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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Cook on top of the stove, which heats the kitchen less than the oven.
- Cook meals in a single pot.
- Cook outside if you have the option.
- Skip traditional hot dishes, like chicken soup or cholent. A crockpot may be energy efficient but it does warm the kitchen significantly.
- Avoid cooking while the air conditioner is on, and keep hot food away from drafts.
Warming Up Food
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Move food outside for warming. If you have an accessible outdoor space, keep your hot plate or your crockpot out there.
- Close the kitchen door, if you have one, to keep heat from the rest of the house.
- (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.