What Does a Kosher Chef Do?

Erik J.J. Goserud
Erik J.J. Goserud
Matzo crackers made by a kosher chef.
Matzo crackers made by a kosher chef.

A kosher chef handles meal preparation and food ingredients to ensure that the food adheres to Jewish Dietary Law or the conventions of the Jewish Halakhic Laws. He or she prepares only foods that are properly slaughtered. These foods must be produced with full supervision and must not be tithed or, in other words, sold for profit to support a religious organization. Only certain animals may be used by the kosher chef, and all blood must be drained from the meat before it is eaten. Kosher meats cannot be eaten with dairy according to the Jewish Dietary Laws.

Turkey is kosher.
Turkey is kosher.

Kosher is a mitzvah, which is a divine Jewish commandment to eat in accordance with kosher laws and fulfill a connection to God. A rabbi must approve the kosher chef’s food to ensure the food is kosher. One main biblical food law forbids eating blood due to the belief that the life is in the blood. Melihah, a main technique for the kosher chef, involves meat being soaked in water for one half hour to open the pores. It is then covered thickly in salt on both sides and left to sit for about one hour.

Cows and other cloven-hoofed, cud-chewing animals are kosher.
Cows and other cloven-hoofed, cud-chewing animals are kosher.

To separate all meat and dairy, kosher chefs have customized kitchens. The kitchen utensils, ovens, and surfaces cannot be used for any food that isn’t kosher. In other words, no nonkosher substances can be mixed with kosher foods. Pots and pans used for nonkosher foods must be sterilized and cleaned for at least 24 hours before being used on kosher foods. This is known as the Immersion of Vessels.

Pigs are not considered kosher.
Pigs are not considered kosher.

To adhere to Jewish Dietary Laws, a kosher chef keeps his or her meat and dairy products in separate cabinets and will commonly have two sinks, one of which is never touched by anything nonkosher. The chef will wipe down every surface after cooking to ensure no nonkosher substance is left behind. After meal preparation, the stove is disassembled and cleaned spotless of all food and grease. Cooking appliances cannot be used at least 24 hours before they are properly koshered.

According to kosher dietary law, dairy should be kept separate from meat.
According to kosher dietary law, dairy should be kept separate from meat.

The 1/60 (1.66%) rule refers to the fact that, if there is 1/60 left of a nonkosher substance near kosher food, it will be considered nonkosher. This rule is followed at all times by the kosher chef. There are registered trademarks known as kosher symbols. These symbols are listed on kosher products.

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Discussion Comments

bluedolphin

In Israel, all restaurants and all foods are kosher. In the US, in urban areas and areas with large Jewish populations, kosher restaurants are many. But in more rural areas, they can be nonexistent.

So people cook their own food all the time and they follow all of the rules that kosher chefs follow. It can be a challenge to get a hold of kosher ingredients in some places.

ZipLine

@serenesurface-- I'm not an expert on this topic and the topic can also be controversial. In the Book of Exodus, it is forbidden to cook a goat in its mother's milk, which was something done by some people at the time. Although the rule is about cooking meat in milk (and in that animal's mother's milk specifically), it was expanded to include all dairy and meat. So those who follow kosher dietary rules do not consume dairy products and meat around the same time.

This is why kosher restaurants will not serve meat if they serve dairy products and vice-versa.

serenesurface

I have seen foods with a kosher symbol on the label at grocery stores. I have purchased and eaten them as well. I did not realize that the process of preparing kosher food is so detailed though.

I thought that kosher just meant eating foods that are allowed. I didn't know that there are also rules about how foods should be cleaned and prepared and in what combinations they can be consumed. For example, I'm just learning that dairy and meats can't be consumed together. What is the basis of this rule?

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    • Matzo crackers made by a kosher chef.
      Matzo crackers made by a kosher chef.
    • Turkey is kosher.
      Turkey is kosher.
    • Cows and other cloven-hoofed, cud-chewing animals are kosher.
      Cows and other cloven-hoofed, cud-chewing animals are kosher.
    • Pigs are not considered kosher.
      Pigs are not considered kosher.
    • According to kosher dietary law, dairy should be kept separate from meat.
      According to kosher dietary law, dairy should be kept separate from meat.
    • A chef at a kosher restaurant creates or adapts dishes that adhere to Jewish dietary restrictions.
      A chef at a kosher restaurant creates or adapts dishes that adhere to Jewish dietary restrictions.
    • Jewish chefs traditionally use coarse-grained kosher salt to season poultry that has been prepared in accordance with kosher dietary laws.
      Jewish chefs traditionally use coarse-grained kosher salt to season poultry that has been prepared in accordance with kosher dietary laws.