May one place salt into hot food on Shabbos?
At the behest of Rabbi Juravel, Mrs. Lazar researched the manufacturing process for salt ( I-164) and found that there are three methods for producing salt:
- Rock Salt Mining: Salt is removed from mines and crushed, filtered and packaged. No heat is used in this process. Very little of this salt is pure enough for food-grade use.
- Solar Evaporation: (Salty) sea water is gathered into ponds where the sun slowly evaporates the water leaving the salt on the floor. The salt is then further dried in an oven heated to 200 to 300ºF for approximately 10 minutes. This method can only be used in areas which have a warm, dry climate with long rain-free periods such as Israel, Australia, California, the Bahamas and the Caribbean.
- Solution Mining: Salt mines are filled with water and then this mixture of water and salt (i.e. brine) is pumped out of the mine. The brine is brought to a boil which causes the water to escape as steam, leaving the salt behind. This process of boiling the water is done in a multiple-effect evaporator (described in K-286). The pressure in the “effects” ranges from high in the first effect to low (approaching a vacuum) in the last effect such that the water may boil out of the brine at more than 212ºF in the first effect and at less than yad soledes bo in the last effect.
In some companies, all of the brine goes through all of the effects such that all of the brine is subject to high and low temperature boiling. In other companies the brine is divided into 2-6 streams (depending on the system) each of which goes to only one effect. In this latter setup, the streams of brine do not go from the first effect to the second effect etc. In all cases, the salt recovered from the evaporator is mixed together and the entire batch of salt is baked in an oven at 200 to 300ºF for approximately 10 minutes to complete the drying process. This method (i.e. solution mining) is used by most salt manufacturers in the USA, England, Canada and the other main salt producing nations.
There are the following halachic considerations:
- The Gemara, Shabbos 42b cites a dispute as to what level of cooking is required to violate the issur bishul for salt on Shabbos. One opinion holds that one only violates the issur if the salt is cooked in a kli rishon which is on the fire and the other opinion holds that salt is kalei habishul and can therefore even be cooked in a kli sheini. Shulchan Aruch accepts the lenient opinion. Rema cites the strict opinion and commends those who follow it (hamachmir tavo alav bracha). Mishnah Berurah 318:71 notes that this discussion is limited to salt which is mined from the ground (i.e. rock salt mining) but there is surely no issur of bishul on salt which is recovered from cooked saltwater (i.e. solution mining) since it is already cooked.
- Shulchan Aruch 318:5 cites two opinions as to whether it is forbidden to cook a product which has already been baked but not cooked (i.e. bishul achar afiyah) and Rema records that our minhag is to be machmir and not even put baked items into a kli sheini. Mishnah Berurah clarifies that according to the machmirim, placing a baked item into a kli rishon is an issur d’oraisah.
This raises the following questions:
1. If salt water boils without becoming yad soledes bo is it considered to be mevushal?
2. The brine/salt in some effects of some companies is not heated above yad soledes bo and isn’t mevushal. This salt is subsequently mixed into the salt which is mevushal such that most of the salt in each container is mevushal and the rest is not. Under these circumstances, may one “cook” salt on Shabbos because most of the salt is mevushal or is bitul b’rov inappropriate in this case?
Bitul b’rov is relevant to the halachic status of an item but cannot affect the physical status of a piece of salt to render it “cooked”. Therefore, if for example a given teaspoon of salt contains 85% cooked salt and 15% uncooked salt, it would be forbidden to cook the teaspoon of salt on Shabbos because doing so would cause the 15% which is uncooked to become cooked.
3. Is the baking done in the final stages of the solar evaporation method and solution mining method considered afiyah? If yes, how does that impact on the permissibility of putting salt into hot food on Shabbos?
Rav Schachter noted that it is questionable if the baking done to the salt qualifies as an afiyah. However, the only reason Rema is machmir to forbid placing salt into a kli sheini (or kli rishon which is not on the fire) is because of the opinion that salt is a kalei habishul which means that it cooks even with heat which isn’t overly intense. If in fact salt is kalei habishul then we can also logically assume that 10 minutes in a hot oven will also be enough to cook the salt! Therefore, on Shabbos one may place salt into a kli rishon which is not on the fire and into a kli sheini (even if it contains a davar gush) as follows. According to the lenient opinion (i.e. Shulchan Aruch), uncooked salt may be placed into these types of pots and according to the strict opinion the salt is already cooked. It would be forbidden to place salt into a kli rishon which is on the fire because the aforementioned line of reasoning wouldn’t apply (in addition to the issue of chazarah).
Rav Belsky assumed that the 10 minute baking of the salt is considered an afiyah. As noted, Shulchan Aruch cites two opinions as to whether it is forbidden to cook an item which was already baked. Generally, we are machmir regarding this question because it involves a safek d’oraisah. But we do not have to be machmir for the opinion that yesh bishul achar afiyah as relates to placing salt into a kli rishon which is not on the fire (or into a kli sheini) because cooking salt in those pots is itself no more than a chumrah (i.e. hamachmir tavo alav bracha). This line of reasoning wouldn’t permit one to place salt into a kli rishon which is on the fire.
Rav Schachter and Rav Belsky agree that one may place salt into a kli rishon which is not on the fire or into a kli sheini (even if contains a davar gush) but one may not place salt into a kli rishon which is on the fire.
Part of a series of questions and answers about the Sabbath that have arisen within the Orthodox Union Kosher Division.