Surprise Du Jour

Published Summer 2015

TYPICAL RESTAURANT SCENE #1: “Ma, I’m going to grab something to eat before supper.”  “Fine, but don’t make yourself fleishig.  We’re having milchigs tonight.”  “No problem.  I’ll just get an order of fries from Kosher Burger!”
Was that a fatal supper flaw or not?  Possibly, but it is not uncommon for afleishig restaurant to cook their french fries or onion rings in the same fryer that is used for chicken.  If that is the case, the fries are 100% fleishig and the little boy is cooked!  One would have to wait the required amount of time before eating a dairy meal.[1]

This is not the only pareve pitfall for an unassuming kosher consumer. There are many other factors to be aware of when dining at a fleishig restaurant.  Just as a fryer can be used for both meat and pareve products, so can the knives that are used to cut salad vegetables.  Also, frying pans used between cutlets and vegetables, or ovens that cook any number of meat and pareve food items interchangeably, would cause the items served to be considered fleishig.[2]

Halacha does make certain allowances for pareve dishes prepared in meat or dairy utensils.  Those items would be considered in modern kashrusterms ME or DE; that is, a pareve item cooked using clean Meat Equipment or Dairy Equipment.  The status of these items is halachically different than a strictly pareve item cooking in a pareve vessel, or a pareve item cooked in a vessel containing meat or milk.  True, you wouldn’t have to wait six hours for french fries from a clean fleishig fryer free of any fleishig residue, but you would not be able to eat those fries with dairy items, such as pizza.[3] Similarly, it is not permitted to eat french fries from a dairy fryer with a meat hamburger or hot dog.[4]

As kosher restaurants do not routinely maintain segregated fryers, due to the constant preparation of assorted meat and pareve items, keeping a “pareve” fryer is nearly impossible.  Accidental splattering or interchanging of compatible equipment or cooking oil would make it very difficult to consider those fries pareve, even if there is a separate fryer.  Similarly, most fried Chinese noodles that are served as an appetizer in a kosher Chinese restaurant are cooked in the meat fryers and should be considered 100% fleishig.[5]


TYPICAL RESTAURANT SCENE #2: “What do you want to order?” “I don’t know, but I am not in the mood for meat.”  “Why don’t you try some grilled fish.  It’s delicious!”

Ordering fish in a meat restaurant is a popular alternative to meat or chicken, and can create other halachic pitfalls to the unaware kosher consumer.  It is common to offer fish entrées on a meat restaurant menu. Sushi bars have become very common in many fleishig establishments, as well.  One of the well known halachos regarding Jewish health concerns,sakana, stipulates that one is forbidden to eat fish and meat together.[6] Therefore, fish items in reliably kosher certified fleishig restaurants are cooked and prepared using separate utensils.  Furthermore, it is customary to drink a beverage and eat something pareve after the fish, such as a cracker or piece of challah, before eating any meat[7] if the fish was served as an appetizer.

When a popular entrée such as blackened salmon is ordered, it is common to request a fried side dish, such as rice, french fries or steamed vegetables that compliment the main dish.  Rice is typically cooked inpareve rice cookers.However, if these items are cooked in common keilim, they are considered to be fleishig and the consumer may unwittingly be violating the law of sakana, eating fish and “meat” together.[8]  It is the policy of STAR-K certified restaurants to note on the menu whether vegetables are pareve or are to be considered fleishig.

TYPICAL RESTAURANT SCENE #3: “Waiter, I am Sefardi. I am makpid(Beit Yosef) on Bishul Yisroel.”  “No problem.  We have a full-time mashgiach on the premises.”

Many of the items served in kosher restaurants or fast food eateries areoleh al shulchan melachim, i.e., fit to be served at a banquet or state dinner, and are subject to the rules of Bishul Akum.  As such, food items that are 100% kosher yet cooked by an aino Yehudi are forbidden for consumption.[9]  Often, restaurants employ cooks who are aino Yehudim.   The Shulchan Aruch suggests different methods for avoiding Bishul Akum.  According to the Rema,[10] the mashgiach should make sure that he/she turns on all the fires of any cooking appliance.  This includes the stove, burners, steamers and rice cookers ensuring that all ole al shulchan melachim items on the menu are Bishul Yisroel.  However, the Rema’s solution for  the fulfillment of Bishul Yisroel will not satisfy Bishul YisroelSafardi.  According to the mechaber Maron Bais Yosef, in order to satisfyBishul Yisroel the mashgiach would actually have to place the food in the lit oven or on the lit burner,[11] light the fire when the food is on the burner, or put the actual food into a hot oven. Therefore, while a restaurant might be in 100% halachic compliance and correctly advertises Bishul Yisroel, the food being served may not be permitted to a Sefardic consumer if the food was prepared according to Bishul Yisroel Ashkenazi.

Some kosher doughnut shops offer more than kosher doughnuts and coffee. They also serve muffins and croissants, eggs on a muffin, a popular breakfast menu item.  The halacha states that eggs are oleh al shulchan melachim and are subject to the laws of Bishul Akum.[12]  It goes without saying that even kosher certified doughnut shops do not have the luxury ofhashgacha temidis.  In order to avoid the prohibition of Bishul Akum, eggs are microwaved instead of conventional cooking.  Microwaving is not subject to the laws of Bishul Akum.[13] However, if the doughnut shop prepares the omelets on the grill, the laws of Bishul Akum would certainly apply.  If certification applies only to the doughnuts and coffee and does not cover the breakfast menu, an uninformed kosher consumer could inadvertently consume non-kosher eggs.[14]

TYPICAL RESTAURANT SCENE #4: “It is so nice to have the cousins together for this special evening.” “Yes.  It’s great to have an elegant kosher restaurant in town.”  “Do they serve wine?”  “They have a great selection!”

Many restaurants have different policies regarding mevushal wines.  Some fine dining restaurants offer mevushal and non-mevushal wines, with a frum waiter to pour them.  Other kashrus organizations permit only mevushal wines to be served.[15]  Some customers will order a whole bottle of non-mevushal wine for their party.  If some of the guests are aino Yehudim and pour their own wine, the wine becomes stam yayin and cannot be used since the wine was not mevushal.[16]


Do you think that kosher pizza shops or milchig restaurants don’t have surprises?
  Have you ever topped your pizza, lasagna or baked ziti with parmesan toppings?  Are you aware that the parmesan cheese topping is real grated hard cheese?  Since the cheese is aged over six months and can only be cut by grating, one has to wait six hours before eating anything fleishig.  Six hours milchig… you’ve got to be kidding![17]



[1] Either six hours, three hours or one hour – depending upon one’s minhag.

[2] Y.D. (Yoreh Deah) 89:3 Rema

[3] Y.D. 89:3 Rema.  See mechaber ibid.

[4] ibid. Note:  There has been much practical discussion with HaRav Moshe Heinemann, shlit”a, as to whether previously used fryers can be adequately cleaned with degreasers and boil outs.  This article is written with the assumption that the fryer can be cleaned.

<[5] ibid

[6] Y.D. 116:2; O.C. (Orach Chaim) 173:2.  Sefardim also consider fish and dairy a sakana, as well.

[7] O.C. 173 M.B. (Mishna BrurahShar Tzion 2.

[8] ibid

[9] Y.D. 113:1

[10] Y.D. 113:7 Rema

[11] ibid:7

[12] ibid:14

[13] ibid:13 Rema.  According to HaRav Moshe Heinemann, shlit”a, microwaving radiates the food item so the water or fat molecules vibrate quickly, creating rapid molecule motion that creates heat which reacts with the food.  Microwaving is not a method of conventional cooking and is not subject to the laws of Bishul Akum.

[14] Another common problem could arise from serving sandwiches.  If tuna fish is one of the items available, who is watching the tuna fish preparation?  Fish is an item requiring two simanim, distinct identifications.  Without proper hashgacha, tuna sandwiches would be prohibited; Y.D. 83:3 & 4.

[15] Y.D. 123:3

[16] Y.D. ibid:1 Rema

[17] Y.D. 89:1 Shach 15