils must be placed or washed on a rack.
Separate racks are to be used for meat and dairy use.
The eggs or animal by-product of non-kosher birds or fish
are not kosher. Caviar, therefore, must come from a kosher
fish and this requires reliable supervision. Eggs of kosher
fowl which contain a bloodspot must be discarded, and therefore
eggs should be checked before use. Commercial egg products
also require supervision.
V. BAKERIES, BAKED GOODS, BREADS, ROLLS, PASTRIES AND BAGELS
The display of the label has undergone strict changes due
to government regulations. Not only must the label specify
the type of shortening, i.e. vegetable or animal, but it
must declare the actual source as well. Thus, it is commonplace
to mention cottonseed oil, lard, coconut oil, and the like.
The result of this explicit label display is that the consumer
can easily detect what is blatantly non-kosher. However,
the kosher status of a product containing vegetable shortening
of any type can only be verified by reliable kosher certification.
The reason for this is that manufacturers of vegetable shortening
often process animal fats on common equipment. The vegetable
product may be a pure one, however, halachically it is rendered
non-kosher due to its being processed on non-kosher equipment.
Emulsifiers are complex substances that are used in all
types of food production. They can perform a number of critical
functions, among them allowing incompatible ingredients
to mix together These materials are listed on the ingredient
label as polysorbates, mono and diglycerides, sorbitan monostearate,
etc. These products are produced from both animal and vegetable
sources and thus require careful supervision and controls.
The special qualities of these products (acting as surfactants
and making oil and water soluble) enable them to be invaluable
basic components in many food items, such as margarine,
shortenings, cream fillings, toppings, coffee creamers,
whiteners, prepared cake mixes, donuts, and puddings. It
must be emphasized that ice cream, frozen desserts, instant
mashed potatoes, peanut butter, snack-pack foods, and many
breakfast cereals also contain di-glycerides and, therefore,
require kashruth certification. A product whose ingredient
panel lists ‘emulsifiers’ or ‘emulsifier
added’ indicates the use of glycerides and requires
kashruth certification. Many chocolates and candies contain
such glyceride emulsifiers.
Breads, Rolls, Challah, Bagels and Bialys:
These basic household staples present several kashruth
problems and require kashruth certification.
1. The "Taking" of Challah:
The Torah requires that a portion of every batter of dough
prepared for baking be set aside as 'Challah'. The Challah
portion taken may be of any size and is to be burned. This
ritual is obligatory only when the dough is of Jewish ownership
and is made from the flour of five grains: wheat, oats,
rye, spelt, and barley. When the flour used is a blend with
other types of flour, e.g. corn, rice, etc., a Rabbinic
authority is to be consulted.
2. If this mitzvah (commandment) has not been performed
in the bakery, it may be performed in the home by placing
all the baked goods in one room, breaking open all sealed
packaged material, and removing and burning a small piece
from one of the loaves. When some of the loaves are a combination
of the five aforementioned grains challah must then be taken
from each type of loaf. When one bakes at home and has used
a minimum of 2 lbs. 10 oz. of flour in the making of dough,
challah is to be taken from the dough before baking. In
this case, a blessing is not recited.
When a minimum of 4 lbs. 15 1/3 oz. of flour is used, the
blessing is recited before performing the Mitzvah.
3. Many breads are made with oils and shortenings. Basic
ingredients of specially prepared dough mixes and dough
conditioners are shortenings and di-glycerides. In bakeries,
pans and troughs in which the dough is placed to rise, are
coated with grease or divider oils which may be non-kosher.
These oils often do not appear on the label; only specially
prepared kosher pan grease may be used.
4. Dairy Breads:
It is Rabbinically prohibited to bake bread with dairy ingredients.
Since bread is frequently eaten at all meals, the Rabbis
were concerned that one might inadvertently eat dairy bread
with a meat meal. There are two exceptions-if the bread
is baked in an unusual shape or design indicating that it
is dairy, or if the loaf is so small that it would be consumed
at one meal.
5. Cake, Pastries & Doughnuts:
These products should be considered non-kosher unless certified
kosher. The shortenings and other ingredients universally
used in the manufacture of these items require expert supervision.
Lard-based shortenings are often used in pie and other crust
preparations because of lard's unique flaking quality.
6. Fillings and Cremes:
All fillings, cremes, and fudge bases must be certified
kosher because they may contain fats, emulsifiers, and gelatin
A critical sector of the food industry is manufacturers
of flavors. Flavors, whether artificial or natural, are
components of nearly every product. Flavor production is
highly complex and uses raw materials from every imaginable
source. In addition, the flavor industry utilizes grape
and wine derived ingredients in a wide array of products.
For this reason, any product containing flavors requires
strict supervision and control.
VI. DAIRY PRODUCTS
A. Cholov Yisroel:
A Rabbinic law requires that there be supervision during
the milking process to ensure that the source of the milk
is from a kosher animal. Following the opinion of many rabbinic
authorities, most policys considers that in the United States,
the Department of Agriculture's regulations and controls
are sufficiently stringent to ensure that only cow's milk
is sold commercially. These Government requirements fulfill
the Rabbinical requirement for supervision.
All cheeses require kashruth certification, including hard
cheeses (Swiss, cheddar, etc.) and soft cheeses (cottage,
farmer, pot, and cream cheese). Rennet, processed from the
stomachs of unweaned calves, is used in the production of
cheese as a curdling and coagulating ingredient, and is
also used in the production of sour cream, buttermilk, and
some varieties of yogurt and yogurt-type desserts. The issue
of a non-kosher coagulant renders the product non-kosher.
According to government standards, any product labeled 'sherbet'
or 'fruit sherbet' must contain milk and is, therefore,
not pareve. Water ices should not be considered pareve unless
endorsed pareve on the label.
Margarine contains oils and glycerides and, therefore, requires
rabbinic certification. Margarine often contains up to 12%
dairy ingredients. Unless the margarine is marked pareve,
it should be considered dairy.
VII. NATURAL AND HEALTH FOODS
With the proliferation of natural and health food products
in the United States, some clarification is in order with
regards to their kashruth status. It should be noted that
many of these products are natural but nevertheless non-kosher.
Products containing pure vegetable oils could be problematic
as many oil manufacturers produce animal tallow on the same
equipment. Natural flavors could contain polysorbates, grape
derivatives, beaver extracts, etc., all of which are natural
but require supervision or are non-kosher.
Even if a product is sold in a natural or health food store,
it requires supervision if it contains questionable ingredients.
VIII. WINES AND GRAPE PRODUCTS
All grape wines or brandies must be prepared under strict
Orthodox Rabbinic supervision. Once the wine has been cooked,
no restrictions are attached to its handling.
Grape jam is often produced from grape pulp and grape juice
and may not be used.
Grape jelly is produced from grape juice and can be used
only when produced from kosher grape juice under proper
Natural and artificial grape flavors may not be used unless
kosher endorsed. Many grape flavors contain natural grape
extracts and are labeled artificial or imitation because
other flavoring additives are used in the formula.
Liqueurs, even though not possessing a wine base, nevertheless
require supervision because of the flavorings used in these
IX: TRAVELING KOSHER
For the businessman or tourist traveling across the United
States, kosher certified products are available almost everywhere,
even in the smallest groceries in the most remote towns.
However, it is much more difficult to obtain reliably kosher
certified products in most foreign countries. A traveler
bringing along frozen (T.V.) dinners which must be reheated
in a non-kosher oven, must completely cover the frozen package
with two layers of aluminum foil. If a microwave will be
utilized then the food must also be double wrapped.
When traveling by plane, train or ship kosher meals should
be ordered in advance. These meals are also heated in non-kosher
ovens. The employees of the carrier are instructed to heat
these meals in the same manner that they were received;
totally wrapped in double foil with the caterer's seal and
the Rabbinic certification seal intact. The traveler can
ascertain by the intact seals that the dinners have not
been tampered. Any dinner which is not properly sealed should
not be eaten. The kosher certification only applies to the
food in the sealed package.
Any other food (rolls, wines or liqueurs, cheeses, and
coffee creamers or snacks) served loose by the carrier are
not included in the kosher endorsement.