Shabbat Parashat Ki Tisa| 5763
Ask the Rabbi
Question:Pursuant to your recent discussion on hatmana (insulating food) before Shabbat, is it permitted to put a "cooking bag" inside the chulent pot to cook rice or the like separate from the rest of the chulent?
Answer: As we mentioned, hatmana is forbidden even before Shabbat in a medium where energy is being added to the system (mosif hevel). Thus, if placing the cooking bag inside the chulent is considered hatmana, it will be forbidden. However, usually there is either no issue of hatmana or it can be easily avoided.
Firstly, it should be clear that cooking one food directly in another is not hatmana. The issue of hatmana arises when a food is not being cooked with the rest of the pot but is placed in it to become or remain hot, as a separate unit. Even this is only a problem when it is separated from the rest of the food by a utensil or at least a significant covering (Shmirat Shabbat K'hilachta, 1:72).
Cooking by putting cooking bags in boiling water in a pot is considered a manner of cooking, not hatmana, and is permitted (based on Minchat Yitzchak VIII: 17). If one intends to have the foods’ tastes interact by heating them together, even if they were previously cooked (i.e. matza balls in soup), this is considered cooking together and permitted. The fact that they are in a bag is not a problem, especially if that is done to prevent the food from falling apart or dispersing. Using a porous bag or making holes in the bag are signs of the desire to have the foods interact (Shmirat Shabbat K’hilchata 42:63 and footnote 242).
Even when none of these criteria are met, we pasken that hatmana applies only when the food is insulated on all sides (Rama 253:1). Therefore, one may warm a securely wrapped kugel by placing it before Shabbat in the chulent pot if a reasonable portion of the kugel protrudes above the surface of the chulent
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