What Makes Something Kosher? A Look at Foods, Utensils, Appliances, and Even BBQ Grills

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What Does Kosher Mean?

You know that something is not kosher if it contains one of the following:

· a mixture of a dairy product and a meat product

· the meat of a non-kosher animal (e.g., pork, shellfish, insects)

· the meat of a kosher animal that was not slaughtered according to kosher laws

· vegetables that have not been checked for insects according to kosher law

· commercial products that have not been certified by a reputable kosher organization

In theory, anything that follows these rules of kosher. In practice, however, the issue becomes much more complicated.

Kosher Utensils and Appliances

Foods aren’t the only things that can be kosher or non-kosher. Kitchen appliances and utensils can also be either kosher or non-kosher, depending on how they’ve been used. The following simplistic example will illustrate how a kosher appliance or utensil can be kosher or non-kosher:

You are making a barbeque, and you want to invite your neighbor, who keeps a kosher diet. Although you’re making pork chops for yourself, you buy a few lamb chops from the kosher butcher, making sure that they were slaughtered correctly. You promise your neighbor that you’ll have kosher food for him. On the day of the barbeque, you throw your own pork chops on the grill, cook them to perfection, and then remove them. As your neighbor comes into view, you throw his perfectly kosher lamb chops on the grill. Your neighbor makes a lame excuse and chooses not to eat the chops. What did you do wrong?

Think about it. The charred remains of the pork chop are still stuck to the grill. Your neighbor’s lamb chops will absorb pieces of the pork chops, making them non-kosher. Interestingly enough, this would still be an issue, even if you cleaned the grill rack obsessively between the two sets of chops. Even if no visible residue remained, the rack would still be considered non-kosher because it had been used to cook non-kosher meat. In fact, even if the chops were cooked on a brand new pan in your cleaned oven, there could be a problem. The sides of the oven would be considered non-kosher, and the circulating air could make the chops non-kosher, unless they are wrapped in a specific way.

The moral of this story? Ask your neighbor before making him anything, no matter how sure you are that it’s kosher. Use brand new disposable items (including plastic utensils) whenever possible. Better yet, just buy a bag of cookies with a reputable kosher symbol instead.

This post is part of the series: Guide to the Kosher Diet

This guide to the kosher diet gives an overview the many complex aspects of keeping kosher. It deals with the prohibition of mixing milk and meat, avoiding foods like pork, and other less commonly known kosher laws. It includes details about kosher symbols and the certification they represent.

  1. Understanding the Basic Rules of the Kosher Diet
  2. Kosher Diet: What Makes Something Kosher?
  3. Kosher Diet: Meat, Dairy, and Pareve
  4. Kosher Diet: What is Kosher Slaughter?
  5. The Meaning of Different Kosher Food Symbols and Why Kosher Certification is Important