Shabbos Shaylos: Food Preparation

1. May a caterer take a kugel out of the refrigerator on Shabbos and place it onto a chafing dish which already has a pan full of hot water in it (i.e. onto a steam table insert)?

Yes. This is an example of the halacha cited in Shulchan Aruch 253:5 that one may place a dry, fully-cooked food onto a pot which is already cooking on the fire even if the other conditions of chazara are not met.

2. A kitchen worker (Jewish or non-Jewish) took the soup pot off the blech without being told to do so by the caterer. The caterer walked in while the waiter was still holding the pot and told the worker that it was really not yet time to serve that course. Is it forbidden (as chazarah) for the waiter to put the pot back onto the fire because he had no intention to put the pot back onto the fire (i.e. no da’as l’hachzir)? Or is it permitted because the owner of the food (the caterer) didn’t tell him to take the pot off of the fire?

Biur Halacha 253:2 s.v. v’lo cites Rav Akiva Eiger who discusses exactly this question and says that it is a dependent on a machlokes Rishonim regarding the principle of ain adam osser davar she’aino shelo. Even the strict opinion cited in Rav Akiva Eiger would agree that the worker could return the pot to the fire if there was a pressing need for the food to stay hot.

Rav Akiva Eiger does however note that if the worker had already put the pot down on the floor then all opinions would agree that the pot could not be returned to the oven. This ruling would apply even in cases of great need.

3. May a caterer prepare tea by placing tea bags into hot water which is in a kli shlishi on Shabbos?

No. Rather, the caterer should either:

a. Prepare concentrated tea essence before Shabbos by pouring a little boiling water over tea bags. The tea bags should be allowed to sit in the boiling water for a few minutes and should be agitated so that all the leaves become mevushal before Shabbos. On Shabbos, the tea essence may be poured into a kli sheini of hot water (even though the tea essence are cold) to create a “fresh” cup of tea. or,

b. The tea bags should be “cooked” as in (a) above, removed from the water and allowed to dry completely. They the tea bags may be used in a kli sheini. or,

c. A modern-day version of the previous suggestion (b) is to use “instant tea” in a kli sheini—instant tea is tea leaves which have been cooked and dried into a powder.

Rabbi Schreier added that a caterer using suggestions (a) or (b) may run out of prepared tea scents (or cooked tea bags) and be tempted to make more scents on Shabbos. Therefore, in order to avoid a potentially problematic situation which would be difficult to monitor, the OU insists that caterers use instant tea and not rely on suggestions (a) or (b).
Rav Schachter disagreed with this ruling and wrote that:

כמדומה לי שעד כדי כך לא נהגו להחמיר כלל, כמבואר בחזון איש להדיא סוף סימן נ“ב. אכן ידינו הר“ר ירמיה אינדיך שליט“א הציע שיש לאסור מחשש סחיטה – שהרבה סוחטים את שקית הטה לבסוף.

4. A caterer would like to sprinkle paprika, cinnamon or another spice onto the chicken after he removes it from the hot box so that the chicken will have a more appealing color. Would that be permissible or would there be a problem of bishul on the spices since they are being placed onto a hot davar gush? What if he let the chicken cool-down for 5-10 minutes after it comes out of the oven?

Shulchan Aruch 318:9 says that that one may not place spices into a kli rishon even after that kli is removed from the fire since that will result in bishul of the spices. Mishnah Berurah 318:65 adds that the same halacha would apply to a kli sheini which contains a hot davar gush since many Poskim hold that such a kli has the status of a kli rishon. Thus, it would be forbidden to place spices onto chicken that is hotter than yad soledes bo even if the chicken is in a kli sheini and has cooled for a few minutes.

Shach Y.D. 105:8 is machmir regarding davar gush but says that if the food in question only has the consistency of a pourable gravy or sauce then it is not considered to be a davar gush. Nonetheless, Shach implies that a fly which is in a (pourable) bowl of soup is considered to be a davar gush. Seemingly, this is because the soup may be pourable but the fly is not and therefore the fly retains its status as a davar gush. Thus, it would seem that a caterer could not place spices onto the kneidel which is floating in a soup but could place spices into the liquid portion of the soup.

5. May one place a scoop of dairy or pareve ice cream on top of a hot piece of cake?


There is a disagreement between the modern-day Poskim as to whether there is an issur of bishul in this case. Irrespective of that machlokes, Rema rules that there is an issur of nolad because the ice cream will change from a solid into a liquid when it is placed on top of the hot cake.

6. May a caterer make “swirls” in dressing?

נראה דזהו הוי כרושם קו שאינו אלא דיזיי“ן (design) בעלמא ולא הוי אפילו צורה ואינו בכלל כתיבה, ובעראי מותר כדברי השולחן ערוך (סימן ש“מ סעיף ה’ ) והמשנה ברורה שמה (ס“ק כ“ד).

7. May one spray whipped cream from the can on Shabbos?

לא מסתבר שיהא בזה לא משום בונה (עיין חיי אדם) ואף לא משום כותב דדוקא בעושה צורה (תמונה) כתב הרמב“ם שיש בו משום מלאכת כותב, אך סתם בעושה דיזיי“ן לא מסתברא לומר שאף בזה נמי יהי’ מלאכה, וכן נראה בכוונת המשנה ברורה סימן ש“מ ס“ק כ“ד.

8A: May one rip letters while opening a package of food?


8B: Portion-control packs of sugar often have lots of words written on them which makes it difficult, but not impossible, to open on Shabbos without ripping letters. May a caterer place these types of packets on the tables at a simcha and assume that the guests will be careful to not rip any letters?

Many people are unaware of this halacha and it would be a michshol to place such packets on the hotel’s tables. If the caterer cannot purchase packets with little or no writing on them, he should open all of the packets before Shabbos. (This is already being done at a number of establishments).

8C: What if the caterer forgot to open the packets before Shabbos?

The letter of the law is that in this case one may ask a non-Jew to open the packets of sugar in spite of the fact that letters will be ripped—see the footnote. However, it is not good to get into the habit of having non-Jews perform melacha for Jews on Shabbos.

Therefore, non-Jews should only be allowed to open packets during bein hashmashos and only in cases where the caterer genuinely intended to open them before Shabbos but forgot to do so.

Part of a series of questions and answers about the Sabbath that have arisen within the Orthodox Union Kosher Division.