So… you have decided to maintain a kosher kitchen, but don’t know where to begin. Or – you have a kosher kitchen and would like to share the basic principles with your Non-Jewish friends. Whatever reason – here are a few guidelines.
Depending on how strict you want to approach this matter, a beginning could be only to allow certified kosher food into your house. That being said it might sound a lot easier than it is – in many countries.
In Denmark we don’t have the same wide variety of kosher certified food compared to e.g. Great Britain and The United States.
Another challenge can be, that not that many food products in Scandinavia carry a Hechsher – which is the important indication of kosher food.
To make things a little more complicated, a kosher kitchen in a reform, a conservative or an orthodox Jewish home may not be the same.
However it shouldn’t be a showstopper. If you have questions, your rabbi may be very helpful on the process.
What really matter is the conscious approach you have chosen and that the attentiveness a kosher kitchen like yours requires, hopefully will create a warm, relaxed environment while you cook your kosher meals.
Dishes and silverware
To begin with – a kosher kitchen has separate sets of dishes for meat and for dairy products. An easy way not to confuse the two can be to have two distinct colors, designs or styles for each category – one for meat, one for dairy.
Cabinets, trays and drawers
Some Jewish families have a meat section and a dairy section in each side of their kitchen. Others label their cabinets, trays or drawers on the outside (Dairy/Chalav) – (Meat/Basar).
Many Judaica stores and Judaica online shops sell various labels, or if you want a more low-key solution, you can use dots or masking tapes (like red for meat/blue for dairy, as many do) to mark where you have decided to place your plates etc.
The labelling might also help your guests if they help you put away the porcelain etc.
Tablecloths, placemats and napkins
When setting your table with nice tablecloth, like I do from time to time, it is important to separate the two categories meat and dairy, all though the food may not be in direct contact (but the utensils do). Same guideline -have two separate sets.
Utensils, pots, pans and dishwasher items
Forks, knives, spoons, utensils for cooking, pots, pans, dish brush, dish sponge, dish towels, dishcloths – have two sets of each, separate. Same guideline – avoids confusion between meat and dairy items – buy in separate colors or designs. It is easier than it sounds. Like you wouldn’t use your toothbrush while eating your soup, nor would you reach (I hope…) for your comb when you are going to cut an apple.
Another fun question in the kosher kitchen is glass. Some rabbis say you should have separate sets of glasses (because it is considered earthenware), others says “no, glass is non-absorbent and can be used at meals where either meat or dairy is served”. I use glasses when I serve meat or milk.
My favorite subject. Dishwashers. Because dishwashers haven’t been around for that many years, it is (another) subject for discussion among Jewish scholars. Therefore – getting a clear answer on this matter may most likely depend on your community’s practice, or on your rabbi’s advice.
Some families have two dishwashers (we do) while others choose to wash either meat or dairy plates etc. 24 hours apart (after running the hottest program with soap empty dishwasher in between). Having two sets of dishwashers is basically like having two cabinets – with running water.
Others will practice, that the different racks in the dishwasher (provided that the dishwasher’s interior is stainless steel) is used respectively for meat or dairy, and that the dishwasher never wash meat and dairy sets at the same time.
When you place your food in the refrigerator, make sure, that open packages of meat and dairy products avoid being in contact. You might not have enough space in your kitchen to have two refrigerators, so a solution may be for you to keep your meat in the lower part of the refrigerator and the dairy product in the top.
A well maintained kosher kitchen does have, as obvious as it may sound, a lot to do with cleaning. Therefore – and probably needless to say – the stove should always be cleaned after cooking. There is no need to designate separate meat and dairy burners. The easiest is not to cook meat and diary at the same time to ensure that spillage is mixed on the stovetop.
If you absolutely have to cook both meat and milk at the same time, make sure that no spillage or transfer of liquid occurs and that your pots are covered tightly.
If you are lucky you have an oven with a “kosher” setting. What? Well, it means, that you can place your casserole in the oven, set the timer and go to the synagogue, while the actual cooking is taking place.
But… there is a “but”. You have to make up your mind before using the oven. Either it should be used for meat – or for diary. While shifting between the two options, the oven should be cleaned (wiped off) if spillage has occurred. Electric self- cleaning ovens – nice to have, but the same procedure, wipe out and clean. Manufactures recommend, that the self- cleaning procedures only take place once or twice a year, because of the extremely high heat the self-cleaning generates.
Same guidelines as for ovens.
The easiest solution in a kosher kitchen is to have a metal sink. While cooking meat or dairy and using the sink in the process, you can easily kasher your sink by pouring hot boiling water in it.
A porcelain sink is made of a non-kasher-able material, which requires either separate tubs (can be used for soaking the dishes) or a separate rack for either meat or dairy. Use a rack that fits on the bottom of the sink and keep the dishes from touching the bottom.
Metal sinks may be kashered by pouring boiling water in them. The water must be boiling before you pour the water in and remain boiling as it comes into contact with the metal lining of the sink. There should be a separation (such as racks or tubs) between meat and dairy dishes.