Beit Midrash

  • Pesach
To dedicate this lesson
Chapter Eleven-Part One

Koshering the Kitchen-Part One

Countertops The Sink Grates, Burners, and Stovetops Ovens


Rabbi Eliezer Melamed

Kitchen countertops are generally cold, but sometimes hot ĥametz foods or boiling pots from the stove are placed on them, and if some sauce spills on the countertop, it is absorbed at the level of a "kli rishon removed from the flame" (see 10:8 above).
In order to kosher a countertop, one must first clean it well, paying special attention to crevices and making sure that no food remains stuck in them.
Marble countertops should ideally be koshered by pouring boiling water over them while placing a scalding hot stone or piece of metal on them. By doing so, the water is brought to a boil and reaches a koshering level of a kli rishon removed from the flame. However, it is difficult to bring metal to such a heat in private homes, and doing so could damage the countertop. Therefore, the general practice is to suffice with pouring boiling water on the countertop. In this case, one should make sure not to use the countertop for Pesaĥ foods until twenty-four hours have elapsed since the last time hot ĥametz foods were on the countertops. Instead of pouring hot water, one may also cover the countertops entirely with oilcloth or thick foil in order to separate between the countertops and the Pesaĥ utensils.
Those who are stringent do both – they pour boiling water on the countertop and then cover it with linoleum or thick foil.
Fragile countertops, on which boiling pots are never placed, can be koshered by merely cleaning and pouring boiling water on them.
Some think that it is possible to kosher marble countertops by burning alcohol on them, but the koshering strength of alcoholic spirits is less than that of boiling water, and therefore boiling water should be poured on the countertop. Cleaning countertops with a steam cleaner is as effective as pouring boiling water on them, but where hagala in a kli rishon is required, it is ineffective. 1
2.The Sink
In general, the status of a sink is similar to that of a countertop, though in one respect it is less strict because it usually contains soap, which befouls the tastes of foods, and in another respect, it is more strict (if made of porcelain), because many poskim say that porcelain has the status of earthenware, which does not release tastes through hagala.
There are two accepted practices for koshering sinks. Those who are lenient clean the sink well and then pour boiling water all over it. Before pouring boiling water on a sink or countertop, it must be dried well, so that the boiling water touches it directly and is not cooled by any cold water on its surface. For this reason, one must first pour the boiling water on the sink and then on the countertop, starting with the areas closest to the sink and moving further away.
Those who are stringent, in addition to pouring boiling water on the sink, put a plastic insert in it or line it with thick aluminum foil in order to separate between the sink, which has absorbed ĥametz, and the Pesaĥ utensils. These people are also careful not to use boiling water in the sink during Pesaĥ. 2
3.Grates, Burners, and Stovetops
Throughout the year, people usually use the same stovetop grates for both meat and milk, because even if some meat or dairy food spills onto them, the flame incinerates and befouls whatever has spilled. However, people customarily perform light libun on such grates for Pesaĥ, because of the seriousness of the ĥametz prohibition (Rema 451:4; MB ad loc. 34). Alternatively, one may wrap thick aluminum foil around the bars on which pots sit, so that there is a barrier between the Pesaĥ pots and the parts of the grates that came into contact with ĥametz. Be-di’avad, the food remains kosher even if cooked on grates that did not undergo libun.
The areas of the grates that do not come into contact with the pots, the enamel cook top beneath the grates, and the burners must be cleaned well of all residual food. Since none of these parts come into contact with the pots, they need not undergo libun or be covered with foil. Generally, people turn on all the flames for half an hour. 3
It is also important to know that throughout the year one should be stringent and refrain from eating food that has fallen onto the enamel cook top under the grates, because meat and dairy foods spill there, and the enamel becomes not kosher. If one knows that the enamel has been cleaned thoroughly and that no meat and dairy foods have spilled on it in the past twenty-four hours, one may eat what falls there. But when these two conditions have not been met, one should be stringent and refrain from eating whatever comes into contact with this enamel, because it might have absorbed the taste of meat and milk. If a thick piece of food falls there, one may cut off the side that has come into contact with the enamel and eat the rest.
Electric ranges:Clean thoroughly and run on the highest setting for half an hour.
Ceramic burners:These look like smooth and unbroken glass surfaces on which pots are placed directly. They are koshered by cleaning and then heating on the highest setting for half an hour, based on the principle of ke-bole’o kakh polto.
4. Ovens
To kosher an oven, clean it thoroughly and run it at its highest setting for half an hour.
It is difficult to kosher baking trays. Because they absorb through fire, they require heavy libun, but since heavy libun will cause them serious damage, they may not be koshered (see above 9:7). One must therefore buy special baking trays for Pesaĥ, while the ĥametz trays must be cleaned and put away like all other ĥametz utensils. If one does not have Pesaĥ trays, he may use disposable trays. However, he must also kosher the racks along with the oven and cover them with aluminum foil, and only then he may place the disposable trays on the racks.
Ovens that self-clean at a temperature of 500ºC need not be cleaned before koshering because such intense heat is considered heavy libun and is sufficient to kosher the oven for Pesaĥ. 4
^ 1.. SA 451:20 states that one can kosher the tables on which pots are placed by pouring boiling water on them (and does not rule leniently based on the principle that koshering method is determined by main usage, which in this case is with cold food). MB 114 ad loc. cites Rabbeinu Yeruĥam that one must kosher such a table according to its most intense usage, i.e., a kli rishon removed from the flame. Therefore, one must pour boiling water over a scorching stone on the table, effectively koshering it on the level of a kli rishon removed from the flame. However, as we saw in 10:9 above, in extenuating circumstances one may kosher a utensil based on its main usage; in this case merely washing the table would suffice.
Practically, even one relying on the lenient opinions should at least pour boiling water on the countertop or cover it with an oilcloth. Those who act stringently both pour boiling water and cover the table, preferring not to rely solely on a covering that may slide around. It is worth mentioning the concern raised by some that cheaper countertops made of compressed stone have the status of earthenware, on which hagala is ineffective. However, even earthenware can be koshered by merely washing it, as long as the majority of its usage is with cold items. Additionally, it seems more likely that compressed stone countertops do not have the same status as earthenware vessels; see Hagalat Kelim 13:1. Nevertheless, there are better grounds for covering this type of countertop. See also Sidur Pesaĥ Ke-hilkhato 8:2 and Piskei Teshuvot 451:44.
See Hagalat Kelim 13:433 regarding koshering a countertop with alcohol. We do not condemn one who uses this method, as long as he cleaned the countertop well, since be-di’avad cleaning a countertop, whose primary usage is cold, with cold water is effective. Cleaning with the alcohol alone, however, is ineffective.
^ 2.. Its most intense form of absorption is as a kli rishon removed from the flame, since sometimes one places pots of boiling-hot ĥametz in it. One who wants to kosher it based on its most serious usage must place a scalding stone in boiling water and pour the water onto the sink. However, according to many poskim, a porcelain sink has the status of earthenware and cannot be koshered via hagala. In such a case, one must cover the walls of the sink with a plastic insert or aluminum foil. They are also careful not to fill the sink with boiling water, lest the taste absorbed in the walls of the sink become absorbed in the Pesaĥ utensils. Even if the sink is not ben yomo and tastes absorbed in it are thus foul, according to Rema 447:10 even this is forbidden on Pesaĥ.
Those who are lenient rely on SA 451:6 that we follow the main usage, which in the case of a sink is with cold foods. This method is thus effective even if the sink is made of earthenware. Additionally, according to Knesset Ha-gedola, porcelain is akin to glass, which does not absorb at all, and not earthenware. Moreover, since there is usually residual dish soap in the sink, any ĥametz taste absorbed into the sink would have been foul from the outset, so the sink would not need to be koshered. And even if we assume that the sink absorbed flavorful ĥametz, it would turn foul once twenty-four hours had elapsed. Even though according to Rema foul-tasting ĥametz is forbidden on Pesaĥ, the present case involved absorption that is, at worst, third degree (nat bar nat bar nat), and, as we have seen, MB 447:98 states that one may be lenient about foul tastes where there is no existing custom, and there is no existing custom about nat bar nat bar nat. Sidur Pesaĥ Ke-hilkhato 8:1 and Hagalat Kelim 124-127 write more about koshering sinks.
^ 3.. Throughout the year, we cook both meat and dairy pots atop the grate because taste is not transferred through dry metal. For example, if a hot meat pot touched a hot dairy pot, as long as both pots were dry in the spot that they touched, both pots are kosher. Similarly, even if the grate absorbed the taste of meat, once it dries the taste does not transfer to a dairy pot. Even if a drop of dairy spilled onto the grate in the same spot that meat liquid had previously spilled, the pot remains kosher, since the flame is constantly heating the grate, and whatever liquid had previously spilled on it has already been incinerated. Due to the stringent nature of the ĥametz prohibition, light libun is required but not heavy libun, since technically the grates need not be koshered at all. Kaf Ha-ĥayim 451:82 (citing Ma’amar Mordechai) concurs that le-khatĥila grates should undergo libun, but be-di’avad they are not prohibited. Ĥazon Ovadia p. 75 states that hagala is sufficient to kosher grates, but SAH maintains that light libun is necessary. I believe that covering the grates with aluminum foil is as effective as light libun and perhaps even heavy libun, since it completely separates the grate from the pots, so that even if some liquid spills, it would not connect the grate and the pot.
^ 4.. Some are stringent and insist that ovens cannot be koshered for Pesaĥ, due to a concern (present in older ovens) that crumbs would fall into the door of the oven before Pesaĥ and mix into the Pesaĥ food. The solution to this problem is to clean the door of the oven with a lot of soap, thereby befouling the taste of any crumbs stuck there and rendering them unfit for a dog’s consumption. Others are stringent out of concern that perhaps food touched the walls of the oven, which would mean the oven would need to be koshered with heavy libun – impossible without damaging the oven. But most poskim rule that ovens can be koshered since the oven itself rarely comes into contact with food and only absorbs steam from the food. Light libun at the oven’s highest temperature would certainly kosher it. Even if some ĥametz spilled and its taste was absorbed in the walls of the oven, we have seen that SA (451:6) permits koshering utensils (and ovens) based on the main usage. Even MB (451:48) is lenient in such a case, provided that one performs light libun. We can also add the opinion that the absorption of ĥametz before Pesaĥ is considered heteira bala, for which light libun is effective even le-khatĥila (see above 10:6). Finally, we may factor in the opinion that ke-bole’o kakh polto applies to the temperature of the libun (see above 10:5), so heating the oven at its highest setting is effective.
With regard to baking trays, however, we are stringent and require heavy libun. However, if one conducts light libun on a tray, he may place a disposable tray inside of the multi-use tray, and certainly atop the racks. It is best to cover the racks with aluminum foil, so that if something spills onto them it will not connect the Pesaĥ tray to the insufficiently koshered racks. One need not wait twenty-four hours before koshering them, since light libun releases and incinerates the taste absorbed in the utensil. See Sidur Pesaĥ Ke-hilkhato 8:3, which treats this issue at length and explains the entire process of koshering an oven.
For ovens that self-clean at 500ºC and incinerate all dirt, since they heat to a temperature that certainly would cause obsolete alloys to spark or redden (see above 10:5), this self-cleaning qualifies as heavy libun and koshers the oven. Baking trays may also be koshered at this heat, but manufacturers’ instructions caution that leaving trays in such heat can ruin them. Consequently, they cannot be koshered by this method (see above 10:7).
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