Machine Matzos: Timing is Everything!

Reviewed February 2023

Meticulous, scrupulous and passionate are terms that describe the fervor, zeal and seriousness displayed by the kosher consumer regarding Pesach kashrus in general, and Pesach matzohs in particular.  The kosher consumer has become more sophisticated and savvy with each passing year.  Kosher consumers are willing to pay top dollar for a quality kosher product.   Pesach matzohs are no exception.  Machine matzohs with fine mehadrin hechsherim are readily available on the supermarket shelf.  Are all machine matzohs created equal?

Regarding matzoh baking and the time parameters for chimutz, leavening, the Shulchan Aruch1states, “One should not leave the dough dormant, not for a moment.”  If the dough is constantly being worked the chimutz process is impeded.  However, the Shulchan Aruch continues, “If the dough is left dormant for a ‘mil’, the dough will rise and will become chometz.”

How long is a ‘mil’?2 The Bais Yosef posits that a mil is 18 minutes.  18 minutes has been the accepted chimutz standard for time immemorial.  After 18 minutes, the dormant dough becomes chometz.  However, not all halachic opinions agree with the 18 minute mil.  The Gra, Mogen Avrom3 and others maintain that a mil is 22.5 minutes. Although conventional wisdom, belief and advertisement have indicated that all the mehadrin machine matzohs are “18 minute matzohs”, are all 18 minute machine matzohs created equal?

When a hand matzoh bakery claims that their matzohs are “18 minute matzohs“, from which moment are the 18 minutes measured?  In a U.S. hand matzoh bakery, such as Tzelem Pupa, the 18 minute segments are measured from the time the water is poured onto the flour to knead the mixture into dough until the last matzoh reaches the oven.  From the time that the flour and water are mixed, the matzoh baking team has 18 minutes to knead, roll, perforate and bake the matzohs.   After 18 minutes, the entire operation stops and the cleaning process begins.  When this is finished, the next 18 minute segment commences. 

This is not the case with machine matzohs.  In regular machine matzoh production, matzohs continue to be produced all day long with intermittent cleaning a few times a day; the machines do not stop.  Mixing bowls in non-mehadrin bakeries are cleaned every 18 minutes.  

matzoh illustration

This is not the case with mehadrin machine matzohs.  Most mehadrin machine matzohs come from Eretz Yisroel.  ‘Mehadrin’ machine matzoh bakeries stop and clean after every segment.  However, they utilize both time estimations of a mil for their matzoh production.  Matzoh baking can be broken down into three parts:  kneading, rolling and baking, which overlap one another (see chart).  It takes approximately 1 ½ minutes for the first kneaded dough to reach the roller, and an additional 2 ½ minutes of rolling and sheeting for the first matzoh to reach the oven.  In total, it takes approximately 4 minutes for the first matzoh to reach the oven, and 30 seconds for the matzoh to be baked.  In a machine matzoh production, the matzohs are continuously kneaded, rolled and baked for an entire 22.5 minute segment – the Gra’s estimation of a mil.  However, each part of the 22.5 minute segment concludes within 18 minutes, allowing enough time for the last matzohs to be rolled and baked within 22.5 minutes (see chart).

In these bakeries, the first 4 minutes of kneading are not calculated in the “18 minute count” because the halachah states that chimutz (leavening) does not begin if the dough is constantly being worked.  This is what is happening during the kneading and rolling processes; therefore, the 18 minute segment begins when the initial matzoh starts baking.  The entire segment takes 22.5 minutes, which is in compliance with the 22.5 minute mil.  However, each part of the segment lasts no longer than 18 minutes; hence, the bakeries call their matzohs “18 minute matzohs”.  This holds true for both regular (peshutos) and shmura mehadrin machine matzohs.  The only 18 minute machine matzohs that are calculated from the time the flour and water are mixed, as is done in hand matzoh bakeries, are chabura matzohs.

What are chabura matzohs?  Many matzoh bakeries allow chaburos, individual groups, to rent time in a bakery to bake their own matzohs.  When chaburos bake matzohs, they start calculating the 18 minutes from the time that the flour and water are mixed.  Their clean up time is longer than the regular non-chabura productions.  Typically, a machine matzoh clean-up takes 10 minutes between segments; a chabura clean-up can take up to 45 minutes.  When machine matzohs (such as Hadar, B’tam, Jerusalem or Yehuda) advertise on the box “18 minute matzohs” they are using the 22.5 minute standard (unless the box states “chabura 18 minute matzohs” or Chabura brand 18 minute machine matzohs), indicating that it is an 18 minute segment from start to finish.

All of the mehadrin machine matzoh bakeries possess very reliable kosher supervision.  However, the kosher consumer should realize that not all mehadrin machine matzohs are created equal.

1. Orach Chaim 459:2.

2. O.C. 459:2; Mishnah Brurah 15.

3. O.C. 459:2; Biur Halacha ibid.