Cooking and Reheating Food
by Rabbi Harvey Well
SUMMARY OF MAJOR POINTS
Now we will consider Chazora, which causes most of the problems on Shabbos. Chazora refers to the possibility of reheating food on Shabbos.
- There is a biblical prohibition against cooking on Shabbos. This prohibition occupies a major part of the laws of Shabbos.
- Cooking is defined in different ways for food and for liquids. Therefore, if one heats up a liquid on Shabbos to the point of Yad Soledes (the hand will become burnt if it holds on to the pot - somewhere around 110 degrees Fahrenheit ), then one transgresses the Isur of Bishul. For solids, if one cooks the food to the point where it is edible (remember maachol ben drosai) then one transgresses the Biblical prohibition of cooking. Therefore, if one wants to warm food for Shabbos, then, a basic pre-requisite is that that food has to be prepared before Shabbos. (More on this at the end of the summary.)
- Not all utensils cook on Shabbos.
- Klei Rishon: i.e. a pot that is on the fire or that was on the fire and removed, is always a vehicle for cooking. I can’t put non-cooked food into such a pot on Shabbos.
- Irei Kli Rishon: pouring from a Kli Rishon onto such food also is cooking.
- Klei Sheni: a Klei Sheni will cook Kalei Bishul, i.e. things that cook easily, such as a tea bag on Shabbos. Other types of cooked foods, such as instant coffee, can be prepared in a Klei sheni.
- Klei Shlishi: while there is some debate, live it up!
- Remember that when it comes to cooking on Shabbos, the rule is that Ein Bishul Acher Bishul Bdavar Yavesh, that once a food has been cooked it can theoretically be reheated on Shabbos. This rule depends on other considerations that we will discuss in the future. There is, however, no reheating a liquid that has been cooked and has cooled off. (i.e. One can’t reheat soup.) You can, however, take boiling water and pour it on hot food. This is the reason that one, for example, can pour hot water onto a dry Cholent.
- There is another concept of Hagosah which basically means stirring the food. This prohibition is for any food cooking on a fire. Some Poskim say that pouring hot water onto a food is also a form of Hagosah. The best thing to do in such a case is for food fully cooked to be removed from being directly over the fire (put it on the side,) then pour in the hot water, and then put it back on the fire.
- Shahiya: So what do you do if you want hot food for Shabbos? You prepare it before Shabbos. Now, theoretically you could do this without a bleich. If you have food that is fully cooked, for example, before Shabbos, you can theoretically keep it on an open flame on Shabbos. Under such conditions we’re not afraid that one will adjust the flame on Shabbos to facilitate the cooking. This approach, however, is highly problematic.
The best solution in all of these situations is to use a bleich. This removes any doubt from the situation and also guarantees the fact that one will not adjust the flame on Shabbos. An open fire should only be used in emergencies and under the conditions described above.
- Who really knows if and when food is fully cooked?
- What do you do if the food will not be fully cooked before Shabbos?
- Did we forget anything? Oh yes, Hatmanah! This involves wrapping the cooking utensil on Shabbos with a covering. This, too, is an element of Bishul and is prohibited.
The primary conditions for allowing Chazora are as follows:
- It doesn’t nullify the original Shiyah the original preparation of food for Shabbos.
- The food has to be put on a Bleich, either because the Bleich is a reminder that we can’t adjust the flame on Shabbos or because the Bleich shows that this reheating is not an act of cooking, and
- The food to be reheated has to be totally cooked before it can be reheated again on Shabbos.
According to the Shulchan Auruch, Chazorah (i.e. allowing Chazorah) necessitates other considerations:
If these conditions are met, then there is no question that one can reheat the food on Shabbos.
- Intent to return it back to the Bleich,
- That the food is still warm,
- That the pot is continually being held by the server of the food.
The Ran, based on the Talmud Yerushalmi, came up with a tremendous leniency. He said that the laws of Chazora apply only when one prepares the food before Shabbos and removes it from the fire (Bleich) before Shabbos and then returns the food to the Bleich after Shabbos begins. Then the laws of Chazora apply. But, says the Ran, if the food is, in fact, prepared before Shabbos and then is removed after Shabbos begins, then, there are no laws of Chazora. This means, according to the Ran, that one can even take ones leftovers, i.e. solid food, Friday night, put them in the refrigerator, and then reheat them on the Bleich on Shabbos, and that would be okay because all of the laws of Chazora have been suspended. The Ramo, a great Posek, accepts this leniency of the Ran, but cautions us to be more strict if possible. (For us, this means that if we’re eating by someone who follows the leniency of the Ran, then that’s quite okay!)
Kdeira Al Gabai Kdeira There is a third alternative, that of a pot on top of a pot such as one finds in a Kdeira Bleich. The uniqueness of such a structure is that it eliminates the whole problem of reheating. That is to say, a Kdeira Al Gabai Kdeira removes all considerations of the laws of Chazora. And not only that, but with a Kdeira Al Gabai Kdeira, you can even reheat solid food on Shabbos that was prepared last week and has been in the refrigerator for the duration of the time, even food that you had no intention of eating this Shabbos. Clearly, a Kdeira Bleich is not the only way to make a Kdeira Al Gabai Kdeira, but it is clearly the easiest.
Thank you for your indulgence. Thank you for coming. I hope that I was somewhat helpful and that the concepts were explained clearly. Should you have any questions, please call.
- An oven: The problem with an oven is the thermostat, not that it doesn’t comply with the laws of Chazora. If the thermostat issue were resolved, then it would certainly be possible to reheat food in the oven. And, if its not resolved, then there may be a major issue of Bishul B’Shabbat - Cooking on Shabbat. The Shabbos mode oven doesn’t deal with this issue and is therefore not a consideration. There are, however, ways of dealing with this problem. So call me and we’ll chat!
- A Plata, or an independent warming table is fine. In fact, it’s better than a Bleich. In fact, many Poskim consider it like a Kdeira Al Gabai Kdeira. Clearly, we’re talking about a Plata that is plugged in before Shabbos and that has no knobs to adjust. If it has knobs, they should be covered, and there are even those who stipulate that the Plata or heating table should be covered with a Bleich.
- A warming drawer in an oven: The good news is that you can use it on Shabbos to reheat. The condition is that you set it no higher than 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Definition of Solid Food: I certainly did say that solid food that has some gel or gravy on it can be reheated and that such food is considered to be a solid. I did not mean to imply that if it is a pot full of gravy with meatballs in it, that it can be reheated. Clearly such a pot is problematic.