Grillin’ With a ‘Bren’

Published Spring 2015

One of  Moshe Rabbeinu ’s first directives from the  Ribono Shel Olam  was that the Korban Pesach  had to be  tzli aish , no compromise – not boiled, not cooked, not raw – but grilled on the open flame.  This was  B’nei Yisroel ’s honest to goodness first barbecue! “ Maase Avos Siman L’Vanim .”  Grilling has taken on a life of its own.  As the weather warms, and once again  we are ready to enjoy the outdoors there are many dos and don’ts that the savvy kosher griller should keep in mind before throwing that delicious rib steak onto the coals.

Kashering  a Non-Kosher Grill

As unlikely as it sounds, there are times when the occasion arises where a non-kosher grill requires kosherization.  This method is impractical for a barbecue pit in the park. However, in the event that one needs to  kasher  a non-kosher grill, below are the steps necessary to satisfy  libbun gamur  requirements for  kashering  grates on which food is directly grilled.

Since food is grilled directly on the grill grate, it must be heated to a glow in order to be kashered .  This can be done either by using a blowtorch (which should be handled only 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 barbecuing.  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 and burn for 40 minutes, once all the lit charcoal has fully turned white.

If the grill top has side burners, they should be treated like cooktop grates and  kashered as one would a gas oven grate, burning it at a high temperature for 40 minutes.

Toveling  The Barbecue Grates

Just as the food we eat must meet certain  halachic  guidelines before it is consumed, the vessels and utensils,  keilim , that are used to prepare the food must also be vested with special holiness.  When these utensils have been previously owned by an  aino Yehudi , we have to immerse these  keilim  in a  mikvah  prior to their first-time use.

Unlike an oven grate, where the food does not come directly into contact with the grates, food does come in direct contact with a grill grate as the food is grilled on the actual grate.  Whether the grill is heated by gas or charcoal, the grates upon which the food is grilled require  tevila  in a  mikvah  before grilling.

This would also apply to the grate of a portable table grill that is a multiple-use, not single-use, grill.  However, disposable grills (single-use) that are discarded after they have been used and do not have a removable grate do not require  tevila .

Avoiding  Basar Shenisalem Min Ha’Ayin  (Leaving Food Unattended In The Park)

In addition to the strict  kashrus  preparation requirements that have to be followed to ensure that the food we eat is strictly kosher, additional safeguards were instituted to protect us from the potential risks of mixing, switching or preparing kosher meat/poultry for its non-kosher counterpart.  This protective measure requires one to continuously identify or trace the trail of the kosher meat or poultry.  Failing to do so jeopardizes the kashrus  acceptability of the meat which, if left unmarked, is deemed  basar shenisalem min ha’ayin , literally meat that is out of constant view of an observant Jew.

A piece of kosher meat/poultry (i.e., hot dog, hamburger patties, chicken wings, etc.) that has been left unattended without any distinct identification, in an area easily accessible to non-Jews, could conceivably be exchanged by an  aino Yehudi  for a similar variety of non-kosher meat/ poultry.  Therefore, such meat would be rendered  basar shenisalem min ha’ayin  and may not be used.

As we know, summer is prime time for grilling in the park.  One should exercise extra care, as food is often taken out of the original wrapper or packaging and is brought in unmarked containers.  Kosher grillers should take care not to become distracted (e.g., joining in a recreational activity, such as a baseball game), leaving marinating chicken wings unmarked and unattended on a picnic table or cooking on the grill.  One should always make sure that the meat or chicken is either sealed twice with two  simanim  or left in its original foolproof packaging.  Someone should be assigned the task of being the designated griller, keeping a watchful eye on the barbecue.

Marinades, Condiments and Fish

Always make sure that the meat marinade being used does not contain anchovies, to avoid the issue of grilling meat and fish together.  It goes without saying that if one is grilling fish, a separate grate should be purchased.

Good equipment, good ingredients, and careful preparation produce the right formula for success.  Undoubtedly, kosher grilling with a kosher ‘ bren ’ requires no less.

Happy Grillin’!