Ceramic (Halogen) Oven


 Cooking equipment for the home and for institutional use has improved greatly in past years. One recent development that is quite popular is "ceramic" or "halogen" burners. These are high energy electric heaters molded into a transparent surface which comprises the burners. The ceramic top serves as the source of heat: the pot is placed inside a marked circle, an electric switch is turned on, and the ceramic surface heats up. Outside the hot circle, the ceramic remains fairly cool.

 What then is the problem? It is well known that older style gas or electric burners can be used for both meat and dairy pots, even if some of the food spills out of the pots now and then. The reason is that the metal frame gets white hot and is therefore cleaned. But a ceramic burner is not metal but rather a type of "stone," "earthenware," or glass, which is not halachically cleansed by the heat. Then, if the surface has absorbed some meat, for example, and some cereal with milk in it is spilled on it, doesn't this make the surface taref (unfit for use)? Worse yet, the surface might even transfer a taste of meat to the cereal, and vice verse.

 What can be done? The best thing to do is not to use these burners to cook milk that exists as a liquid. The "dairy" taste is not transferred by the pot itself but only by actual milk that has spilled. An alternative is to put a piece of aluminum foil underneath the pot, separate it from the buner. Tests have shown that this does not cause any problem with the burners, in spite of manufacturers' instructions forbidding use of aluminum pots because they might contaminate the cooking surface. Enjoy your meal!

 The same principles apply to Pesach. Since the surface is not metal, the normal operation of the burners cannot be considered a "continuous self cleaning," as for regular gas burners. The suggestion is therefore to clean the surface before Pesach, to pour boiling water over it straight from an electric urn, and to prepare small pieces of aluminum foil. Every time something is to be heated on a ceramic burner on Pesach, it should be covered with aluminum foil. From the halachic point of view, the foil separates the pot from the burner, and the cooked food can be considered kosher for Pesach without any hesitation.

 Since this subject is new and has not yet been fully discussed in modern Responsa, we are not willing to accept the responsibility for a more lenient approach and we therefore insist on a separation between the burner and the pot using aluminum foil. As noted above, another possibility is never to put a liquid on the burner but only solids (such as a knish that contains a dairy filling).

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