Pesach Guide 2019*
*For those new to Pesach kashrut observance and those who no longer choose to be slaves in their own kitchens
Here is an extensive guide to use as you prepare your kitchen, your food and yourself for the Pesach holiday. It comes from Professor/Rabbi Haim Ovadia, an observant rabbi who is the spiritual leader of Magen David Sephardic Congregation of Rockville, Maryland.
This guide may not feel comfortable for those individuals who have been kashering their kitchen, cooking and serving Pesach food for the last 30, 40 or 50+ years. It will be more suitable for newcomers to Pesach observance or for those who just want to learn how to do things appropriately without cleaning to the point of exhaustion. The reason this will not be terribly comfortable for those who have been making seders for decades is because
The reason this may not be terribly comfortable for those who have been making seders for decades is because those individuals most likely grew up and learned from post WWII Eastern European mothers who in turn learned from their mothers or followed the rules of their rabbis. They grew up in a less lenient time – kashrut-speaking – and many of the products we have available now were not available then. Also, those Jewish baby boomers were not encouraged to ask questions about why certain foods or products, could not be used during Pesach. Most did not have access to the halacha (Jewish law) pertaining to Pesach and simply relied on the standards of their community or family for guidance. After decades of preparing for Pesach a certain way, it’s hard to change course and there is no real reason why they should if they are comfortable in their practice. This guide is for those who need to reduce the labor intensity of the holiday and/or those forming new family customs and rituals but still want to be observant of the Pesach laws. If nothing else, the guide is highly interesting, surprising and enlightening to read. And it does raise more than a few questions!
Rabbi Ovadia writes:
The intent of this guide is to make your life easier, as HaShem intended for it to be. It will hopefully allow you to focus more on the spiritual experience of the Seder night, and spend less time, money, and energy, on unnecessary cleaning and on purchasing expensive certified Kosher products.
Cleaning the house:
Spring cleaning is fun, for some people, but it should not be confused with Pesach cleaning. When cleaning the house for Pesach, attention should be given only to places where edible Hametz is used or stored: kitchen, pantry, garage, etc. The purpose of cleaning and searching for Hametz is: a) to avoid contact of Hametz with the food we prepare and b) to prevent a case of eating Hametz found on Pesach. To the cleaning and searching we add another protective measure: nullifying the Hametz. For that reason, even if we missed a well-hidden Hametz, no prohibition was transgressed. Before going through toys, removing books from shelves, and checking clothes’ pockets, ask yourself these questions:
What are the chances that I will find here a piece of Hametz, clean and edible, which I will be tempted to eat upon seeing?
What are the chances of that an edible piece of Hametz, whose flavor has not been spoiled, will be mixed into a hot dish made for Pesach?
If you can answer those two questions with “negligible or infinitesimal,” abort mission and turn to more important things.
You only need to clean cabinets and storage areas where food is stored and which you are going to use on Pesach. If only dishes, utensils, paper goods, or non-hametz foods are stored there, there is no need to clean. If food is stored there but you are not going to use it on Pesach, seal the cabinet and rely on the Sale of Hametz.
Cooking before Pesach:
If the flavor of Hametz was mixed with Pesach food before Pesach, the flavor is nullified. You can therefore clean your kitchen the way you normally do, and then, before Pesach, use your everyday dishes and utensils to make freezable food from kosher for Pesach ingredients. Freeze and enjoy on Pesach.
Kashering the kitchen:
Dishes and utensils:
The reason for kashering dishes is the concern that flavor absorbed from Hametz will be released into the KFP food. That concern was valid in the past, when dishes were made from porous, low-quality materials. In today’s modern kitchen, this is almost non-existent. Therefore, unless you know for sure that even after thoroughly cleaned a utensil transfers flavors from one dish to another, you can use it for Pesach after washing it regularly.
You can wash by hand or in the dishwasher and then use the following, even if used for Hametz immediately before cleaning:
Glass, plastic, metal, china, Corelle, Bakelite, silicone, stoneware, Teflon.
The only dishes which should be put aside are earthenware dishes (which are not widely used in the common kitchen.) Wood utensils can be cleaned thoroughly, and if you are concerned about flavor absorbed in them, soaked in water with detergent for a couple of hours.
When in doubt whether dishes or utensils absorb flavor, conduct this fun experiment: cook a batch of hot peppers (ghost, habanero, jalapeno) with the strongest spices you have. Rinse the dish and cook in it bland rice or pasta. Taste the rice or pasta.
Clean regularly. Wash racks. Turn the oven to 450° Fahrenheit and leave on for 20 minutes. Avoid the self-cleaning feature as it operates on extremely high temperatures and would ruin the oven.
A note on using oven for meat and dairy:The smallest standard ovens today are big enough, by halakhic standards, to be used simultaneously for meat and dairy, as long as the dishes do no tsplatter. If you feel uncomfortable doing so, you can use the oven for those dishes consecutively, with no need for cleaning, waiting for it to cool down, or kashering between the two dishes.
Stove top (Gas, electric, glass, Corning, Halogen, or Ceran) and broilers, grills, BBQ’s: clean regularly. Turn on high for 10 minutes.
(Non-Kosher BBQ:if you are traveling and would like to use a public BBQ, on Pesach or year round, it is preferable to cover it with thick aluminum foil after it is well heated.)
Microwave oven: Clean the turntable and the oven regularly. Put in the oven half a cup of water with a drop of dish soap and a wooden stick (to avoid explosions), for 90 seconds.
During the year, there is no need for separate microwave ovens. In case a meat or dairy dish splattered on the oven walls, clean it regularly. There is no need to wait between uses.
Shabbat Plata (hot plate/blech): Clean regularly and heat for 10 minutes.
Dishwasher: Can be used for Pesach after the last round of Hametz dishes was washed, with no waiting period or cleaning necessary. For good feeling, you could run it empty for the shortest cycle and clean the filter.
During the year: There is no need to have separate dishwashers for meat and dairy. Meat and dairy dishes can be washed together, even without removing chunks of food from them, because the detergent is very powerful and any flavor “absorbed” in the dishes is utterly destroyed.
Refrigerator, freezer, warming drawers, coffee machines: clean regularly.
Toaster oven, toaster: clean like an oven and leave on high heat for ten minutes.
Upright smoker: Run one cycle of burn-through.
Sandwich maker, waffle maker: If you need to use those on Pesach, clean them as you normally do and then turn on high for ten minutes. (Make sure that the Teflon is not scratched, and flavor is not transferred from one food to the next. If there is a need, test it by making a strongly flavored waffle mix, baking it, and then, after cleaning, baking another mix, this time bland.)
Electric knife, Kitchen Aid, food processors, including blades and receptacles: Clean regularly.
Serving dishes: all modern serving dishes today do not absorb flavor and could therefore be used for Pesach after a regular wash. This includes Corelle brand and chinaware. Glazed dishes, even if chipped can be used in the same manner, though caution must be taken.
Baby bottles and paraphernalia, baby high chair and tray: clean regularly.
Table, chairs, and bench tops: clean regularly.
Dentures, bite plates, braces, water filters: there is no need to do anything special. [i]
There is no need to clean inside or behind vents in ovens, microwave ovens, and refrigerators, or remove, as some Kashrut guides recommend electric panels and tubes.
Remember that the cleaning is performed to prevent the possibility of an edible piece of Hametz mixing into the food. Ask yourself before approaching any nook or cranny if there is a chance that the Hametz monster will crawl out of there and latch itself to your food.
Sinks and countertops: As previously explained, the concern when kashering is that flavor absorbed from a Hametz dish will be released into a Pesach dish. The only way Hametz flavor can be transferred from sinks and countertops to your food, is if boiling pasta water spilled or a hot loaf of bread was placed on them, and then hot Pesach food was put directly on that surface (a piece of meat, for example). No one eats foods which were placed in that manner on countertops or in sinks, and in any case, they do not absorb flavor. Therefore, there is no need to have separate sinks for meat and dairy, and there is no need to kasher them. Clean regularly, and if it makes you feel good, pour hot water.
There is no need to seal off cabinets with all-year dishes, even if you are not going to use those dishes on Pesach.
Decorative, non-edible Hametz, such as pasta projects, colored and glued, or colorful pasta in sealed glass jars, does not need to be removed before Pesach.
A note on flavor absorption: Color is not taste. Plastic utensils and Tupperware sometimes retain color from spices such as paprika and turmeric, but that does not mean that flavor is also absorbed. When in doubt, put hot flavorless rice in the colored utensil and then taste it (before Pesach, of course!)
[i] Many of the details in this article are
obvious, yet I had to write them because years of Kashrut industry and
extremist Halakhic rulings have created misconceptions regarding
Cleaning supplies: Kosher for Pesach certification is needed only for edible products. Since no one serves Windex shakes with Ajax sandwiches, no cleaning supplies need supervision, and stamping them with any Kashrut symbol borders with deception. For good feeling, you might want to use new dish-washing sponges for Pesach.
Disposables: It seems obvious that all paper, aluminum foil, and plastic products do not need Kashrut supervision. However, I have to mention it here because some Kashrut organization claim that paper goods coated with wax and paper bags are not KFP. To clarify: all paper goods, foil, Styrofoam, and plastic disposables are KFP.
Medicine: all medicine is KFP.
Vitamins: If the pills are swallowed with water, they can be used on Pesach. Chewable vitamins: if the ingredients do not include one of the four grains (wheat, barley, spelt, rye), they can be used on Pesach.
Cosmetics and hygienic products, including oral hygiene: all are kosher for Pesach, since none is edible, including Listerine strips.
Pet food: The only pet food which can present a problem is dog food, and within the variety of dog foods, the only category which should be preferably avoided on Pesach is baked goods. All other foods, even if grains are mixed in them, are non-edible for humans, and therefore can be used by pet owners for their pets (see footnote for detailed explanation.)[i]
Edible items: Open packages, bottles, spices, and spreads: if containers or bottles are used to pour from, and no utensils are inserted into them, or if you know that only clean utensils were inserted, they can be used on Pesach. Though some claim that spices, salt, olive, and wine which were used over boiling hametz have become Hametz because of the vapor absorbed in them, this is not true, and they can be used on Pesach.
Flour: all flour is KFP, even if the grains were processed with water. The Shulhan Arukh recommends buying KFP flour, but comments that if it is not available one can use any flour. The exorbitant prices of KFP flour today put it under the category of “not available”. You could use this flour to bake Matzah at home, as long as you observe the dough to make sure it does not rise.
Starbucks: you can buy unflavored coffee from Starbucks or similar establishments on Pesach. For flavored coffee, and K-cups, check ingredients.
Fresh and frozen fish: Kosher all year round when purchased from a major chain (Costco, Stop and Shop, Whole Foods etc.) or from a reputable fishmonger. The fish can be bought on Pesach.
Spices: all 100% pure spices can be used on Pesach.
Oil, vinegar, milk, plain yogurt, hard and soft cheeses, soft drinks, jams and jellies do not need Pesach supervision.
Tea: All tea bags and tea leaves are kosher for Pesach.
All pickles, olives, frozen vegetables, canned vegetables, dried fruits and of course fresh fruits and vegetables are KFP.
Coffee: All coffee, including instant and granulated is Kosher for Pesach. You can also buy whole bean coffee and grind it at the store.
Pure peanut butter, almond butter etc. are kosher for Pesach, including the DIY mixes available at Whole Foods.
Here is Rabbi Yitzchack Abadi and Sons comprehensive list of products which do not bear a KFP stamp but are kosher for Pesach. It is available at kashrut.org.