By Rabbi Tsvi Heber
Summer is a time when the fortunate among us are able to get away for a vacation. Some of us stay with friends, others in hotels, and still others rent cabins or homes found on sites such as Airbnb. But what are the kosher concerns when renting a space that has previously been used for non kosher food? Below are some of areas that one should be concerned about and the following are some of the more practical solutions for travellers.
Tables and Countertops
It is permitted to eat on a non-kosher table provided that the table is cleaned thoroughly and does not typically come into direct contact with hot food. That being said, common custom dictates that food not be placed directly on the table but rather on a separation such as a tablecloth, placemat or even on a plastic bag. The above guidelines also apply to countertops that have been used with non kosher food.
While a microwave oven can potentially be kashered, we recommend that you place kosher food in the microwave double-wrapped or more accurately, double layered such that there are always two separators between the kosher food and the non-kosher surface of the microwave oven. If the kosher food is on a plate, the plate can be considered one layer separating the food from the bottom of the microwave such that only one additional layer in required underneath the plate and two layers are required atop the food. The reason for the requirement of two separators is due to the idea that non-kosher ta’am (taste) does not penetrate two separating layers provided that there is no liquid in between the layers.
If you want to use the oven where you are staying you should kasher it. The recommended method depends on the type of oven in use.
– Run the self-cleaning cycle for at least two hours.
– Use an oven cleaner to thoroughly clean the entire oven, including the racks and doors.
– Turn the oven on to its highest setting for two hours (libun kal).
Electric and Gas
– Ensure that the entire surface of the stove top and all its parts are clean.
– Electric burners – Turn them on to the maximum setting (until they are glowing red hot) for approximately 10 minutes. Note: you may want to avoid kashering them all at the same time for safety reasons.
– Gas grates – Kasher them with libun kal by placing a wide pot (with water so as not to burn the pot) on the grate while the burners are turned to maximum heat in order to spread the heat to the grates. Best to perform this one at a time for safety reasons.
Glass-topped Range (including Corning, Halogen, Ceran)
– Ensure that the surface is cleaned well so that there is no food residue
– Burners: Turn them on to their maximum setting (until they are glowing red hot) for approximately 10 minutes. Again, best to do this one burner at a time for safety reasons. Note: Do not use the area in between the burners.
A sink may be utilized for occasional use (דרך עראי) as is as long as it is perfectly clean and you are absolutely careful to ensure that the water used in the sink is not hot (yad soledes bo). (see Rama, Yoreh Deah [121:5])
Spring Water Machines
It is permitted to use the cold or hot spouts of a spring water machine as long as they are clean, notwithstanding that it may have been used by previous guests to add hot water to non-kosher foods such as soups
Urns & Kettles
Metal urns and kettles that are hot on the outside may become non-kosher through contact with non-kosher food or with cloths that are dirty with food residue and should preferably be kashered. Insulated urns that are not hot on the outside may be used.
Coffee, Coffee Makers & Keurig
Coffee makers and coffee machines that are used exclusively for regular or decaffeinated coffee or with kosher certified flavoured coffees may be used to make coffee. If such machines are used to make uncertified flavoured coffee then they may not be used to make kosher coffee. Keurig machines that are used exclusively with kosher certified pods may be used.
Enjoy your vacation!
Rabbi Tsvi Heber is COR’s Director of Community Kosher