's Kashrut Class - Milk and Meat

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Lesson III - Milk and Meat

One of the strictures most identified with kashrut is the separation of milk and meat. These find their origins in the Torah where it says three different times (Exodus 23:19, Exodus 34:26 and Deuteronomy 14:21) not to cook a kid in its mother's milk. The Oral law expands this to the complete separation of milk and meat, and the Rabbis in the Talmud extend this to include bird meat. There are many reasons given for this practice. Rambam attributes it as a prevention of an idolatrous and superstitious practice. Others attribute as a discouragement from a cruel practice. This practice has many possible explanations; we should not try to stick the reason to any one.

This triple repetition of the warning in the Torah is taken to mean three types of prohibition.

  1. You may not cook such an admixture

  2. You may not eat such an admixture

  3. You may not benefit (in any way) from such an admixture

The Rabbi's interpreted the separation very strictly. No meat product can come in contact with any milk product in any way. The term milchig (or chalav) designates food made from or utensils used with such food. Fleishig (or basar) designates food made for meat or utensils used with such food.

There is a third category called pareve or stam. This is a food that is not derived from milk or meat and is not cooked with a milchig or fleishig utensil. This food can be eaten with either milk or meat (although in certain circumstances use of a milk or meat utensil will render the food milchig or fleishig). Pareve foods include all vegetables, grains, fruits, eggs and fish. Originally birds were considered pareve (when was the last time you saw a chicken give milk?), but the Rabbis ruled that bird meat should be considered fleishig to avoid confusion.

Milchig and fleishig food can not be eaten together. There is a waiting period (depending on your tradition) of 70 minutes to six hours after eating meat before it is permissible to eat milchig food. No waiting period is required after eating milchig food before eating fleishig food. The way to remember this is that kashrut is a prohibition on eating meat, not milk. To this end, a food cooked in fleishig utensils, but is in all other ways pareve , require no waiting period before eating milchig food. Although in these two situations (milchig before fleishig and pareve fleishig before milchig) no wait is necessary, a small wait is preferable to make sure the mouth is clean. There is a rule that one must wait an hour after hard cheese for just this reason (a hard cheese being defined as a cheese that has sat for six months or more). It is permissible for two people to eat together, one eating fleishig; the other milchig, as long as there is a definite separation between the two.

Along with not eating milchig and fleishig food together, they also can not come in contact while cooking. Again this is fairly strict. Any utensil that is used with fleishig food can not come in contact with milchig food or milchig utensils, and vice versa. The net impact of this is two separate sets of utensils. One for fleishig food, and one for milchig foods. This also means a separate set of dishes. It is best to store fleishig and milchig utensils separately, and mark utensils so that they are clearly differentiated (like red nail polish on fleishig utensils). Food cooked in the wrong pot is unkosher. Many Jews have separate condiments to avoid mixing (since food and condiments often come in contact).

There are in the typical kitchen several areas of overlap. These are :

  1. Glassware - glass was considered non-absorbent by the Rabbis. As a result glass can be used interchangeably between milchig and fleishig as long as it is well cleaned. The custom among Askenazic Jews is to soak the glass 72 hours before interchanging, the Sephardic say soaking is unnecessary.

  2. Sinks - There are two ways to handle the sink. If you have a double sink (which is stainless steel - so it can be rekashered if needed), one half can be used for milchig and one half for fleishig. If this is impractical (due to the way you use your kitchen - or if you have a garbage disposal on one side), then you should treat you sink a treif. Utensils and food should then not touch it (for they would become unkosher). Individual dish racks (one for milchig the other for fleishig) should be used in the sinks to avoid contact. In treif sinks, you may not soak utensils or food. A separate - kosher - basin must be used.

  3. Ovens and ranges - It is not necessary to have separate ovens and ranges for milchig and fleishig. If the same oven is used for milchig and fleishig great care should be taken to avoid spills and splatters. Milchig and Fleishig food should not be cooked in the same oven at the same time. Grills used for one can not be used for the other without kasher ing. When cooking on top of a range milchig and fleishig food, food should be covered, and great care needs to be taken. It is best to specify which burners are fleishig and which are milchig, covering the unused side when the other is in use with a towel. Many people avoid this problem by having separate ovens.

  4. Dishwashers - A dishwasher can be used for both milchig and fleishig dishes, but not at the same time. Dishes should be well rinsed before being put in the dishwasher. Between milchig and fleishig loads, a rinse cycle should be used. Also it is preferable to have separate racks for milchig and fleishig loads. Many people make this easier by using the dishwasher for either milk or meat, and hand washing the other.

  5. Towels - Towels that are freshly clean can be used either milchig or fleishig . Once they are used for one or the other, they must be washed before use with the other. It is best to have different towels for each to avoid confusion.

This prohibition from benefiting from mixing milk and meat is generally interpreted fairly strictly (so buying a cheeseburger for a non-Jewish friend is forbidden). It should be pointed out that the mixing of milk and meat only applies to meat made from clean animals (so you can buy your friend a ham and cheese sandwich). Also the stricture is stronger for cooked food than uncooked food (as can be deduced from the Torah statement). Milk and meat that accidentally mixed - but is not cooked - can be sold or given away. Milk and meat that is mixed and cooked must be thrown out.
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Last updated on Aug 9, 1999 at 4:57 PM

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copyright 1999 - Steven Ross Weintraub