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Appliance Selection for a Kosher Kitchen

May 26th, 2023 | 6 min. read

By Michael Matatia

Appliance Selection for a Kosher Kitchen

Similar to other cultures, for Jews, the kitchen is a key part of the home. The kitchen brings together the family to celebrate Shabbos, Yom Tov (holiday), and Simcha’s (celebrations).

Keeping a kosher kitchen presents many challenges. Several factors can impact your decisions - some being your level of observance, your kitchen space and design, or your budget.

This article will discuss some of the kosher kitchen decisions you need to make and some of the associated issues.

Use this article as an introduction, then please consult your Rabbi for advice. Their guidance may make your decisions more lenient or stringent.

Many appliances that offer Shabbos modes have certification from organizations such as OU (Orthodox Union). There is so much more to keeping kosher and doing it properly. This article is a guide for purchasing new appliances with some possible considerations for your purchase.

Keeping kosher involves many rules. Some of the major rules influencing appliance decisions are:

  • All food must be kosher
  • Prohibition of mixing Meat and Dairy
  • Restriction of turning on and off appliances on Shabbos and Yom Tov
  • The ability to kosher the appliance for Pesach (Passover) or switch between meat and dairy.

Each type of appliance has its own set of unique features and issues. We will address each appliance type.

IMPORTANT: Throughout this article, it is recommended you should consult with your religious leader for guidance. This article aims to introduce or refresh some basic features and challenges to consider when choosing a kosher appliance. It is not a comprehensive list. Always consult a specialist in this area to understand the laws regarding kosher observance.

Refrigeration

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The restriction impacts refrigeration use on Shabbos and Yom-Tov. Opening the refrigerator on Shabbos and Yom-Tov can pose a challenge due to the light turning on.

On newer refrigerators, it is not only lights but information panels that give information such as temperature. Shabbos mode should also suppress other functions like automatic auto defrost mode. However, some alarms need to be disabled as well.

It's important to take into account factors like the ease of cleaning and koshering, as well as how simple it is to remove and clean the shelves and storage areas.

If you have older refrigeration, there are ways to address this issue. Some solutions are (remembering) to unscrew the light bulb or to tape down the door open switch. Removing shelves may be a challenge for older units. Many contemporary refrigerators offer a Shabbos mode.

Things to Consider:

  • Method of activation for Shabbos mode. This usually needs to be manually activated through a particular button sequence.
  • Defrost mode override so that opening the door does not alter the operation. Some units use change to a timed defrost mode
  • Disabling the water dispenser and ice maker, changing the display status, and disabling control buttons.
  • The interior lights should not be affected by opening or closing the door. With a prevalence of LED lighting (lower power, low heat output), the Shabbos mode usually will leave the light on until disabled. If you want to verify the operation, take your Smartphone, turn on the video, put it in the refrigerator, and close the door. With that, you can answer the mystery of what happens when the door closes.
  • Loss of power: Some appliances have no loss of power memory. In that case, you would lose the Shabbos mode feature on power loss until you reset it again, which you can’t do on Shabbos. The appliance must have 72hrs (3 days) of battery backup for the feature settings to be remembered. Also, once over 24 hours of power loss, you may have issues with your food quality due to cooling loss.

While these Shabbos protections are great, remember to set them before Shabbos and holidays.

Some units have an advanced feature package with a real-time clock to know the time and date of Shabbos and holidays for your geographic area. The refrigerator will automatically enter and exit the mode based on the calendar. This is available as an add-on feature. There are also third-party units. Just make sure using a third-party unit does not void your warranty.

Click here for an example of a certified provider for GE refrigerators.

Stovetops

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Kosher cooktops have varied features and requirements depending on the type. The types you can consider are:

  • Gas/fuel heated with an open flame
  • Electric Coil radiant cooktops
  • Electric Radiant through glass
  • Electric Induction through glass

The laws relating to cooking and reheating food on Shabbos and Yom-Tov are complex and vary due to observance level. Use this as a guide, but consult your particular religious authority for further guidance.

Each heating type offers advantages and disadvantages to consider.

Things to Consider:

  • Ability to kosher/re-kosher
  • Ability to have a blech (a metal sheet used by many observant Jews to cover stovetop burners on the Sabbath to avoid violating cooking laws
  • Cooktop tones disable
  • Protection from inadvertent turning on or off
  • Display change protection

For all cooktops, keep in mind the area between burners is not easily koshered. Consult your Rabbi to see if koshering using a blow torch or boiling water is possible. Covering the area between burners can introduce a safety hazard. Consult the appliance manufacturer if necessary.

Also, due to the separation of meat and dairy, ideally similar to sinks, two cooktops are ideal in a kosher kitchen. For example, if you cook more parve and meat, you may consider a four-burner solution and installing a double burner for dairy.

Gas Cooktops

There is no Shabbos mode for gas cooktops. Koshering the burner is the least problematic. To kosher clean and turn it to full heat for a period (consult your rabbinic authority for the duration). Keeping food warm on Shabbos may be possible using a blech.

Coil Radiant Cooktop

Koshering of Coil cooktops is simple, similar to gas cooktops. Heat the elements for a defined amount of time until they glow red. Once again, usually, there is no Shabbos mode for radiant coils.

Glass Radiant Cooktop

Orthodox compared to conservative leaders each have different guidance in regard to koshering. Orthodox guidance is that glassware that is heated needs to be koshered through very high heat, which may damage the cooktop.

Conservative guidance is less stringent. It is sufficient to wash the glass cooktop with soap and water. Also, based on religious authority, you may not be able to kosher the surface for Passover.

Induction Cooktops

The fundamental issue with induction on the Sabbath is removal from an active surface turns off the element which is not allowed.

There has yet to be a known Shabbos mode for induction cooktops. Also, the same issues apply to the glass cooktop in regard to koshering, which is even more difficult considering induction does not glow red hot, unlike gas and electric radiant.

Many observant people will have two separate cooktops, one for meat and the other for dairy.

You can consult a rabbinic authority to see if Meat and Dairy silicon mats can be used on a single cooktop to heat either meat or dairy cookware.

Induction cooktops are not permitted to be used on Shabbos and Yom Tov since removing an object deactivates the electromagnetic element.

The only way around this is to use a timer (if your appliance has that feature) so that once the unit is powered down, the heated item can be removed, provided that the removal does not activate any electronics.

One nice feature of some cooktops is a child-safe feature that can disable buttons. This can be used to prevent accidental use during the Sabbath.

Ovens

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Sabbath mode for ovens is perhaps the most important and used since warm food during your festive meal is so important.

This touches on some of the complexities of warming on Shabbos and Yom Tov, and once again, you must consult your religious authority. The features below apply to both electric and gas ovens.

Shabbos Mode Features to Consider:

  • Override of an automatic shut-off after a defined time.
  • Disabling the bulb sounds and all displays being turned on when the door opens.
  • Protection against inadvertently touching an oven button by disabling the keypad or touch surface.
  • By some authorities, the temperature can be changed during Yom Tov (not the Sabbath). If this is a feature you need, you should investigate the individual manufacturer.
  • A timer function may be very important for you for Sabbath and holidays. You should investigate how this functions during Shabbos mode.
  • Self-cleaning mode is important should you need to kosher the oven, which requires high heat for this process.
  • The heating elements should have a fixed duty cycle to prevent opening from triggering a heating cycle,

Dishwasher

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Dishwasher challenges are they have sounds, displays, and lights that activate when opening the dishwasher. Although during Shabbos and Yom Tov, a dishwasher should not be used, many do want to load their dishwasher with soiled dishes.

Another way to address this issue if no Shabbos mode is available, you may want to consider installing a power cut-off switch that would disable these lights and sounds. Once disabled, you can safely load the dishwasher on holidays.

It is rare to find a Shabbos mode in dishwashers, but if it has the feature, those models will disable the controls, displays, sounds, and lights and will not respond to the door opening or closing.

Dishwaters koshering is complex, if even possible. When selecting a new dishwasher, the unit should be dedicated to being used for meat or dairy since koshering may not be possible.

If you have the space and budget having two dishwashers is great. If your kitchen space is limited, consider a double-drawer dishwasher that some manufacturers make.

Each dishwasher drawer can be dedicated to each food type. You must investigate to ensure there is no used water exchange or a common water pump between the two drawers since this would mix your meat and dairy.

Key Takeaways

Kosher requirements vary greatly by religious sect. It is important to realize your requirements may be more or less stringent than those described in this paper.

Use this article as a guide to some of the possible features for your appliance. Your observance level may require more or less compliance.

There is so much more to keeping kosher than appliance selection. Utensils, dishes, and countertop appliances are just some of your other considerations.

Read reviews, blogs, and search for related content from organizations such as:

Some of these organizations offer certifications. You should seek advisement from an organization in line with your observance level.

While challenging, following all the rules for a kosher kitchen will be instrumental in having joyous and meaningful celebrations with family and friends.

Additional Resources

Don't make a mistake when buying appliances! Read our Appliance Buying Guide with brand profiles, what's new, and answers to frequently asked questions. Over 1.2 million people have read a Yale Guide for buying tips, the best features, and specs.

View our appliance buying guide

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