I’ve had some requests to re-post my basic Judaism course notes – this is the first (and arguably most useful) part. The decisions rendered here are based on my conversations with Rabbi Dr. Freundel, of Kesher Israel, and of course, any errors are mine and not his.
Why do we do this whole kashrut thing anyway?
Because we are what we eat. This is a public symbol of our embracing the idea that God’s will for us is more important than our own desires for this cheeseburger or that slice of pizza.
What things are always kosher without requiring supervision?
Fresh fruit & vegetables, frozen fruit & vegetables (pure), extra virgin olive oil, salt, sugar, dried beans, rice, eggs, milk (in USA)
What things are widely held to be okay without supervision?
Dole Pineapple, beer, American whiskey, gin (but not sloe gin), most scotches, lots of other things, but when you’re learning it’s good to validate these with the Rabbi.
Do things that aren’t food require supervision?
Not normally. Soap, for instance, is not food. Aluminum foil is not food. Laundry detergent is not food. None of those require supervision.
What hashgaha is okay?
Check kosherquest.org – they have a relatively sane list. If you find a supervision with which you aren’t familiar, ask Rabbi Freundel, and he’ll let you know. Feel free to call him from grocery stores: I certainly do. Yes, the Kelloggs “K” is acceptable. O-U, O-K, Khaf-K, Star-K, KSA are the most prevalent national hashgahot.
Terms: Cold Contact Ben Yomo Harif
How to Kasher a kitchen
In general terms, the order of kashering is “clean, wait 24 hours, kasher”
Get rid of stuff which isn’t kosher, and get the supplies needed to do the cleaning and koshering in the following steps (cleaning supplies, gloves, tongs, a big pot to kasher other dishes, etc). This might sound obvious, but it’s essential.
Clean your fridge. You don’t actually need to kasher the fridge – it is by definition cold contact, so all you need to do is clean well with damp cloths. If you use chemicals, make sure to damp-rinse well, because you don’t want to eat them.
Clean the oven. If you’ve got self-cleaning, you’re in luck. If not, then clean well with ez-off or something like it. USE GLOVES – those chemicals are exceptionally bad for you, so open windows and try not to get any on you – it’s like a cross between litigation and nuclear power. If the oven self-cleans, you probably need to take the racks out first (two reasons – first, they discolor, and second, they can expand in the heat and damage the oven).
Clean the stove. I’ve found barkeeper’s friend to be very effective.
Clean the microwave – the trick here is that cleaning the microwave is exactly the same procedure as koshering it, so you’ll end up repeating this. See below for the details.
Clean the countertops. Feel free to use chemicals, but rinse them well, because you don’t want to eat them.
clean the sink. well. If it’s a metal sink, you’ll be able to kasher it, if it’s ceramic, it won’t be kasherable. When you’re done with this, note the time. Put a piece of tape or something across the sink so that you don’t use it accidentally.
sweep the floor.
Wait until 24 hours have passed from the time noted in step 6. One good way to do this is either to start kashering on Friday and let it lie over Shabbat. Another good way is to do it right when you move in, or to visit friends for a day or two. The hardest thing to avoid using is generally the sink, thus the tape mentioned in step 6.
Kashertime! First, the oven: with the racks IN, bring the oven up to its hottest temperature (generally 550 F) for about 2 hours (i.e. let it get to 550, and then wait two hours – this will take about 2.5-3 hours or so total). Put the burners on full for one hour. Sanity tip: do two at a time, so that the room doesn’t get too hot. Another tip: open a window so you don’t suffocate.
After step 8 has finished, if you have a metal sink, boil a VERY large pot full of water (this will take a while). When the pot is at a rolling boil, pour the water into the sink, making sure to get it all over the sides – you want to heat up the whole thing at the same time. WEAR GLOVES: boiling water is dangerous and really sucks if you get it on you. After you’re done, boil another pot of water.
Kasher your microwave. The process here is to take a pyrex cup (or something else which is both microwave and boiling-water safe) with a bunch of water in it, and boil the heck out of it. Generally microwaving for ~7 minutes on high will fill the thing with steam (which is what you want). Wipe the inside of the microwave out with a cloth, refill the pyrex, move it on the tray, and repeat.
Kasher your stuff – those items which are kasherable should be immersed in a pot of water at a rolling boil. USE TONGS.
• Entirely metal utensils – kasherable
• Entirely glass utensils – kasherable
• Wood – often kasherable, but ask a Rabbi
• Plastic – doubtful
• Knives or other things which are part metal part other – depends, ask a Rabbi.
• Ceramics (including china and pyrex) – ask a Rabbi
• Dishwashers – RDBF holds that dishwashers are fundamentally next to impossible to kasher. There are other opinions out there, but one thing of note is that the price of new racks is generally very close to the price of a new dishwasher.
• Toasters – no
• Toaster ovens – doubtful, but ask
• Crock pot – no
Relax with a gin&tonic
Don’t plan on using glass plates for meat and dairy – there are certain cases where it could theoretically work, but that’s very high-risk kashrut, and the likelihood of making a serious problem is really high. However, you can use the same drinking glasses for meat and dairy, as long as they’re not used for hot things (like a mug/teacup would be). Pyrex is NOT glass, and acquires a “gender” when used.
Things you need to get ahead of time (perhaps during the 24 hours?):
2 sink racks & 2 drying racks (different colors!)
3 scrubbies – the kosher stores sell some which are labeled “meat/pareve/dairy” but color coding works well. Generally, blue = dairy, red= meat, and either green or yellow=pareve. Sponges are good too, but can’t be used on Shabbat, thus the scrubbies.
Other kitchen things which are highly recommended:
1 blech – I recommend an un-blech k’deira blech which is a steam tray, or an electric warming plate
Hot water pot / urn
Bread board / knife