It’s one thing to keep kosher; it’s quite another thing to stay kosher! Kashrus mix-ups are inevitable, even in the most scrupulous of kosher homes. So, when in doubt about a mix-up, don’t feel bad or embarrassed about asking a shaila (question in Jewish Law) of a Rav (Orthodox rabbi) or kashrus organization.
Three things are of utmost importance when it comes to keeping kosher, and staying kosher: Firstly, being able to recognize the common kitchen scenarios that may cause kashrus challenges; secondly, knowing how to handle a potentially problematic kashrus situation, until you are able to contact a Rav; and, thirdly, knowing which vital details are necessary to communicate when asking your shaila, so it can be answered properly.
Whether you are a kosher novice or you have been keeping kosher your entire life, not everyone is aware of when and how to ask a shaila. In addition, it is important to keep in mind that each new situation requires the asking of a new shaila, and that one should not draw one’s own conclusion based on an answer to a previously asked question. Your Rav will let you know if your food can be saved and eaten, and if your cooking utensils, dishes, and silverware are kasherable.
Examples of situations that would warrant asking a shaila are: if you stirred a pot of beef stew with a milchig (dairy) spoon; if you splashed a drop of milk into chicken soup; if you cut cheese with a fleishig (meat) knife, etc. It is important that you ask your shaila as soon as possible, so as not to forget the details. Until you are able to contact your Rav, or kashrus organization, and receive an answer to your shaila, you must set aside the utensils and/or the food in question. If you do rinse off the utensils in question, only do so with cold water; never with hot water.
What details would the kosher consumer need to relay to the Rav in such potentially compromising kosher kitchen situations?
1. The temperature of the food (or utensil) when the mix-up happened—hot , cold, or room temperature.
2. If the utensil in question was last used within 24 hours, prior to the mix-up.
3. If the amount of questionably kosher food was less than, or more than, 1/60 in ratio to the food with which it was inadvertently mixed up.
4. If the type of food involved was a charif (sharp food), such as garlic, onion, lemon, etc.
5. If the type of dish involved was fine china, stoneware, glass, etc.
6. If the type of cookware involved was stainless steel, enamel, plastic, metal, Teflon, etc.
7. If the mix-up occurred before or after the cooking process.
8. If the mix-up happened during cooking, frying, broiling, etc.
9. If the food in question was already eaten or discarded, and your question is only regarding the utensils, say so.