A kosher kitchen is a kitchen in which food is prepared according to the Jewish kosher dietary laws. Some basic elements of the kosher kitchen:

What Is Kosher?

  • Meat and milk are never combined. Separate utensils are used for each, and a waiting period is observed between eating them.
  • Certain species of animals (and their eggs and milk) are permitted for consumption, while others are forbidden—notably pork and shellfish. Some fish are also forbidden.
  • Meat must come from animals that are slaughtered in a specific (and painless) manner known as shechitah, and parts of the animal (including the blood and certain fats) must be removed in a specific manner.
  • Raw fruits, vegetables and grains are basically always kosher, but must be insect-free. Wine and grape juice have unique laws and must be certified kosher.
  • Since even a small trace of a non-kosher substance can render a food not kosher, all processed foods require certification by a reliable rabbi or kosher supervision agency.

Read: What Is Kosher?

Kosher Kitchen Design

A modern kosher kitchen often has separate counters for meat and milk (Photo: Michael Duke for The Jewish Herald Voice).
A modern kosher kitchen often has separate counters for meat and milk (Photo: Michael Duke for The Jewish Herald Voice).

In order to function as a kosher kitchen, there must be room to prepare meat and dairy products separately. In most modern kitchens, separate counter space is maintained, and some even have separate sinks, dishwashers and/or ovens.

While prep space can theoretically be shared, it is imperative to have (at least) two sets of utensils, since the same pot or ladle cannot be used for both meat and dairy.

Some people may have utensils (and a work space) designated parve, which is used with neither milk nor meat, meaning anything prepared there can later be enjoyed with a meat meal or a dairy meal.

Read: How to Design a Pinterest-Worthy Kosher Kitchen

Making Your Kitchen Kosher

Unkosher residue is often purged by a process that includes hot water (Photo: Kelly Sikkema).
Unkosher residue is often purged by a process that includes hot water (Photo: Kelly Sikkema).

Before a kitchen can be used for kosher foods, all traces of non-kosher must be purged, and sufficient utensils must be designated for meat, dairy and parve.

The general rule of thumb is that the non-kosher must be removed in the same manner in which it was absorbed. A drinking glass into which one accidentally poured some cold non-kosher wine can simply be rinsed thoroughly. Cooking pots, however, would be purged by waiting 24 hours, and then cleansed with boiling water (a process known as hagalah). A skillet, on the other hand, would need to be heated directly on the fire (known as libun) or run through a cleaning cycle in a self-cleaning oven.

Some substances, such as pottery, cannot be properly purged at all. A porcelain sink, for example, cannot be made kosher, and the kosher consumer would need to take care not to wash their dishes directly in a sink that had been used for milk and meat or other non-kosher.

In addition, glass and metal utensils purchased from non-Jewish sources must be immersed in a mikvah.

Read: Koshering Your Kitchen and Koshering Appliances and Utensils

Maintaining a Kosher Kitchen

Some basic rules to ensure that a kosher kitchen remains kosher, and that all the food produced therein is also kosher:

  • All ingredients, without exception, must be certified kosher, or, like most fruits and vegetables, known to be kosher without certification.
  • Meat and dairy must be kept strictly separate. Even the smallest drop of mixing can be extremely problematic.
  • When preparing for a meat meal, all foods must be chopped, peeled and stored with utensils designated for meat. Likewise when preparing for a dairy meal. Parve dishes may be used for fruits, vegetables, etc., but may never be in direct contact with either meat or dairy.
  • When washing dishes in a sink that is used for both meat and dairy, be sure not to place the dishes onto the surface of the sink.
  • Most follow the convention that ovens and dishwashers must be designated for exclusive use with meat or dairy and may not be used for both (even if not being used at the same time).
  • While non-Jews may assist with most of the cooking, the fires must be turned on by a Jewish person.

The most important rule of all in a kosher kitchen: When in doubt, say something. Did you use the wrong dish by mistake, please speak up. Wondering if a utensil is meat or dairy? Ask!

Read: Guidelines for Household Help in a Jewish Home