Ovens/Cooktops Pre-Purchase Advice

Updated 2021

When shopping for a new appliance, it is worth considering the different features each one offers and whether they meet your needs regarding Shabbos and Yom Tov use. Here are some suggestions and considerations to help you make the best decision for your needs.

Advice re: cooktops

  • Electric smoothtops may present a problem of kashering for Pesach. Check with your rav.
  • Electric cooktops may pose a problem with adjusting the temperature on Yom Tov.
  • Electronic ignition may pose a problem with initiating a flame on Yom Tov.
  • Some cooktops (gas or electric) have knobs that light up when the burner is turned on, and on some of these cooktops an illuminated ring displays on the knob itself. Some knobs are backlit with a soft glow to indicate an ‘On’ setting, and some knobs offer progressive illumination that adjusts to indicate the burner setting. These types of knobs pose a problem.
  • Additionally, be aware that some high-end cooktops offer a ‘simmer’ and ‘regular’ setting for each burner and that you cannot switch between these on Yom Tov. Some simmer burners also have indicator lights that are triggered when you switch to that mode. If you want to have burners that do both, you will need to leave on two burners, each one dedicated to a single setting.
  • Avoid electronic controls. After a power failure, these units will probably stay off.
  • Avoid induction cooktops. They work well but are not usable on Shabbos or Yom Tov.
  • When remodeling a kitchen with a separate gas cooktop, it is advisable to install it with a separate ‘kill’ switch to let you cut power to the appliance at will. Before Shabbos or Yom Tov, this switch should be turned off to allow you to transfer a pre-existing flame to light the burner without involving the electrical ignition.

Advice Re: Ovens

12-Hour Cutoff Feature

  • The oven should allow you to disable or override this feature for Shabbos or Yom Tov use.

Temperature Adjustment on Yom Tov

  • If you want to change the temperature of the oven during Yom Tov, the display readout should not change and no tones should be activated.
  • To adjust the temperature, you must either know when power (i.e., gas or electric) cycles to the oven or there must be a built-in delay (i.e., a grama).
  • Please note that not all indicator lights display when power is actually cycling to the oven. In some cases, they might indicate only that the oven is on.

Opening the Oven Door

  • Should not activate any tones or icons.
  • Should not activate or deactivate any heating elements. (Listen for relays clicking or note if a power indicator light goes on immediately).
  • If light in the oven cavity is activated by opening the door, you should be able to either loosen the bulb or leave on the light for the duration of Shabbos or Yom Tov by activating the ‘Light’ button on the display panel.

Timed Bake

  • If Timed Bake is desired (e.g., for Friday night or the first night of Yom Tov), check to make sure that no icons, tones or displays are canceled when the door is opened and that a buzzer does not need to be manually turned off. (Just remember: Once the Timed Bake goes off, the oven cannot be used again for the duration of Yom Tov.)

Advice Re: Warming Drawers

  • Warming drawers have the same issues as ovens (timed cut-off, temperature adjustment on Yom Tov, opening the door, Timed Bake) because they are thermostatically controlled. Many warming drawers cannot be set for temperatures below 120oF (yad soledes). Check with your rav for proper use of warming drawers on Shabbos.

General Recommendations for Ovens/Warming Drawers:

  • Simpler is better.
  • It is highly recommended that you download the Sabbath Mode information before purchasing any appliance and carefully review all the instructions. Make sure you understand the steps involved and determine if you are willing to follow them precisely before each Shabbos/Yom Tov. Note that some models are more complex than others. Be sure that you are comfortable with the instructions that accompany the model you are purchasing. Also note that many manufacturers no longer provide manuals with their product; they expect the consumer to access all the information online. It is vital that you do your homework before buying any appliance.
  • Before purchasing any cooking appliance, it is best to view the actual item in the store.
  • Gas is recommended over electric.
  • If a company advertises that its oven has a Sabbath Mode feature, make sure it includes more than the 12-hour cut-off override; otherwise, see potential problems above. Also, make sure there is a competent halachic authority behind the Sabbath Mode to endorse it. To verify that your product has a STAR-K certified Sabbath Mode, you can search for your model number in the appliance section of STAR-K’s website at www.star-k.org or call STAR-K office at 410-484-4110.
  • Avoid “slew controls” – i.e., use of an up/down arrow – to set the temperature. Stick to knobs or number pads.
  • Before using your new oven for the first time, be sure to wash the racks and interior of the oven thoroughly with warm water and soap to remove any oil residue.
  • If you are using an app on your smartphone to control your appliances, it is recommended that you turn off your smartphone before Shabbos/Yom Tov to preclude any communication between the appliance and phone.
  • Visit the STAR-K website at www.star-k.org for lists of oven products under STAR-K certification. See also list of STAR-K-certified appliance companies at the end of this section.

Advice Re: Dishwashers

  • When remodeling a kitchen with a new dishwasher, it is advisable to have it installed with a separate ‘kill’ switch to let you cut power to the appliance at will. Before Shabbos or Yom Tov, this switch should be turned off to allow you to open and close the dishwasher without triggering any lights or icons.

Advice Re: Refrigerators

Opening the Refrigerator/Freezer Door:

  • Should not cause circulation fans to go on/off. (Check to see if the fan runs with an open door. If it does not, press down door plunger switch and listen to detect if the fan goes on. Some models have two door plunger switches – one for the light and another for the fan motor.)
  • Should not activate any tones or digital readouts (e.g., door ajar icons, cabinet temperature and settings).
  • Should not affect defrost cycle. (Defrost cycle should not be dependent upon the number of times you open the door and how long you keep it open.)
  • Light in refrigerator cavity should be deactivated, either by unscrewing the bulb or taping down the light switch. Check to make sure there are no other lights (e.g., door lights) that are turned on when the door is opened. See CAUTION about disabling door switches below.

CAUTION: DISABLING DOOR SWITCHES

Taping or otherwise holding down the door plunger switch to avoid these problems will cause the refrigerator to operate less efficiently (the cavity temperature will be higher than expected). In hot, humid climates the compressor may run continuously, which may shorten its operating lifetime. Always remember to remove the tape or other hold-down device once Shabbos/Yom Tov ends.
Numerous models are now using magnetic door switches instead of the mechanical spring plunger switches. If you already own such a model, you may disable it by locating the switch with a strong magnet and then taping the magnet over it. The magnet must be flat enough to not interfere with the proper sealing of the door gasket when you close the fridge.
To locate the switch, check the outside top of the refrigerator. You may find either a plunger switch or a magnetic switch somewhere along the refrigerator’s inside frame, around the sides or at the top of the fridge.

Freezer “Whoosh” Sound: The Science of Air Density – Not an Issue

There are times when you may hear a “whoosh” sound when closing your freezer door. The reason for this sound has a simple scientific explanation. When the freezer door is opened, cold air escapes from the freezer and is replaced by warmer, lighter (i.e., less dense) air. When the door is closed, the warmer air trapped inside cools and becomes denser. The newly cooled air takes up less space than when it was warm and creates a vacuum inside the freezer. This vacuum then causes outside air to be sucked into the freezer through the door gasket to restore the equilibrium inside the freezer, creating the telltale “whooshing” sound.
This process does not present any halachic problems for Shabbos or Yom Tov.

General Recommendations for Refrigerators:

  • Simpler is better.
  • Test the unit at the store before purchasing.

Other Issues:

Automatic Ice Makers – Lift the hanger bar to an off position before Shabbos or Yom Tov to ensure that nothing is activated by removing ice.
Ice and Cold-Water Dispensers – Should not be used on Shabbos or Yom Tov because it directly turns on a valve and/or motor.
Motion Detectors – Problematic for Shabbos and Yom Tov because the refrigerator is illuminated when one approaches it.
Smart Technology – If you are using an app on your smartphone to control your refrigerator, it is recommended that you turn off your smartphone before Shabbos/YomTov to preclude any communication between the appliance and the phone.
Assisted or Automatic Door Openers – These can currently be found on the market and may involve electronic components that should not be used on Shabbos or Yom Tov. Test these features by unplugging the refrigerator to see if the opening-assist changes. Alternately, check to see if this feature can easily be deactivated.
Temperature and Open Door Alarms – May present Shabbos and Yom Tov issues. Check to see if they can be disabled.
Avoid Temperature Displays – These are located on the outside of the door. The display may change when the door is opened.