I am a non-Jewish caretaker for an elderly Jewish woman. I know there are lots of rules that apply in the kitchen. What do I need to know?


The first and most important thing you need to know about kosher kitchens is: when in doubt, ask! Nobody expects you to walk into a kosher kitchen for the first time and get it all right.

If you are unsure what to do in the kitchen, kosher-observers will be happy to remind you which knife to use and where to put that dish. Since issues can arise if something is used incorrectly, double-checking beforehand when you are uncertain is a great policy.

If you do make a mistake though, tell your client as soon as you realize. Don't worry about upsetting her. Even people who have grown up with kosher kitchens and eaten kosher all their lives make mistakes. The important thing is to deal with any mess-ups as soon as possible—which leads us to rule number two: be open and honest about any mishaps in the kitchen.

Now, for a few general pointers about using a kosher kitchen:

Meat and Dairy

Dairy products and meat products may not be mixed, and even the utensils used to cook or serve them need to be kept separate. For this reason, kosher kitchens have:

  1. Two sets of dishes, cutlery and cookware.
  2. In most cases, two sinks.
  3. Sometimes two ovens and possibly two stoves.

Ask your client which kitchen items are dairy and which are meat and where they all belong. You may want to ask the family to place labels on the closets, sinks and utensils to mark what is dairy and what is meat.

If this seems like too much for you, perhaps at the beginning you can ask your client’s family to provide disposable plates and cutlery until you become more familiar with the layout of the kitchen.

Note: Some people also have a separate set of dishes for the “neutral” (pareve) foods that are neither dairy nor meat.


When it comes to actually cooking or baking, there are many detailed laws that apply, including the requirement that a Jew takes part in the cooking in some way, as in turning on the stove or oven. It is a good idea to have your client or her family be present at first so that they can guide you and answer questions.

In any case, be prepared for the family to request that you do not cook, bake or use the microwave while you work in the home, simply because there are many nuances in the kosher dietary laws.

Kosher Symbols

All kosher processed food items are marked by a kosher symbol, meaning that the food is certified as kosher by a supervising agency. You should be aware that there are a number of different kosher symbols out there, and some of them may not be considered acceptable to your client.

No matter how innocuous a food may seem, don’t assume that it is kosher if it does not have a kosher symbol. Foods like applesauce, ketchup and cereal can all be non-kosher even if the ingredients seem to be kosher.

If you bring your own lunch with you to your client’s house, place it in a bag before putting it in the fridge, and do not share it with your client or use her plates to eat it on.

Kosher kitchens have complex rules, and some of them might seem strange or pointless to you. But to the kosher-observant man or woman, they're vital.

By taking into account your client’s spiritual as well as physical needs, you are truly filling your role as caretaker. Helping her maintain her kosher standards is one of the most important ways of doing that.

See the Kosher Handbook for a more comprehensive overview.