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Shabbat Parashat Matot Masei 5772

Ask the Rabbi: Using the Same Grill for Meat and Fish

by Rav Daniel Mann

The prohibition against eating fish and meat (including fowl - Pitchei Teshuva, Yoreh Deah 116:2) that are intermingled is based on a fear of danger and is governed by the rule that danger is harsher than ritual prohibitions (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 173:2). The gemara (Pesachim 76b) writes that fish which is roasted with meat is forbidden to eat because it is bad for one’s breath and for tzara’at (roughly, leprosy). This also applies to eating together fish and meat that were prepared separately (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 116:2). The Shulchan Aruch require cleaning one’s hands and mouth between the two (ibid., 3), whereas the Rama (ad loc.) rules that it suffices to just eat and drink something between the fish and meat.

Since the aforementioned opinion in the gemara assumes there is a significant transfer of matter from one food to another when roasted together, an opinion we don’t normally subscribe to, some authorities say that the problem exists only when the meat and fish are cooked together (Taz, Yoreh Deah 116:2).  There is also a question if gravy of one fell on another, and there is less than 1/60th of one of them, whether one can employ the halachic rule of bitul b’shishim.  The gemara (Chulin 111b) discusses whether fish that is placed hot on a meat plate can be eaten with milk. It seems to imply that it is not a problem to eat the fish cooked in a fleishig pot by itself. While some argue (see Taz, Yoreh Deah 95:3), the minhag is to allow cooking fish in a meat pot, whether for Ashkenazim (Badei Hashulchan 95:8) or Sephardim (Yalkut Yosef, Issur V’heter III, 87:85).

It would seem that one can be lenient in these and other related questions, as several major poskim point out that this danger is no longer prevalent (see Magen Avraham 173:1; Pitchei Teshuva, YD 116:3, in the name of Chatam Sofer; Aruch Hashulchan, YD 116:10).  It is perhaps for that reason that the Rambam doesn’t bring this halacha.  While we will not permit that which Chazal forbade, this does justify a tendency toward leniency (Chatam Sofer, ibid.). Others explain the Rambam’s omission based on the possibility that the gemara was talking about a specific type of fish, which is no longer prevalent (see Pitchei Teshuva, ibid.).

How does use of a grill for both meat and fish fit into the picture? Most people do not clean a grill as they do other food-preparation utensils, mainly because of the difficulty in doing so thoroughly. If so, the residue of the fish or meat will combine with the new food being grilled and make it forbidden (see Taz, ibid.). Even if the grill has not been used for more than 24 hours, the impact of time passed helps only for that which has been absorbed into the walls of the utensil. If we were sure that the residue is less than 1/60th of the food being grilled, we could be lenient, as above, but that it is not always the case. Indeed, we saw instructions on the Star-K website (focused on meat and milk) that indicate that one should double wrap fish that he wants to grill on a meat grill.

It seems, though, that this is more stringent than is necessary. First, since one is allowed to use a clean fleishig utensil for fish, a single separation (if done carefully) should be enough. Second, we would suggest the following system, if one prefers it to wrapping. Clean the grill reasonably well between meat and fish. In that way, what will remain will probably be burnt residue. As “charcoaled” remains are not halachically considered food in regard to a variety of halachot, it does not seem that we would have to assume that it is still considered meat or fish, respectively, in regard to our issue. In case a small amount of edible residue “survived” the previous grilling and the cleaning, we can assume it is batel b’shishim in the food. (One is not allowed to set up such a situation regarding non-kosher residue.)

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