Chicago Rabbinical Council Top 10 Summer Questions


crcQ: We like to visit parks during the summer. Is there a way to kasher the public BBQ grills?

A: Yes, there is a way to kasher the grill, but it may not be so practical. Before you begin kashering, the barbecue pit and grates would have to be perfectly clean, which is likely not going to be easy to accomplish. Next, you’d have to put enough coals to cover (a) the entire floor/pit, (b) the underside of the grate, (c) the top of the grate, and (d) any contact points between the grate and pit. Lastly, you would light the coals and let them burn for about an hour, after which you could use the barbecue for kosher food.

Q: Do charcoal briquettes for BBQs need a hechsher?
A: In general, briquettes are actually made from wood mixed with ingredients that are not kosher-sensitive and do not require hashgachah. The flavor of the food cooked with these items is impacted by the type of wood used, and the manufacturers highlight this by identifying the source of the wood. Thus, the names “mesquite briquettes” or “applewood briquettes” refer to items made from the wood of mesquite or apple trees. However,  if the wood is pretreated, coated, soaked in wine, produced from barrels which previously held wine, or are labeled as containing some other kosher-sensitive ingredients they would  need a hechsher.

Q: We will be staying in a hotel during our vacation which has an in-room microwave. Can it be kashered?
A: Yes, a microwave can be kashered.  Remove the glass plate (which cannot be kashered). To kasher the appliance itself, the microwave must be thoroughly cleaned and not used for 24 hours.  Then, a cup of water should be boiled in the chamber for an extended amount of time, until the chamber fills with steam and the water overflows from the cup.  If a microwave has a metal grate, it should be kashered in a pot of hot water.

Q: Can one use the in-room coffee maker at a hotel?
A: If there is no dishwasher in the room, you may use the in-room coffee maker to make coffee.

Q: We will be travelling overseas for summer vacation. Is one allowed to consume the milk there if it is not certified?
A: Whether the milk falls under the category of “Chalav Stam” depends on the dairy regulations of the country you will be visiting. Further investigation would be required.

Q: I have noticed American products in foreign countries. While the American version is kosher certified, the foreign product does not have certification on the label. Is the unmarked product permitted?
A: Similar products can be made in different manufacturing facilities, and while one facility is certified, the other may not be.  Additionally, formulas can be tweaked to cater to local tastes. As such, we would not recommend such products without a hechsher on the label.

Q: Sometimes while driving I will get tired, especially on long family road trips. Can I buy coffee in a gas station that doesn’t serve any other food?
A: Yes, one may purchase unflavored, black coffee at such a service station.

Q: We are on vacation and purchased a portable BBQ grill.  There is no mikveh around, but we are staying near a lake. Can we use that lake to tovel the BBQ grate?
A: If you can confirm that the lake is natural and not man-made, you can use it to tovel your grate.

Q: We are thinking of traveling to the Chicago for vacation. How can we find out about Jewish Chicago and about restaurant standards in particular?
A: The cRc has a Visitor’s Guide to Chicago available both in print and online. Restaurant standards are on display on the cRc’s electronic disclosure statement in each restaurant.

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  1. A couple of questions:
    1) Re: buying unflavored black coffee – I thought unflavored coffee could be bought from treif establishments that serve other food items too (such as McDonald’s and treif Dunkin Donuts), and furthermore light coffee is also OK for those not makpid in cholv Yisroel. Is the CRC saying I’m incorrect, or is this for those who are machmir on cholov Yisroel?
    2) Man-made lakes aren’t OK for tevilas keilim?