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Q&A: Cutting Chicken with a Dairy Knife

May 11, 2014

Question: I cut some cold, raw chicken with a knife that is usually used for dairy foods. What is the status of the chicken, and what is the status of the knife?

– Was the knife clean and not used within the past 24 hours?

Yes.

– Was the knife made of stainless steel?

Yes.

Answer: Unlike the metals with which our sages were familiar, stainless steel does not absorb tastes from the hot foods it contacts. Even more so for cold foods. The chicken is still kosher, and the knife should be washed with soap and hotwater, and can then be used for dairy.

Background: I came to this realization years ago while studying Yoreh Deah, but no American Rabbi I met would countenance such an idea, although recently Rabbi Dov Lior and Rabbi Bar Hayim have gone on the record with this novel yet obvious acknowledgment. R’ Schachter likes to tell the story of his experience in the chemistry lab at Yeshiva College with Dr. Samuel Soloveichik, the brother of the Rabbi Soloveichik. Of course, the lab used glass beakers and test tubes, and young R ’Shachter pointed out to Dr. Soloveichik that according to ashkenazic practice as espoused by the Rema, glass could very well absorb traces from the chemicals used one day and contaminate the results of experiments performed the next. Dr. Soloveichik repsonded that despite the ashkenazic practice, glass does not absorb anythig, and as long as it is cleaned properly, nothing remains from one trial to the next. Indeed, this was realized centuries ago as fact and is the reason why many Jews, espescially S’fardim and other who believe in the authority of scientific proof, like R’ Heinemann of the Star K, will use glassware for both meat and dairy with out kashering. The same should also be true for certain new materials we have developed in the last centuries.

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3 Comments
  1. Why do you ask if the knife was used in the past 24 hours if it is stainless steal and doesn’t take on the previous item?

    • The first thing I thought was per the usual halachic procedure: was the utensil in question a “ben Yom” i.e. used that day for something, as tastes absorbed longer than a day ago are considered as already spoiled and therefore less of a factor, and only right afterward did i remember to ask about the material.

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