What makes a kosher kitchen? It’s the way the kitchen is used and
maintained, rather than the design or materials, although some materials may be preferable. Ritual Jewish law and practice dictates separation of meat from dairy, and this extends to having entirely distinct sets of dishes, silver, cutlery, cookware, sinks, appliances and countertop areas. During the week of Passover dishes are changed again, and it’s clear to see that observant Jews – particularly those with sufficient space – are in the market for additional cabinetry, as well as all of the other accessories that make a kitchen convenient and appealing.
In the real world not every home is large enough to accommodate doubling or tripling of the kitchen space, nor is every customer wealthy enough to handle such a large investment. Those with severely modest means may have to box up Passover tableware and utensils and store them in closets for the other 51 weeks of the year. Sometimes a double sink will have to stand in for two separate units (even a single sink can be permissible, provided it is not of porous material and is properly cleaned before switching from meat to dairy or vise versa). A single dishwasher also may be acceptable to some authorities provided it has a stainless steel interior and the racks are changed depending on what dishes are being washed.
Under the circumstances, it’s obvious that any kosher customer with the means id going to want to make their kitchen as large and as workable as possible. Other clients may also want large, easy to use kitchens and more than one dishwasher or sink, but for the kosher observant, it is almost a necessity.
One of the more significant differences between a kosher and non-kosher kitchen is that most conventional kitchens are predicted on an invisible work triangle defined by the placement of one sink, one refrigerator and one range. In a kosher kitchen we have two overlapping triangles and, ideally, two sinks, two refrigerators and two ranges.
There is more to designing a kosher kitchen than just adding extra appliances. Our Urban Homes designers have designed many kosher kitchens, and as with conventional designs, we realize that the ability to make every inch of space count is a highly valued skill.
Accordingly, our designers advise customers to:
- Eliminate soffits and run cabinets all the way up to the ceiling.
- Use "magic corner" wire basket drawers to open up dead corners and facilitate cleaning in those corners.
- Recommend appliances that feature a Sabbath mode. With refrigerators, for example, this means a unit that allows the automatic fan to be turned off from Friday sundown to Saturday night (or to stay in a constant “on” position), thus releasing the residents of a household from inadvertently causing initiation of power usage during the Sabbath period when such activity is prohibited.
- Recommend stainless steel sinks and steel or granite countertops and work surfaces for customers who can’t or won’t have fully discrete areas for meat and dairy. Make sure that the material is a pure granite or stone. Sometimes they are really composites and cannot be kashered. These surfaces can be used for both, provided that they are thoroughly cleaned and that boiling water is poured on them in between meat and dairy operations.
According to Star-K, which provides kosher certification, wood may also be kashered as stainless steel if it has a smooth surface and no cracks. Kosher law does not, however, allow kashering of plastic or materials with plastic components.
When it comes to choosing appliances, whether the kitchen can accommodate two sets or not, it is important to keep kosher belief in mind. Case in point, according to Star-K, kashering a glass, Corning, halogen or electric smoothtop range can be a difficult process, as it is hard to kasher the area surrounding the actual burners. On a gas range the cast iron or metal grates upon which the pots sit may be inserted into the oven after they have been thoroughly cleaned. The grates can then be kashered simultaneously with the oven, making this and easier process (and possibly a better choice) for the homeowner. Of course, if there are any questions that arise during the design of kosher kitchen, we suggest that customers should be encouraged to ask for rabbinic guidance.