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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:

So how can you serve meat with warm gravy for Shabbos lunch? You've got a few options:

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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