What is Kosher Cooking?

Jewish cooking is world cooking. There are Jewish communities on every continent, and each community has its own unique regional cuisine. The thread that ties all of these diverse flavors together is the universal adherence to a series of Jewish dietary laws. These laws, known as “kashrut” (kahsh-root), are the Torah-based rules for keeping kosher.

The most well known law of kashrut, which you’ve probably heard of, prohibits the consumption of pork. However, there are many other laws involved in keeping a meal kosher, ranging from the type of meat served (no pork or shellfish) to how animals are slaughtered (kosher methods are considered more “humane”) to how food is prepared (as much blood as possible should be removed from meat prior to cooking) to what it’s served with (you cannot serve dairy with meat).

The degree to which a Jewish person will follow the laws of kashrut will often depend on their level of religious observance. Orthodox Jews follow the laws of kashrut very strictly, of course. They have special kosher kitchens, and they keep separate dishes and utensils—one set for dairy, one set for meat. Conservative and Reform Jews are generally less strict about the laws, and most modern Jews feel free to pick and choose what works for them. For instance, many Jews will stay away from pork products, but wouldn’t think twice about ordering a cheeseburger. Some Jews will keep kosher on the Sabbath or during the High Holidays, but the rest of the time, it’s shrimp cocktails and ham sandwiches. For a set of laws that are pretty exacting, most modern Jews treat kashrut with varying degrees of flexibly.

Having said that… keeping kosher, like other Jewish traditions and customs, endures. Many scholars believe that traditions like keeping kosher are very important, because they connect Jewish people to their sense of identity, their history, and their culture. Tradition has kept the spirit of Judaism alive, even in the darkest of times.

Need more information? Check out my Kosher Primer, which provides detailed information on the kosher cooking laws.

Want to learn more about the Passover kosher laws? You’ll be interested in these pages:

What is Passover?

What Foods are Kosher for Passover?

What are Chametz and Kitniyot?


Comments (14)Post a Comment

  1. I am not jewish but was raised in a predominately Jewish area in Southern California. I had a wonderful girlfriend that took me home many times and her mother taught me so many of the traditions. That was in the 50’s.
    I love reading your web site and learning more of the traditions and pronunciation of words.
    Thank you so much

  2. When I first began keeping kosher, I noticed that it was pushing me in a vegetarian direction. Even while eating meat I was eating much less of it. Finally, I threw up my hands and realized that in my remote, goyische area, if I could not find kosher meat, let alone properly prepared kosher meat, it was best to eliminate meat altogether. Most of the restrictions have to do with meat, after all! Skip the meat and skip the headaches. I am not crazy; vegetarianism is considered the ideal state in Judaism and the one that prevailed before the Flood, according to Jewish ideas of nonviolence and regard for life. Since I love dairy, and especially dairy desserts, much more than meat I’d rather have the dessert than the meat 9 times out of 10 anyway. And a diet of kosher fish, eggs, dairy and plant products is more environmentally friendly too!

    1. Hey Mark! I admire the choice you made, and I don’t think you’re crazy at all! I’m actually about 80% vegetarian for many of the reasons you stated. I was a vegetarian for about 7 years in high school/college, but found it difficult to keep my nutrition in check due to a combination of hypoglycemia and soy intolerance (it affects my hormones). So many of the vegetarian protein products have soy in them. I do, however, continue to eat a largely vegetarian diet (lots of legumes, rice, salads, fruits, Sephardic Mediterranean foods) and enjoy meat sparingly (usually for Shabbat and holidays), so I appreciate what you’re doing! :)

  3. Thanks Tori!! And I am not totally vegetarian, yet. I do eat kosher meat when I can get to it- usually, like you, on Shabbos or holidays, so “80% vegetarian” is a good way of putting it. And I totally relate to your dislike of soy! Soy gives me the willies, personally. LOL, I’ve heard it does weird things to men, so I occasionally eat tofu products deep-fried (which isn’t healthy anyway) but mostly, me and soy do not keep company, lol.

    Big hugs!

    1. I know this is an old comment so you probably won’t see my reply, but I couldn’t let this comment stand unanswered in case other people saw it–soy does not do “weird things” to men! This strange belief has taken hold, that soy is loaded with estrogen. In reality, all humans have both estrogen and testosterone in their bodies. People of all genders have been consuming soy for millennia–it is certainly more healthy than hormone- and antibiotic-ridden animal flesh, and is more humane as well. Unfortunately meat is equated with manliness in our culture, so many men are reluctant to consume other sources of protein (to the detriment of their health, unfortunately)!

  4. Just wanted to say how much I enjoy your blog. I came across it looking for Kasha recipes. absolutely loved the article on NY deli. just so happens my wife and I will be in NYC next weekend to do just that, eat deli foods, and enjoy the festivities of the season. we moved from NJ to TN 25 years ago and return a few times a year to dine.

  5. I was at the end of my rope and I searched for “messed up pie crust” and thank goodness your site came up! I have just finished making this recipe and I can already see the difference. Thank you so much for posting this with the great pictures so I could see what I was doing wrong. Too much fat (crisco).

  6. Thank you so much for explaining “Kosher Cooking”, all these years in the kitchen, I never knew what it really was, now I do.

  7. I love your site. I discovered it a couple of weeks ago, and I cannot get enough. I converted in 2006, and I consider myself a culinary anthropologist, as well, albeit in my spare time. I have really enjoyed reading about your conversion and your discovery of Judaism. I see myself in so much of what you write. Thank you for this beautiful site and all of your fantastic stories and recipes.

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