Thursday, July 03, 2008

Cooking on Shabbat

QUESTION:

Dear Rabbi Maroof,
Hopefully you can answer these questions before this Shabbat.
1) In our home, we use an electric Shabbat warming plate to keep food warm; recently, I was reading about hatmanah and it only confused me. Please tell me if the following is halachically correct -- here's what we usually do: on top of the electric plate we place a pot with water -- this pot is covered with the lid inverted so that on top of it we can place a pot with food (this way the pot with food doesn't get too hot overnight). The pot containing the food is covered with a lid as well. Are we violating the laws of hatmanah by covering either pot with a lid?
2) My understanding is that dry, solid items can be reheated on Shabbat. Does rice fall into this category? I've heard contradicting opinions about this. Usually, we put the rice in the refrigerator Friday night and take it out again on Saturday morning to reheat it on the electric plate. Part "B" of this question would be, should we be concerned about the water droplets that form in the rice pot when take out of the fridge and then we reheat it in the hot plate? Is this considered reheating a liquid?
3) Can baked plantains be reheated on the plate? They are solid, but when baked in foil, they look soggy.
Thank you for your time!
Joseph


ANSWER:

Dear Joseph,

1) This is no problem. The restrictions on Hatmana, or insulating, only apply when the pot is entirely surrounded by insulating material. Covering the top of a pot would not be included in this prohibition.

2) Rice can be taken out of the refrigerator on Shabbat morning and placed on an electric hotplate for warming. If condensation has created water droplets in the pot, one should either dry them or move the rice to a dry container for reheating.

3) Just for clarity's sake, let me explain that the reason that reheating liquid is treated more stringently than reheating solids is the following: When we cook a solid for the first time, we affect a real change in the substance of the food. Even after the food item cools off, it remains permanently transformed by virtue of the cooking process to which it was subjected. Subsequent reheating of the dish, which merely raises the temperature of the food but has no other significant impact on its quality, is clearly differentiated from the act of cooking and is therefore permissible under certain conditions.

On the other hand, the only difference between, for example, cooked and uncooked water, is the temperature of the water. If I cook water and then it cools, it has reverted to its original state. Reheating it is identical to cooking it for the first time. Therefore, reheating liquids is not permitted on Shabbat - it would be tantamount to cooking liquids.

Some foods have a soggier quality than others when cooked or reheated. However, as long as they are solids, these foods can be reheated on Shabbat without compunction.

Best Regards,

Rabbi Maroof

25 comments:

Michael said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael said...

One rabbi of mine said there was a case for permitting reheating liquids, i.e. applying "ein bishul achar bishul" even to water. His hiddush: water that has been heated to boiling and then cooled is in fact distinct from water that has never been heated -- it's been sterilized.

Less controversially, how would one rule on something like a vegetable soup that has been cooked already before Shabbat. Clearly, cooking it further by reheating may alter it or even improve it, but the same is true of say, a mushy kugel which gets nice and crisp on the plata over the course of Shabbat morning.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

On the issue of water, it is difficult to invoke phenomena like sterilization that are not perceivable by the unaided senses, since, in general, in halakha we only take into account matters that can be seen by the naked eye.

However, if I am not mistaken, the famous Eglei Tal endorses a lenient approach on soup because it is not fundamentally different than any other cooked dish, and he went so far as to suggest that a leniency by water that has cooled to less than yad soledet bo might be justified as well.

It is true that reheating can increase the crispness of a food; however, generally speaking halakha measures the efficiency of a cooking process either in terms of increased edibility or improved flavor, and not in terms of texture per se. Indeed, if anything, cooking is expected to soften rather than harden or dry out a food.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Incidentally, when it comes to soup I would maintain that it is a problem because reheating and "overcooking" often improves the flavor of chicken soup and the like, unlike solid foods which are usually, at best, restored to their original state via reheating.

Anonymous said...

this is useful info. would covering an aluminum baking pan with aluminum foil (wrapped around the rim edges) constitute hatmanah?

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Anonymous,

Placing foil over a baking pan is OK as long the foil covers the top only and is not wrapped around the entire surface of the pan as insulation might be.

Anonymous said...

Rabbi Maroof,

Speaking of foil, wouldn't bending or folding a baking foil *pan* (or a solid foil cover) so that it fits in the garbage after use, be some sort of violation on shabbat?

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