Keep the Heat Out of Your Kitchen This Shabbat

Keeping the kitchen cool on Shabbat can be a challenge. Hot food has to be set up before Shabbat and kept warm, in a kitchen that may have seen a lot of cooking that day. And most people like to have warm food for Shabbat lunch too–most rabbis agree that it’s a halachic requirement. Here are some tips for keeping the kitchen cool over Shabbat. As a bonus, keeping the kitchen cool usually means saving on your energy bill.

Cooking:

  1. Cook early. Give your house a chance to cool off from all of the activity. But keep in mind that food spoils quickly in the heat. Get food into the refrigerator while it is still warm.
  2. Bake every few weeks, or don’t bake at all. It’s not worth turning on the oven for one cake. Watermelon or grapes make great dessert this time of year, or make cooked fruit, a crisp or pie in the microwave.
  3. Cook on top of the stove, which heats the kitchen less than the oven.
  4. Cook meals in a single pot.
  5. Cook outside if you have the option.
  6. Skip traditional hot dishes, like chicken soup or cholent. A crockpot may be energy efficient but it does warm the kitchen significantly.
  7. Avoid cooking while the air conditioner is on, and keep hot food away from drafts.

Warming Up Food

  1. Take advantage of “early Shabbat” (see below). Heat food as you normally would. Then turn the oven and burners off right before you light candles. Everything should still be quite hot by the time you eat.
  2. Use a timer. If you do use a hot plate, it doesn’t have to be on all night. Allow no more than an hour before meals to heat up the food.If you used the timer for Friday night, turn it off once you won’t be needing it again. This will prevent it turning on again late Shabbat afternoon. You can’t pull it out of the wall, but you can adjust the timer as long as the status stays the same: i.e. you can have it stay on or off for longer or or good. To turn off my timer for good I move the switch from the timer setting to the “0” or off setting. Even though the crockpot needs to be on all night, you can still set the timer to turn it off after lunch and then flip the switch as described above.
    Note: Not all rabbis permit this. If not, you can get a seven-day timer to accomplish the same thing.
  3. Insulate. Close pots well. Wrap food in towels or blankets, but beware of proximity to burners or hot plates. Use quilted covers for thermoses, and one of those newfangled decorated quilts made specifically to cover the food on the hot plate. (I want one of those.) For halachot see here.

More tips:

  1. Move food outside for warming. If you have an accessible outdoor space, keep your hot plate or your crockpot out there.
  2. Close the kitchen door, if you have one, to keep heat from the rest of the house.
  3. (Updated) Keep out the light . Light adds heat, so set timers carefully and adjust regularly as the seasons change. Switch to cooler fluorescent bulbs, and draw  shades during the sunny part of the day.

How do you change your cooking style in the summer? Please share in the comments section.

Note: An early Shabbat means accepting the Sabbath before sunset on Friday usually about an hour before regular candlelighting time. Candles cannot be lit that early, though, and the wife usually lights them shortly before the rest of the family comes home from the synagogue.

For details about “early Shabbat” check out the Torah Tidbits primer.

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Comments

  1. Mrs Belogski says:

    re timeswitches – not all opinions allow you to fiddle with them, even if they are off. I think this is one to check with your rabbi. I use a 7 day timer on my crockpot – it turns off after lunch on Shabbos and doesn’t come back on again. If I was ever organised enough to get another one, i would put it on my hotplate and then that wouldn’t come back on either!

    We still have soup and cholent, all through the (English)summer. Our concession to the hot weather is eating seuda shelishis outside.

  2. rachel in israel says:

    other halachic considerations:
    Early shabbat: you can light candles that early. Halachically if you are able to accept shabbat you are able to light candles. Not all opinions allow the wife and husband to not accept shabbat at the same time. So the wife and husband must accept shabbat at the same time in those cases. The earliest you can accept shabbat is plag mincha (correct me if I’m wrong).

    Second thing: insulating pots and pans completely may be a melacha, consult your LOR or favorite shabbat books for details on how to do it.

    I agree with you about the oven. I try not to use it too much or to use it all at once. If I have to bake then I’ll line up all the baking, first all the parve stuff and the chicken at the end. If I don’t bake that week I will make the chicken in the pressure cooker.

    The other thing that’s a life-saving idea is to have a “one-dish-meal” for friday night. It took me a while until I developed the recipe for all the side dishes and chicken to be baked at once in one dish.

  3. Early shabbat: you can light candles that early. Halachically if you are able to accept shabbat you are able to light candles. … The earliest you can accept shabbat is plag mincha (correct me if I’m wrong).
    Also what I was told.
    I didn’t know about being allowed to adjust the timer. But apparently not everyone agrees.

  4. IF we’re having cholent, we’ll put the crockpot in the un-airconditioned section of our basement. When Shabbat is expected to be really, really hot, though, I don’t make cholent.

  5. mominisrael says:

    I updated the post with the suggestion about the 7-day timer, and a link about “hatmana.” Wrapping pots is fine, as long as they are not replace to the source of heat. If they are on the heat, they may not be wrapped completely. I did not yet find a good link about the candles. Even if you light at the earliest possible time, plag hamincha, it still has less time to cool than when you light at least 18 minutes before sunset.

  6. Rational Person says:

    You blogged: warm food for Shabbat lunch too–most rabbis agree that it’s a halachic requirement

    Are you truly crazy? Or is it just the Rabbis?

    • mominisrael says:

      Rational Person: I missed this comment before. Jewish communities traditionally prepared food overnight and brought it to the communal oven. Not sure that answers your question.

  7. we don’t have soup or chulent in the summer, and we often have cold cuts, salads, and pickles for lunch.
    I was at one person’s house where he served chilled gazpacho on a hot shabbat.

    • mominisrael says:

      TC: I don’t make cholent, but we still have soup. I could skip it my kids won’t.

  8. ice cream!

  9. It’s too late to implement this idea for this year, but here’s something I did for the first time this spring. The last few cool fridays, I made large pots of chicken soup, and froze most of the broth in quart containers (none of us like soup veggies from the freezer). Now we can enjoy a bowl chicken soup on a friday night without heating up the kitchen all day.

    Also, I’m w/ triLcat. We eat lots of salads (and a minimal amount of hot food. Schnitzle and meatloaf taste fine at room temp, or warmed on a hot plate for a minimal amount of time. We also grill chicken, potatoes and veggies to keep the kitchen cool.

    Finally, if you are already heating up your oven to make desserts or kugels, make double and freeze some for another week.

    • mominisrael says:

      Rachel, thanks for sharing your ideas. My mother believed in serving kugel at room temperature. But I should add that room temperature in Israel is probably not what she had in mind.

  10. I have been experimenting with with not leaving a hot plate on since the hot weather has it. On Friday night, I do as you suggested–turn off the oven and burners right before I light candles. Everything is still fairly hot when we sit down to eat.

    For Shabbat lunch I made cold cut wraps with whole wheat wraps. Those were a hit. We’ve also had salmon and pasta and we have salads. You can heat food on top of the urn. I take off the cover and put a dish or two on it and then cover with a towel.

  11. Great post. Thank you.

    We make gazpacho throughout the summer together with 2 other cold soups. Very refreshing.

    Borsch
    2-3 beets, 2-3 potatoes (cut in half) 1 tbsp sugar, 1-2 tsp salt, 3-4 tbsp lemon juice. Boil beets and potatoes in a fairly large quantity of water until beets are done. Cool beets, grate and return to soup. Season with sugar, salt and lemon juice (adjust seasoning to meet your taste). Chill.

    Separately, chop hard-boiled eggs (1 per person), cucumbers, green onions, and grate radishes (optional). Combine and season with salt.

    To serve, pour soup into bowls and add some egg mixture. You can also add a tbsp of sour cream (dairy or parve).

    Okroshka (a Russian favorite)
    Chop boiled potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, cucumbers, green onions, and dill. Combine and season with salt. To serve, place some mixture in a bowl and pour buttermilk (revyon in Hebrew) over it.

    • mominisrael says:

      Leah, thanks so much for the recipe. Like I said I plan to publish the borsht one.

  12. So far, none of you is as frugal and heat avoidant as my mother. She once replaced her broken oven in May and did not realize until October that the new one was defective, since she turned it on so infrequently in the summer.

  13. I always cook in bulk, even in winter, to save time and effort as well as electricity. I always make several potato kugels at a time – it’s not double the work to make double or even treble the amount – and then I freeze them. Same with chicken soup. I make one giant pot every 2-3 weeks and freeze in family size containers. In summer I make fruit soup, a yekkish concoction. It’s basically a fruit compote but is eaten as the soup course rather than for dessert (though there’s no law it can’t be eaten twice in one meal:-) ).

    My mother makes it the “real” way: lots of cut up summer fruits (peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines), plus any squashy, nearly going-off fruit like apples or pears, a jar of morello pitted cherries, add water, cook for about 1/2 hour. Mush up the fruit after cooking and thicken slightly with cornflour if preferred. Seasoning is sugar/sweetener, and a dash of vanilla and/or cinammon. Delicious and refreshing!

  14. Mrs Belogski says:

    not sure about the health aspects of heating meatloaf particularly or any meat on hot plate for minimal time. we do gazpacho sometimes for seuda shelishit. serving suggestion: we were at fancy wedding on Sunday and they served gazpacho in a large square slanted side bowl, on a big oval plate with 4 shot glasses on the corners, containing croutons, chopped egg, mixed chopped yellow/red peppers and chopped cucumber/spring onions/green pepper. it was really stylish – and delicious!
    cholent in summer – my husband suggested it for the shul kiddush and people said – too hot , etc… When we did it, it all went in about 30 seconds!

  15. Who can forget camp chulent? (for those who went to camp) When it was my turn to work in the Moshava Ennismore kitchen on shabbat when I was a counselor, my hair stank of chulent onions until Motzei Shabbat when I could wash my hair. :/

    Annie, I make fruit soup your mother’s way and I love it, except I skip the cornflour and puree it. It makes a great sauce for ice cream too.

  16. I do the cooking late Thursday night (especially anything requiring long simmering like soup, or greenbeans in tomatoes and olive oil which is our favorite cooked vegetable) and early (between 0530 and 0730) Friday morning. By 8 it is just too hot and, as MiI pointed out, having the stove or oven on when the air conditioner is running is very inefficient.

    We do still like hot food, though, even in summer. There is still chicken soup (but not chulent) and a hot dish (some kind of kugel, or lasagna) even at seuda shlishit. But first course at Shabbat lunch will almost always be a fruit plate and there are more cold salads – chopped vegetables, beets, tehina, tabboule – in summer than we would have in winter (when we really don’t want much besides our chulent).

    During the week we find pizza to be an excellent option for a hot food but which does not require too much work or heat. The oven needs to be very hot, but for a very short time. It seems to us that a well insulated oven contributes less to heating the apartment than the open flame of the stove which we would need to cook pasta or eggs or anything like that. Pancakes can also be made in large batches early in the morning and reheated (in a toaster, doesn’t need stove or large oven) for lunch or whenever (if any are left after breakfast). Shabbat Shalom.

  17. Then turn the oven and burners off right before you light candles.
    I find that this even works in the winter, when I light candles as my husband is leaving for shul. I turn the oven up high for the last few minutes, and since we BA”H have a self-cleaning oven (i.e. it’s well-insulated), the food stays very hot for well over an hour after I turn it off.

    Shabbat Shalom!

  18. When I am using the oven I keep the kitchen shut off from other rooms that have air conditioning. Hot plates also really heat up a room and it is best to shut the kitchen doors if using them.

    I like to have one big cooking night where I make a lot of food to minimize oven time.

    But as for giving up warm foods – it wouldn’t fly in my family. Cold soup is practically unheard of for us unless it’s a dessert. One pot wonders and stovetop vs. oven are my summer solutions. I also have a smaller hot plat for shabbat in the summer. The salad to cooked food ration definitely goes up!

    • mominisrael says:

      Thanks, kosher bride. I really like your blog! I hope you’ll contribute both here and on CookingManager.Com. I forgot to mention closing the kitchen door. I don’t have one but I still meant to include it.

  19. B”H

    Thanks for the tips.

    I have always had tiny apts., so I avoid using a plata in the summer, especially when guests are in the living room.

    I either use a timer, or “gourmet sandwiches” and extra nice salads for lunch.

    ;-}

    • mominisrael says:

      Hi Ben-Yehudah,
      Thanks for your input. Small apartments make it hard to keep the heat away from the table.

  20. Great suggestions. Thank you! We are new olim and arrived in September to Maale Adumim. We have had some pretty hot weather though nothing compared to what I am told we can expect at the height of the summer. No door on our kitchen (rental apartment) but you have given me food for thought for the future. Our saving grace is that we have a mirpeset that gets an amazing breeze most evenings, so we have taken most meals out there.

    • mominisrael says:

      Bryna, welcome. We’ve had some days this month that compete with the hottest days of summer. Hope to see you around her some more.

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