Introduction to the Koshering (Salting) Process

"You shall not eat any blood, whether that of fowl or of beast, in any of your dwellings." (Leviticus 7:26)

For generations, the process of koshering (removing the blood from) meat was the domain of the Jewish homemaker, often involving all the family members in the various steps. Today, rather than being a familiar aspect of the Jewish home, koshering is usually done at the butcher shop beyond sight of the consumer. However, many families still do kosher their meat.

Whether you entrust the koshering of your meat to a qualified butcher or choose to do it yourself, a working knowledge of the process is an important aspect of our understanding of kashrut.

Koshering is the process by which the blood is removed from the flesh of meat and fowl before it is prepared for eating. Only meat from kosher animals, properly slaughtered and with the forbidden parts already removed, may be koshered. The koshering process, known as melichah ("salting"), entails the following steps: washing or rinsing off the meat; soaking it in water; salting it; and rinsing it very well three times.

The complete koshering process should take place within 72 hours of the shechitah; therefore, before koshering, it is imperative to know exactly when the shechitah took place.

Following is a step-by-step guide to koshering. If you are koshering meat for the first time, it is advisable to observe the process being done by an experienced, knowledgeable person.

People on strictly salt-free diets should consult an orthodox rabbi as to how to kosher their meat.

Before Koshering

The following guidelines apply to both meat and fowl. There are extensive preparations for fowl which are described in Koshering Fowl.

Handling The Meat or Fowl: After receiving meat or fowl from the butcher, it must be handled properly until after it is koshered. Meat and blood drippings should not come into contact with any other food. However, the meat may be put into the refrigerator if it is covered well on all sides so that it doesn't leak.

Meat or fowl must be fully defrosted, and if very cold it should be allowed to stand a while at room temperature. It should not be placed near a fire or come into contact with hot water since this cooks the blood in and the salt will not be effective in drawing it out. In addition, it should not come into contact with any salt before the process begins.

If the meat is to be ground, koshering must take place before grinding. The head and internal organs of the animal must be removed before koshering. To determine which parts can be used and how to prepare them, consult a qualified rabbi.

Equipment Needed

The following items should be used exclusively for meat that has not yet been koshered. One should take into consideration the amount of meat to be koshered when determining whether the room one is working in has ample space and proper facilities. If extra counter space is needed, cover all counters so that no blood can drip through.

Knife - to cut out blood clots or to cut large pieces of meat into pieces small enough to handle easily.

Water - to soak, rinse and wash off the meat. Water used in the koshering process should be at room temperature.

Pail or Basin - in which to soak the meat.

Coarse Salt - to draw out the blood. Thin table salt is not good because it melts into the meat and does not draw out the blood. Neither should the crystals be so large that they roll off the meat.

Board or Rack - to place salted meat on. This can be made of any material, such as wood or formica. A perforated board with many holes, or a rack with slats, is excellent so that the blood can flow out. If the board has grooves or is flat, it should be placed on a slant to enable the blood to flow down. The board should not have bumps or cracks that would allow blood to collect.

Basin, Sink or Tub - for the board to be placed on so that the blood can drip into it. Drippings make a sink non-kosher, therefore, a kosher sink should not be used.

Lighting - During the complete koshering process, be sure the room is well lit.

The Koshering Process for Meat or Fowl

It is important to follow each step in the process carefully, bearing in mind the various time factors. The koshering process requires one's undivided attention, so distractions should be eliminated as much as possible. If any questions or problems arise along the way, do not hesitate to seek rabbinic guidance.

Step 1 - Preliminary Washing: The meat must be washed very well to remove all visible blood. All blood clots or discolorations, (black, dark, red, etc.) should be cut out before washing.

Step 2 - Soaking: The meat should be immersed in room temperature water for at least 1/2 hour. If the meat was accidentally left soaking for 24 consecutive hours, this meat becomes non-kosher and cannot be used.

After the meat has been soaked, it may be cut into smaller pieces if desired. It then would be necessary to rinse each cut piece very well, especially the newly cut ends. The meat does not have to be soaked again.

Step 3- Salting: Before salting, the meat must be washed off. (One may use the same water in which it was soaked.) Then, inspect the meat to be sure that there is no visible blood. Shake off excess water and allow the meat to sit for a short period of time so that the salt does not dissolve too easily. However, the meat should remain damp enough for the salt to stick to it.

Salt the meat thoroughly on all sides, but not so thickly that the blood would be prevented from flowing out. The salted meat should remain on the board for a minimum of one hour. If it remaines in salt for twelve hours or more, this may render it un-kosher. Consult a qualified rabbi.

If a piece of meat falls off the board (while the salt was still on), it should be returned immediately, preferably to a separate board. It must be kept apart from the rest of the meat throughout the remaining process, and rabbinic guidance is necessary.

Bones are koshered just like meat and together with the rest of the meat. However, if the bones have no meat on them, they should be kept on top or on the side of the board during the koshering process so that no blood from the other pieces of meat reaches them.

In placing the salted pieces of meat on the salting board, one should be sure that nothing blocks or interferes with the free draining of the blood, since this would defeat the whole purpose of salting. If there is insufficient room on the board, the pieces may be placed on top of each other, as long as there is no place for blood to collect. Since the blood content varies according to the type of meat (e.g., chicken contains less blood than beef), consult a qualified rabbi as to how to place the meat on the board when koshering different types of meat simultaneously.

Step 4 - Triple Rinsing: After the meat has lain in salt the required period of time, rinse it well. Rub off and remove the salt from all sides. This is done three separate times.

The first time, the meat should be rinsed under running water, and rubbed while under the water. Turn it constantly so that all sides come into contact with the water.

The second and third times, the meat may either be rinsed again under running water, or soaked in a clean basin of fresh water. The basin must be rinsed out separately each time, and fresh water used for both the second and third rinsing. If using a basin, pour the water into it before placing the meat in it.

The meat is now ready for use in the kosher kitchen.