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Ask the Rabbi...
What foods can and can't I reheat on Shabbos?
Can you cite the rule and its practical application concerning re-heating
foods (specifically meats with gravy, sauce) on Shabbat? I've eaten at
the homes of observant people who certainly did not serve dry meat. What
types of gravy/juices, sauce, if any, is permissible, and what is/are proper
methods of reheating? I am having people over this Shabbat and I want
to make sure I won't offend anyone with my turkey breast and brisket.
Frankly, I never really thought about this issue if I even knew about it,
until a friend mentioned that she wouldn't serve meatballs on Shabbat
because some of her guests would have an issue. She explained that its only
OK to serve meat in its own juice. But that would mean that if you sauté
onions and make gravy for a roast, that you can't re-heat it, of if you cook a
tangy sauce for a turkey, you can't re-heat it in the sauce... I at least
want to be aware of the rule.
The truth is that the intricacies of warming food comprise one of the most
difficult and complex aspects of Shabbos observance, so it is no
surprise that more than a few people are confused. Below is a brief and
hopefully simple outline of the rules and their applications. Sources are
not cited here; for a full discusion of all the issues, please see the Shabbos Kitchen class.
Here are the basic rules:
- It is generally forbidden to reheat any liquid on shabbos.
"Reheat" is defined as raising the temperature of a liquid above 110
degrees (F) or 43 degrees (C), as this is considered to be cooking the
One cannot warm a liquid to a temperature below this temperature lest one
come to warm above this temperature.
On top of a pot of food (or water) that is on top of a blech, if in
this location where it is impossible for the liquid to reach the
above temperature, it is permissible to reheat a liquid. In other words, you
can place a pot of liquid on top of a pot of food on the blech
provided that the liquid cannot possibly reach 110 degrees in this
Liquids can be returned to a blech provided that one follows all the
rules of chazara (which perhaps I'll write up at a later time).
Solids can be reheated on top of another food that is on the flame. For
example, you can warm your challah on top of your cholent pot. However,
you cannot completely enclose the solid in an insulating covering while
doing so. So you can wrap your challah in foil, but leave the end out.
(This is sufficient for Ashkenazic Jews; Sephardim are
stricter about not covering the challah.)
Whether or not you can reheat solids on a hotplate is the subject of much
debate. Consult with your rabbi.
It is permissible to reheat a solid in spite of the fact that it contains
some liquid which will come out when heated. For instance, meat that has
absorbed some gravy and has some congealed gravy and fat on it is considered
a "solid" for reheating purposes, provided that it is very much meat with
just a little congealed gravy clinging to it. Similarly, an apple pie could
be warmed although some of the filling will ooze a bit. This is the basic
rule for most Ashkenazim; however, some Ashkenazim are strict
and require the food to be completely dry, so check with your rabbi to be
sure. Sephardim have some additional leniencies that may allow the
food to merely be mostly solid; Sephardim should consult with a rabbi
to determine the appropriate halacha.
So how can you serve meat with warm gravy for Shabbos lunch? You've got a few options:
Make lots of gravy and just leave it on a blech with a very low heat
from Friday night until Shabbos lunch. I suggest adding extra water
before Shabbos so that it doesn't dry out. You cannot add water on
Shabbos, even if the water you are adding is hot. (Note that there
are some potential leniencies in this regard; consult with your rabbi.)
Do the same thing, but put the meat in there too. This is like a
cholent. Like a cholent, you can't mix it, take the lid on and
off, add water, etc. on Shabbos, so make sure that it has enough
water before Shabbos that it won't dry out.
Note that you can reheat the meat separately on Shabbos. If you kept
the gravy warm from before Shabbos then take the gravy off the flame
and transfer it to another pot or serving tray. Add in the separately heated
meat and serve it just like you normally would. You cannot return the uneaten
meat and gravy to the blech.
My wife and I have served delicious turkey like this. Before Shabbos, I
cut up the turkey into eighths or so, debone the pieces, and put them all into
a large pot. Then I pour all the gravy and drippings from the roasting pan on
top. We leave that in the oven on a low temperature. For Shabbos lunch,
we take it out, carve it up, and serve turkey with hot gravy. Delicious!
Please take heed... the rules of cooking and warming are among the most
complicated laws of Shabbos, and this brief summary is much more like
an introduction to the preface than an overview. (To give an idea of the
complexity, my rabbinical studies included the equivalent of an entire
semester dedicated just to these rules.) So ask your rabbi to clarify for you!
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