THE STAR-K PESACH KITCHEN
We are instructed by the Torah that the proper kashering method one uses to rid a vessel of chometz is dependent upon the original food preparation method used through absorbed chometz into the vessel. Kashering methods can be broadly grouped into four categories:
Libbun – Incinerating
When possible, it is preferable, that a person who is knowledgeable with the laws of kashering be in attendance during this kashering process.
The stove must also be kashered if it is to be used during Pesach. This includes the oven, cooktop, and broiler. No part of the stove can be considered kashered for Pesach unless it is completely clean and free from any baked-on food or grease.
In a continuous cleaning oven, one cannot assume that such an oven is clean because the manufacturer claims it to be continuously clean. A visual inspection is required. Since caustic or abrasive oven cleaners, e.g. Easy Off, cannot be used without destroying the continuous clean properties of the oven, a non-abrasive and non-caustic cleaner must be used to clean the oven. Grease spots will usually disappear if the top layer of grease is cleaned with Fantastik and a nylon brush. Then the oven should be turned on to 450°F for an hour, so that the continuous clean mechanism can work. If the spots do not disappear, the oven should be left on for a few hours to allow the continuous clean mechanism to deep clean, or else the spots should be removed with oven cleaner or steel wool. If the spots are dark and crumble when scratched they can be disregarded. In all of the above cases, the oven should then be kashered by turning it to the 550°F setting for forty minutes.
In a self-cleaning oven; before using the self clean cycle, one should clean the inside face of the oven door, as well as the opposing outer rim of the oven outside the gasket, since these areas are not necessarily cleaned during the cycle. Easy Off manufactures one product that is safe for self-cleaning ovens. One should ensure the gasket itself is clean on the area outside the oven seal. (Note: The gasket is sensitive to abrasion). The self-cleaning cycle will then clean and kasher the oven simultaneously. Caution: There is a potential risk of fire during the self-cleaning process, especially if there is a great collection on the bottom of the oven. It is recommended to apply Easy Off that is made especially for self-clean ovens to lift and remove the grease. The oven should not be left unattended while in the self-cleaning mode. Due to reports of fires, one should not leave other operating heating appliances i.e. dryers, toasters, coffee makers, toaster ovens, microwave ovens, or dishwashers unattended. In fact, toasters and toaster ovens should be unplugged (by pulling on the plug and not the cord) when not in use.
Most oven manufacturers instruct the consumer to remove the oven racks before self cleaning, so they will not discolor. However, one may self clean the oven with the racks inside, even though they might discolor. After the self clean cycle use a little oil on the side of the racks to easily slide them in and out of the oven. Also, there are some manufacturers that require removal of the racks before the self clean cycle can start. In this case, one should take the racks out, clean them very well, and then put them in the oven at the highest temperature (usually 550°F) for 45 minutes. This procedure kashers them.
Some ovens come with a convection feature. This feature allows for more uniform heat distribution by using a fan to circulate the heat. If the convection oven has the self-cleaning feature, it will be sufficient to kasher the fan as well. If there is no self-cleaning feature, the entire oven including the fan, while it is circulating must be sprayed with a caustic cleaner and cleaned well. The oven should then be kashered by turning it on to the 550°F setting for forty minutes.
In a conventional electric cooktop, one needs to clean the burners well and then turn them on to a high heat setting until they are glowing hot. (This usually takes only several minutes.) The drip pans should be thoroughly cleaned and need not be kashered. The remaining cooktop areas should be cleaned and covered. The knobs with which the gas or electricity is turned on should be cleaned. No other process is necessary to kasher the knobs.
Please note: All ovens ventilate hot steam during cooking. In the past, the hot steam was ventilated through the back of the oven. Today, many ranges no longer ventilate in this manner. The oven steam is ventilated through one of the rear cooktop burners. During oven cooking, if the rear vented burner is turned off and covered by a pot or kettle, the hot steam will condense on the burner and utensils. This could create hot zea (condensate) that can cause serious kashrus problems with the utensil, if the food cooked in the oven is a meat product and the pot on the burner is dairy or pareve or vice versa. Care should be exercised with the vented burner to keep it clear during oven cooking. Caution: When putting aluminum foil over the oven backsplash, be careful not to trap the heat coming from the oven vent between the foil and the backsplash. Doing so may melt the backsplash if the oven vents through the back.
Kashering a glass-ceramic cooktop for Pesach use is a bit complex. To kasher the burner area, one should clean it well and turn on the elements until they glow. The burner area is now considered kosher for Pesach. However, the remaining area that does not get hot is not kashered. The manufacturers do not suggest covering this area as one would a porcelain or stainless steel top, as it may cause the glass to break. Real kosherization can be accomplished by holding a blowtorch over the glass until it is hot enough to singe a piece of newspaper upon contact with the glass. However, this may cause the glass to shatter and is not recommended.
As the area between the burners cannot practically be kashered, it would be wise to place a trivet on the open glass area so the pots can be transferred. Furthermore, in order to use a large pot that extends beyond the designated cooking area, one should place a metal disc approximately 1/8 of an inch thick onto the burner area in order to raise the Passover pots above the rest of the glass surface. (Caution: This disc should not extend beyond the designated cooking area.) This will also help in case a small pot boils over, sending a trickle of hot liquid that would serve as a connector from the Passover pot to the non-Passover stovetop. (Note: Cooking efficiency may be compromised when using a metal disc.)
For gas stovetops with a glass surface, one may kasher the grates by putting them into the oven with a libbun kal (550°F for forty minutes). In most such models, the grates cover the entire top of the stove and there should be no problem adjusting pots on the stovetop. Food which falls through the grates and touches the glass surface should not be used.
For those models where the grates do not cover the entire cooktop surface, it would be wise to place a trivet onto the open glass area so that pots may be transfered.No food or pots may come into direct contact with the non-kashered glass surface.
Some gas cooktops have an electric warming area on the glasstop. In order to kasher this area would have to become red hot when turned on. Many of these warming areas do not become hot enough for kashering and may not be used on Pesach.
Other inserts, such as griddles, which come into direct contact with food are treated the same as broiler pans. Therefore, they would also require application of direct heat until the surface glows red. If not, the insert should be cleaned and not used during Pesach.
Barbeque Grills – A grill cannot be kashered by just turning on the gas or electricity. Since food is roasted directly on the grill, it must be heated to a glow in order to be used. This can be done either by using a blowtorch (which should only be done by qualified and experienced individuals) or by sandwiching the grates between the charcoal briquettes and setting them on fire. An alternate method is to replace the grates of the grill. The part of the grill cavity which is level with the grate must also be kashered by heating it to a glow. This is due to the likelihood of food having touched that area during barbequeing. The empty gas grill cavity must be kashered by cleaning, closing the hood and setting it to the highest setting for forty minutes. In the case of a regular grill, the cavity should be filled with charcoal briquettes which should be set on fire.
Other inserts, such as griddles, which come into direct contact with food are treated the same as a grill. Therefore, they would also require application of direct heat until the surface glows red. If not, the insert should be cleaned and not used during Pesach. If the grill has side burners, they should be treated like cooktop grates, assuming no food has been placed directly on them.
Warming Drawers – Warming drawers cannot be kashered because the heat setting does not become high enough to constitute libbun. The warming drawer should be cleaned, sealed, and not used during Pesach.
Oven Hoods and Exhaust Fans – Hoods and exhaust fan filters should be cleaned and free of any food residue.
Microwaves – When microwaves are used, they do not necessarily absorb chometz. The microwave should be tested to see if the walls become hot during use. To do this, one should cook an open potato in the microwave until it has been steaming for a few minutes. Immediately after the potato has been cooked,one should place a hand on the ceiling of the microwave to see if it has become too hot to touch. If one cannot hold a hand there for fifteen seconds, we assume that the microwave has absorbed chometz. If this is the case, the microwave should be cleaned and sealed for Pesach. If it has not absorbed chometz (i.e., one can hold a hand there for fifteen seconds), the microwave itself needs only to be cleaned well. It is recommended to wait twenty-four hours before using the microwave for Pesach. The turn table should be replaced because it has come into contact with hot food and would not pass the hand test. One may replace the turn table with a ¼” Styrofoam board.
Microwave ovens that have a convection or browning feature must be kashered using the convection and/or browning mode. The kashering method used would be libbun kal. The convection microwave should first be cleaned well. If the fan area cannot be properly cleaned, it should be sprayed with a caustic cleaner, e.g. Easy Off, with the fan on, and rinsed off before kashering. One should then test the convection microwave to see if it reaches the required heat for libbun kal by putting it on its highest setting for forty minutes. A piece of paper should then be held against the interior wall to see if it gets singed.1 If the paper is singed, the convection microwave has been heated sufficiently for libbun kal and can be considered kashered. Many models fail the test, because their settings do not allow the microwave to become hot enough for kashering. If this is the case, the microwave should be cleaned, sealed, and not used during Pesach.
HAGOLA (Note: Follow these steps carefully)
Metal utensils i.e. stainless steel, cast iron, aluminum, etc. that have been used for cooking, serving or eating hot chometz may be kashered. This may be done by cleaning the utensils thoroughly and waiting 24 hours before immersing them, one by one, into a kosher for Pesach pot of heated water. The water should be heated, and a rolling boil should be maintained when the vessel is immersed.
The metal utensil or vessel should be submerged into the boiling water for about fifteen seconds. The utensils undergoing the kashering process may not touch each other. In other words, if a set of flatware is being kashered for Pesach, one cannot take all the knives, forks and spoons and put them into the boiling water together. They should be placed into the boiling water separately. A special kashering tip involves loosely tying the pieces of silverware to a string, leaving three inches between each piece, and immersing the string of silverware slowly, making sure the water keeps boiling. The process is finalized by rinsing the kashered items in cold water. If tongs are used to grip the utensil, the utensil will have to be immersed a second time with the tongs in a different position so that the boiling water will touch the initially gripped area. Unlike tevilas keilim, the entire utensil does not have to be immersed in the boiling water at once; it may be done in parts.
A non-kosher for Pesach pot may also be used for the purpose of kashering. It is the custom to make the pot kosher for Pesach before using it for kashering. This can be accomplished by cleaning the pot, both inside and out and leaving it dormant for 24 hours. The pot should then be completely filled with water, and brought to a rolling boil. Using a pair of tongs, one should throw a hot stone or brick into a pot that has been heated on another burner. The hot rock will cause the water to bubble more furiously and run over the top ridge of the pot on all sides at one time. (One should use caution, as the hot water may spray in all directions.) The kashering process is finalized by rinsing the pot in cold water. The pot may now be refilled, brought to a boil and used to kasher the chometz utensils.
Extra Bonus: After the Pesach kashering process has taken place, the status of these newly kashered utensils may be changed from milchig to fleishig, vice versa or pareve.
Stainless steel sinks can be kashered using the following method: Clean the sink thoroughly. Hot water should not be used or poured in the sink for 24 hours prior to kashering. It is recommended that the hot shut-off valve under the sink be turned off 24 hours before kashering. Dry the sink before kashering. Kashering is accomplished by pouring boiling hot water from a Pesach kettle/pot over every part of the stainless steel sink. Tip: If a roasting pan is filled and heated, the pouring surface is much wider than a kettle spout. It is not sufficient to pour water on one spot and let it run down the sink. The poured water must touch every part of the sink, including the drain and the spout of the water faucet. It is likely that the kashering kettle will need to be refilled a few times before kashering can be completed. After kashering, the sink should be rinsed with cold water. If hot water was used in the sink accidentally during the 24 hour dormant period, and there is not enough time before Pesach to leave the sink dormant for an additional 24 hours, a shaila should be asked.
China sinks cannot be kashered at all. These sinks should be cleaned, not used for 24 hours, and completely lined with contact paper or foil. The dishes that are to be washed should not be placed directly into the sink. They must be washed in a Pesach dish pan which sits on a Pesach rack. It is necessary to have separate dish pans and racks for milchig and fleishig dishes.
Porcelain, Corian or Granite composite sinks should also be considered similar to a china sink, since there is a controversy as to whether these materials can be kashered. Granite composite is a material fashioned from granite and plastic. Most sinks that look like granite are actually granite composite.
Countertops – Silestone, Porcelain Enamel, Corian, and Plastic/Formica and Granite Composite countertops cannot be kashered. They should be cleaned and covered. To place hot food and utensils on these countertops, cardboard or thick pads must be used to cover the counter. Corian is also a form of plastic that cannot be kashered. However, since the chometz penetrates only a thin layer of the counter, it can be sanded down to take off a layer of Corian (the thickness of a piece of paper). It then is considered kosher for Pesach. However, only a qualified contractor should attempt this procedure. Pure Granite (not granite composite), Marble, Stainless Steel, or Metal may be kashered through eruy roschim. Wood may also be kashered through eruy roschim if it has a smooth surface.
It’s important to note that where libbun kal helps, certainly libbun gamur is good; where hagola helps, surely libbun kal is good; where eruy helps, certainly hagola and libbun help.