Any kitchen can be made kosher. Whether
your kitchen is up-to-the minute in fashionable design or a relic of the 1920s,
whether you have a spacious “great room” or a tiny galley kitchen, you
can readily adapt it to kosher practices.
How to Begin: Even before your kitchen is made kosher,
begin preparing for the change. Buy only foods which are certified kosher. Begin
to keep meat and dairy separate. Many people use disposable utensils just before
going kosher. Remove all questionable foods. Before making the kitchen kosher,
discard all foods prepared in the pre-kosher kitchen.
Inventory of Kitchen Items: One of the first things that
the person who is helping you to become kosher will do is divide all the items
in your kitchen into two categories—those which can no longer be used in a
kosher kitchen, and those which can be used after undergoing the various
procedures of koshering. Some new purchases will
undoubtedly be necessary. New items may include dishes, some additional pots,
plastic drainboards, and basins for the sink.
Many dishes and utensils require immersion in a mikvah before
being used. See Immersion of Vessels. Decide which cabinets you will use for the
newly separated meat and dairy dishes. Labeling these storage areas is a good
Koshering Utensils: Many of the utensils in your kitchen
will continue to be used after undergoing a process called koshering. There
are several methods of koshering, including heating the item with a
blowtorch or immersing it in boiling water. The method used depends upon the type
of utensil and how it has been used. After deciding with your rabbi which
utensils will be koshered, an appointment should be made for him to come
and kosher your kitchen. See Koshering Appliances and Utensils to identify which
dishes and appliances can be koshered and with what procedure.
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 be certified kosher.
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 meat and blue for dairy. Draining racks, sponges and dish towels 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 signs, or paint of the same color may be used to mark other items.
Kitchen Surfaces and Appliances
The separation of meat and dairy must be maintained
throughout the kitchen. See Koshering Appliances and Utensils for instructions on how to kosher appliances that were non-kosher.
The Sink: Separate sinks for washing dishes and preparing
foods are recommended. If the two sinks are adjoining, there should be an
effective separation between them so that no water or food splashes from one
sink to the other.
If there is only one sink, it may be used after it has been
completely cleaned, but the inside of the sink should be regarded as non-kosher.
No food or dishes should be put directly into non-kosher sinks. There should be
separate dishpans and slightly elevated racks under the dishpans for both meat
and dairy. Similarly, two sinks which were used before the kitchen was kosher
should also be regarded as non-kosher, unless they are stainless steel and were koshered.
If the two sinks were koshered, one should be designated for meat and one
Tables: A table can be used at different times for meat
and dairy if one uses different tablecloths or placemats. A new table or a table
surface that was koshered can be used for one category, and a tablecloth
or placemats used for the other.
Countertops: Designate separate countertops or work areas
for meat and dairy. If one area must be used for both, separate coverings must
Refrigerators and Freezers: These may be used for all
food types. However, separate areas should be designated for meat and dairy
foods. Sometimes a shelf or the door of the refrigerator or freezer is kept for
dairy. If dairy is kept on a shelf inside the refrigerator, one should cover the
shelf with aluminum foil or a plastic liner to prevent leakage onto other foods.
If dairy drips on the foil, the foil must be carefully removed and replaced.
Similar care must be taken with meat products inside the refrigerator.
One should avoid placing hot meat or hot dairy foods in the
refrigerator, as this may affect the other foods in the refrigerator and cause kashrut problems.
The Stove Top: Where heat is involved, the laws
concerning the accidental mixture of meat and dairy foods become much more
complex. Therefore, strict precautions are taken concerning the use of the stove
and oven for meat and dairy products.
The ideal setup in the kosher kitchen is to have two
separate stoves. A practical alternative is to use the full-size range for meat,
and a portable gas or electric range or cooktop for dairy. Where one stove is
used, separate burners designated for milk or meat use are preferable. If this
is not possible, extra care must be taken to keep the burners very clean.
It is best to avoid cooking both types of food at the same
time, since the steam or food in one pot might splatter or escape to another,
creating serious kashrut problems regarding the food and pots involved.
If it becomes necessary to cook both meat and dairy foods in
separate pots at the same time, utmost care should be taken that the lids are
secured tightly at all times, and that an upright sheet of tin or other metal
separates the pots. Be careful to avoid lifting lids of both meat and dairy pots
at the same time. If the lids must be lifted to check the food or add any
ingredients, raise the lid only slightly off the pots, tilted away from the
opposite pots. It is best to have the meat and dairy pots well separated, to
keep the steam or liquid from coming in contact with each other.
The Oven and Broiler: It is best to use the oven for only
one type of food: meat, pareve or dairy. If only one oven is available,
the use of portable broilers or toaster ovens for other food types is
advisable. Meat and dairy foods can never be baked or broiled in one oven at the
same time, even in separate bakeware.
If you wish to keep the oven pareve, then meat or
dairy foods cooked in that oven (at separate times) must be tightly covered all
around, including the bottom. It is advisable to place a piece of foil under the
pan and to change it for meat or dairy use. The pan may be opened for testing
only when it is completely removed from the oven.
Dairy foods should not be baked in a meaty oven, and vice
versa. Pareve foods baked in a meaty oven (or broiler) should not be
served on dairy dishes or eaten with dairy foods, unless the following
conditions are met:
- The oven, racks, and broiler are thoroughly clean. (It
is helpful to put a piece of foil under the bakeware to ensure the
cleanliness of the oven racks.) This might be difficult to achieve without a
- Twenty-four hours have elapsed since the oven was used
for meat. For example, if meat is baked in the oven, and then you wish to
bake a cake which can be served with milk, first be sure the oven and racks
are clean, then wait twenty-four hours before baking the cake. The same
conditions apply if one wishes to bake pareve in a dairy oven. It is
advisable to have separate bakeware for pareve.
If the oven is clean, the waiting periods between milk and
meat are not required for pareve foods baked in a meat or dairy oven.
To use an oven for both meat and dairy at separate times,
consult a qualified rabbi.
All of the above also applies to broilers which are on the
bottom of the oven. Regarding the use of self-cleaning and microwave ovens,
consult a qualified rabbi.
Portable Electric Broilers: These must be used for either
meat or dairy exclusively, because they cannot be properly koshered.
Small Appliances: An electric mixer, blender or grinder
do not require a separate motor in order to be used for meat and dairy. However,
one must buy separate attachments if the appliance is to be used for more than
one food type (meat, dairy, or pareve). Even when using separate
attachments, the machine should be cleaned well on all sides after each use.
Dishwashers: These should preferably be designated for the exclusive use of either meat or dairy. If you have further questions, consult your
rabbi, as there are many factors involved