By: Rabbi Tsvi Heber, Director of Community Kosher Operations
“But Rabbi,” cried Mrs. Eisikovich on the other end of the phone, “the label says that it is kosher and under the COR!” “How can you sell liver with a kosher label, if it still needs to be kashered?” Mrs. Eisikovich was literally in tears as she explained to me that her friend, who just recently became kosher at home, had to re-kosher many of her pots and utensils after she repeatedly cooked kosher raw beef liver in them.
Many of us may remember our parents or grandparents, kashering chickens in their own kitchens. Today, kitchen kashering has become almost obsolete. Ready to cook kosher meat and poultry has become the norm as kosher slaughterhouses have incorporated the service of kashering meats and chickens under the auspices of their own rabbinic supervision.
The exception to this now common practice is beef and chicken livers. Yes, that’s right! Liver is almost never kashered in the slaughterhouses or in their kashering plants. Instead, it may either be sent to a kosher butcher for kashering, or it may be sent in its raw state to a retail outlet for direct sale to the consumer. This raw liver will bear two proper seals of kosher identification as verification of its kosher status and will usually come with a note indicating the necessity for kashering. When purchasing kosher raw liver, the consumer must be aware that, if cooked in its current state, the liver is rendered treif. Kashering liver is a mandatory step before proceeding with any cooking and consumption.
As opposed to the intricate washing and salting method that is used to kasher chicken and meat, kashering liver is always performed using a broiling method. Kashering by broiling is done in the following manner:
1. Incision – Whole beef or calf liver requires deep criss-crosses to be made throughout the liver to facilitate the flow of blood from the liver. The incisions should lie face down during broiling. If beef and calf livers are purchased in slices, incisions are not necessary (this is generally how beef liver is purchased). Livers of chickens or other species of fowl can be broiled whole without making incisions.
2. First Wash – The liver should be thoroughly washed in cold water before broiling. Please note that frozen liver should be completely thawed out before attempting to broil it, otherwise the liver will not be broiled all the way through.
3. The Grate – Liver must be broiled on a grate that does not inhibit the free flow of blood from the liver. The blood should drip through a hole or run to a place where it has no contact with the liver. A grate that comes in contact with liver during broiling becomes treif and cannot be used for other kosher food unless the grate is kashered.
4. Salting – After placing the liver on the grill, the liver is lightly salted. People who are restricted to a low sodium diet should consult a halachic authority if they wish to omit this step.
5. The Source of Fire – It is preferable that the fire be located directly below the liver. The oven or grill that is used to broil liver becomes treif if blood drips onto its surface. When broiling liver inside an oven, a pan can be placed under the rack or grate to catch the dripping blood. In this case, the pan will become treif and the oven will remain kosher.
6. Utensils – Utensils that are used in the broiling process, such as forks and tongs will become treif. Tongs may be set aside and used only for broiling livers. Forks must be kashered before using again, even for broiling livers.
7. Broiling – It is practical to turn the liver over one time during the broiling process to facilitate a more even and uniform broiling. Liver should be broiled on a medium flame until the outer juices have ceased flowing and the liver is dry on the outside. The liver need not be burnt, but must be edible throughout.
8. Second Wash – The broiled liver should be washed off three times.
9. Checking – When the liver is cut open, one may find that the colour of the interior is a shade of green, tan, light brown, pink, or deep brown. The only questionable colour is deep brown which is the colour of liver that is still raw. This colour indicates that the liver has not been broiled properly. If the liver is placed on a very high flame, it is possible that the outside may become dry but the inside is still raw and not properly broiled.
One must be aware that if liver is kashered after 72 hours of the slaughter, the common custom is to prohibit cooking or frying of the liver after the initial kashering. In a case of necessity a halachic authority should be contacted.
As a result of health regulations that govern the cross-contamination between cooked and raw meat, many slaughterhouses do not have the required facilities to broil livers on site. This, coupled with an apparent consumer demand for raw liver, is the reason why unkashered liver is still making its way to the market.
In recent months, the COR has done much to bring consumer awareness to this issue. Aside from a similar write-up that was published in the COR section of the bi-weekly Community Link Magazine, the COR has updated the sticker that is placed on all certified raw liver to ensure that the need for further kashering is clear to the consumer. The sticker also provides clear instructions on how to perform the kashering.
For more information, or if you have any questions, please contact the COR office at (416) 635-9550 or email us at [email protected]
 Kashering is the process which effectively removes, from meat or poultry, the blood that is prohibited for consumption.