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Shabbat Parashat Vayikra | 5770
Ask the Rabbi: Stovetop Grates for Pesach
Question: How does one prepare stovetop grates for Pesach use?
Answer: As is common for Pesach, the halacha is particularly strict on this matter, and the practice of many is more stringent than the classical sources indicate.
During the regular year, the almost universal practice is to use the same stovetop grates without even cleaning them between milchig and fleishig use. This surprising leniency is based on one or more of the following possibilities. 1) Even if the grates have absorbed taste from spilled milk and meat (and are thus treif), there is no transfer from the grates to the pots that sit on them. In general, there is no transfer from one utensil to another without food or liquid in between them (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 92:8). Although when there is spillage there is liquid in between the two, the Chavat Da’at (92:20) says that only the presence of significant liquid has an impact. This does not occur on stovetops, as excess liquid quickly falls down. 2) The ongoing use of the stove with its fire serves as a kashering between the different uses (see Hagalat Keilim (Cohen) 13:(85)). 3) That which falls on it is expected to be burnt up before it can affect the grate (based on a similar concept in Shulchan Aruch, YD 92:6; this is an extremely optimistic assumption in most cases).
We might expect that one could likewise use the same grates without problem on Pesach. Yet, the Rama (Orach Chayim 451:4) says that a chatzuva (tripod, which people used like our grates) requires libun for Pesach (the form of kashering that employs extreme dry heat). There are various attempts to explain the stringency on Pesach. One is that as opposed to year-long prohibitions where only a discernable influx of taste ruins food, on Pesach, even the smallest transfer of absorbed material renders the food not kosher for Pesach (Shulchan Aruch, OC 447:1). Furthermore, some claim that it is more likely that one will put matza directly on the grate, as opposed to milchig or fleishig during the year. However, the Rama’s source, the Mahari Weil (193), seems to justify this by the fact that chametz is a particularly severe prohibition and we are not used to staying away from it. Apparently, this is the real and only difference (see Hagalat Keilim ibid. at length).
Because this is a stringency, the Mishna Berura (451:34) says it is sufficient to do the easier form of libun, known as libun kal, a level of heat that most ovens are presumed to reach at their maximum heat within half an hour. He also says that if one put a pot on a non-kashered grate used during the year, it would not become chametzdic.
Many poskim say that one can choose between kashering the grates and cleaning them from any residue on the outside and then covering them (Hagalat Keilim 13:89). The suggested way of kashering is described by Rav Shimon Eider (Halachos of Pesach, pg. 178) as follows. One cleans the grates, then puts all of the burners on high for 15 minutes with a blech covering them so that they reach a very high temperature throughout. It is also possible to put them into an oven on high for around half an hour. If one puts them in a self-cleaning oven (if this is safe for them), then he covers every imaginable halachic base.
There should be no need to both kasher and cover the grates. (The stove top itself is harder to clean and questionable to kasher and is a different story. Most say to cover it, and we will leave the analysis for some other time.) However, our holy nation is at its most stringent mode on Pesach, and many fine Jews cover the grates with aluminum foil after kashering (Rav Sheinberg is among those who cites this as the standard practice). While we certainly don’t mandate this, we do not scoff at the idea either. If only from the perspective of time, it is likely worthwhile to purchase replacement grates for Pesach and spare ourselves of the significant time and work over many years of Pesach preparations.
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