Cooked Or Not? Spicing Foods On Shabbos And Related Issues

Many questions regarding bishul on Shabbos are dependent on how the food was produced and due to modern production methods, in many cases the people with the most technical information on the topic are the kashrus professionals. Thus, consumers who want to know if they can put salt, spices or ketchup into their cholent, croutons into their soup, and similar questions will from time to time call the hashgachah agency that supervises those products – and this week’s column will discuss a number of those questions.

Salt

In the hullabaloo of preparing for Shabbos, even the greatest cook sometimes forgets to put the salt into the soup or cholent, and when the less-than-perfect food comes to the table, someone is bound to try to “rectify” the problem. Is there anything wrong with putting a pinch or two of salt into hot food on Shabbos?

To answer this question we must review some relevant halachos and learn a bit about what it takes to put salt on our tables.

The Gemara, Shabbos 42b cites a dispute as to what level of cooking is required to violate the issur of bishul for salt on Shabbos. One opinion holds that it is only assur to cook salt in a kli rishon (i.e. the pot in which the food was cooked) which is on the fire and the other opinion holds that it is even assur to put salt into a kli sheini (i.e. a secondary bowl or dish which was not used for the cooking) if the food is hot. Shulchan Aruch (318:9) accepts the lenient opinion while Rema cites the strict opinion and commends those who follow it (hamachmir tavoh alav bracha). Mishnah Berurah (318:71) notes that if the salt was recovered by cooking saltwater then all opinions agree that there is no issur of bishul, since that salt has “already been cooked”. Is our salt cooked or not?

Salt is found in abundance in the ocean and in salt-mines. In warm, rain-free climates, salt can be collected by gathering saltwater into pools and allowing it to sit for long enough that all of the water evaporates, leaving the salt behind. Usually this process – known as “solar evaporation – ends with the salt being given a short, final drying in an oven.

However, most salt is collected from salt-mines using a more complicated method called “solution mining” which involves the following. [An alternate method known as “rock-salt mining” produces salt which is rarely pure enough for food-grade use]. The salt mine, located below the earth’s surface, is flooded with water and some of the salt becomes diluted into the water. The salty water is pumped out of the mine and into an “evaporator” where the water is boiled out of the salt, leaving the salt behind. As with the first method, the process ends with the salt being given a short drying in an oven. The question of putting salt into the cholent on Shabbos has to do with the way evaporators work. A full explanation of how evaporators work is beyond the scope of this article, but the following is a brief explanation as is relevant to our question.

The higher the level of vacuum there is in a chamber, the lower the boiling point of water will be. An evaporator contains many “effects” each of which has a different level of vacuum, such that in certain effects the vacuum is so strong that water boils out of the salt at relatively low temperatures which aren’t even noticeably hot to the touch! In many evaporators, each drop of saltwater goes through all of the effects, but in some evaporators the saltwater is divided into separate streams, each of which goes to a separate effect. In these evaporators, some of the salt will have been produced without ever having been heated to above yad soledes bo, and is not considered “cooked” as relates to Shabbos. Thus, 90% of any container of salt may be “cooked” and the rest isn’t. Does that mean that one may not put salt into a bowl of hot soup?

Poskim have suggested that one may be lenient because the short heating/drying that is done to the salt after the water is removed, qualifies as an afiyah/baking. [Even those who might question whether a short drying qualifies as an afiyah should agree in this case since the whole reason to not put salt into a kli sheini is because of the opinion that it is kalei habishul (easy to cook), so it stands to reason that even a short drying should suffice as an afiyah]. Nonetheless, one may ask that drying will not adequately address the issue of yesh bishul achar afiyah (it is forbidden to cook a food in liquid if that food was previously baked without any liquid – this concept will be discussed in more detail in the “crouton” section below)? These Poskim offer two answers:

1. Shulchan Aruch (318:5) cites two opinions as to whether bishul achar afiyah is forbidden, and generally we are machmir so as to avoid the issur of bishul, but in this case one may be lenient because, as noted, most opinions hold that its impossible to cook salt unless its in a kli rishon which is on the fire. Since it is just a chumrah to not put un-cooked salt into a kli sheini, one may rely on the lenient opinion that there is no bishul achar afiyah.

2. The halacha of yesh bishul achar afiyah is limited to cases where the “cooking” significantly alters the food from its “baked” state (see Chazon Ish O.C. 37:14 (end) and Iglei Tal (end of Halacha #9 in Ofeh)). However, there is no meaningful difference between “baked” salt and “cooked” salt. Therefore, even though the salt was only baked and not cooked before Shabbos, it is permitted to cook the salt on Shabbos.

As with all matters of halacha, one should consult with their own Rav for a final ruling on this matter. [The above lines of reasoning would not permit one to put salt into a pot which is still on the fire].

Spices

Spices are not “cooked” and therefore Shulchan Aruch (318:9-10) rules that one may not put spices into a hot kli rishon (the pot in which the food was cooked) even if it is not on the fire, and one may not even pour from a kli rishon onto spices. One may spice hot food which is in a kli sheini (Mishnah Berurah 318:65). However, some Poskim hold that a hot davar gush – a solid, non-pourable item such as a potato – in a kli sheini retains the status of a kli rishon, and therefore Mishnah Berurah rules that one should not pour spices onto a hot davar gush. Consumers should be aware that many spice blends contain salt whose halachos may be more strict, as noted above.

Sauces

May one put ketchup, hot pepper sauce or any other sauce onto a hot piece of chicken or cholent? [It is forbidden as chazarah to put any food, including a sauce, into food which is cooking on the fire or on a hot plate, even if there is a blech, and the coming discussion is therefore limited to food which is off the fire.] We have seen that one may not put spices onto a hot davar gush (even in a kli sheini) because the spices will get cooked by the hot food. Shouldn’t it likewise be forbidden to put sauce onto the cholent on my plate? The answer to that question depends on a number of factors, as follows.

In order to prevent the sauce from spoiling, most – but not all – sauces are cooked/pasteurized before they are put in the bottle. There is a machlokes as to whether there is an issur bishul on liquids which were cooked and then cooled down (see Biur Halacha 318:4 s.v. yesh). Some hold that once the liquid was cooked it can’t possibly be cooked again, and others argue that liquids become “cooked” when they reach yad soledes bo and once they cool down the cooking is undone and it is forbidden to heat them back up. Shulchan Aruch 318:4 cites only the strict opinion, and therefore at first glance it would seem that even if the sauce was cooked in the factory, one may not put it onto a hot piece of chicken or cholent because the sauce is considered to be “raw”.

However, Iggeros Moshe (O.C. IV:74 Bishul #5) points out that for this to be forbidden one must be machmir in two separate disagreements – that it is forbidden to cook a liquid which was already cooked but cooled down, and that a davar gush in a kli sheini has the status of a kli rishon. Although we are generally machmir regarding each of those issues independently, Iggeros Moshe rules that there is no need to be machmir for both chumros at once. This ruling is also cited in Shmiras Shabbos K’hilchaso (1:58).

As noted, this leniency is dependent on the sauce having been cooked/pasteurized before it was bottled, and the most reliable way for a consumer to determine if the sauce they use is cooked, is to call the hashgachah who certifies its kashrus.

Butter

Butter presents a unique question in that after it is cooked/pasteurized as liquid milk, it cools off which renders it “un-cooked” as relates to Shabbos, and then it is churned into a solid which is never cooked. Accordingly, Shmiras Shabbos K’hilchaso (Ch. 1 footnote 173) argues that the solid-butter was never cooked and cannot be placed onto a hot potato. However, Iggeros Moshe (ibid. #6) argues, based on Magen Avraham (318:40), that the butter has the best of both worlds – it is considered “cooked” since it was cooked as a liquid, and it also has the status of a “solid” due to its current state; accordingly; since there is no issur to cook/heat a solid which was already cooked, one may place butter on a hot potato even though it is a davar gush! Shmiras Shabbos K’hilchaso counters that Magen Avraham is discussing fats whose nature is to congeal and cool simultaneously, which is different than butter which first cools (thereby loosing its cooked status) and is subsequently churned/solidified. Shmiras Shabbos K’hilchaso also raises other issues, and one should consult their Rav for a ruling on this matter.

Croutons

In order to understand if/when one may put croutons into hot soup on Shabbos, we must review two halachos:

1. A cold piece of challah may be put onto a hot piece of chicken (off the fire) because once the challah was baked, it (halachically) cannot be baked again. Similarly, cooked pasta may be put into a bowl of soup (off the fire) because the pasta has already been cooked, and can’t possibly be cooked again. [As noted earlier, these leniencies only apply to solids and, don’t apply to liquids which were cooked and then cooled down]

2. Shulchan Aruch (318:5) cites two opinions as to whether one may cook (i.e. in liquid) a solid that had been baked (i.e. without liquid) or vice versa. This is known as bishul achar afiyah and was discussed briefly above regarding salt. Rema records that the minhag is to be machmir about this issue and therefore one may not put bread or cake (i.e. baked items) into a hot cup of tea (i.e. a cooked liquid) which is a kli sheini (and surely not into a kli rishon). However, this would be permitted in a kli shlishi (i.e. a bowl or cup which is twice-removed from the pot in which the liquid was cooked) (see Mishnah Berurah 318:45 & 47).

Some croutons are deep fried. They are considered to have been cooked in a liquid and may be put into a kli sheini bowl of soup; this is an example of the first halacha cited above. However, other croutons are baked/toasted without any liquid; they should not be placed into a kli sheini of hot liquid but may be placed into a kli shlishi. [As above, a good way to find out if your croutons are baked or deep fried is to call the hashgachah which certifies them as kosher].

Is a bowl of soup a kli sheini or a kli shlishi? At first glance, one would imagine that it is a kli shlishi because the soup cooked in a pot, which is the kli rishon, was removed with a ladle, which is the kli sheini, which should mean that the bowl is a kli shlishi and one would be permitted to put baked croutons into it. However, in a somewhat different context, Mishnah Berurah 318:27 cites Poskim who hold that since the ladle gets completely submerged in the pot of soup, it gets the status of a kli rishon. If so, one would imagine that the bowl would have the status of a kli sheini and it would be forbidden to put baked croutons into it. In spite of this, Mishnah Berurah (318:47) rules that one may put baked items into a bowl of soup. Presumably, his reasoning is that although we are machmir that the ladle has the status of a kli rishon and we are also machmir that it is forbidden to cook foods which had been baked, we don’t have to be machmir for both of these issues simultaneously. [This is similar to what was noted above from Iggeros Moshe regarding sauces]. Thus, according to the Mishnah Berurah, one may add croutons to a bowl of soup that was taken from the pot with a ladle.

 

Summary

 

  • Poskim present reasons why salt recovered via solution mining may be placed onto food which is in a kli sheini.
  • Spices may be placed onto food which is in a kli sheini unless the food is a davar gush.
  • Ketchup and other sauces may be placed into a kli sheini even if they contain a davar gush, if the sauce was cooked/pasteurized before bottling.
  • There is a question as to whether one may put butter onto a hot piece of food.
  • Deep-fried croutons may be placed into a kli sheini or kli shlishi, but baked croutons may only be placed into a kli shlishi. As relates to this halacha, a bowl of soup is considered a kli shlishi and all croutons may be placed into the soup.
  • None of these items may be put into a pot which is on the fire, and in many cases the same applies even if the pot used for cooking was taken off of the fire.