Shabbat Parashat Acharei Mot Kedoshim 5772
Ask the Rabbi: Use of Ladles on ShabbatRav Daniel Mann
Question: There are opinions that a ladle that was put into a pot of soup becomes a kli rishon. Is this true only for a metal ladle? What if the ladle is put into the soup only after it was taken off the heat source? At what point does the pot or ladle stop being a kli rishon? May one put the ladle back into the soup without wiping it off?
Answer: Let us start with a review of the terminology and basic halachot. A pot sitting on the fire is called a kli rishon she’al gabei ha’eish. (In general, one would not put a ladle into a pot on the flame because of the problems of stirring- see Mishna Berura 318:117). When taken off the fire, it is called a kli rishon, which is assumed to be capable of cooking, and keeps that status as long as the food is yad soledet bo, which may be as low as 45° C = 113° F (Rav S.Z. Auerbach). The next utensil the hot food is transferred into is a kli sheni. While the gemara (Shabbat 40b) says it is not capable of cooking, many say there are (perhaps, many) foods that are easily cooked (see Mishna Berura 318:39).
The difference between a kli rishon and a kli sheni is that the former’s walls start off hot and keep its contents hot for longer, whereas the latter’s walls start off cold and speed the cooling off of its contents. There are some borderline cases where it is difficult to decide if something is a kli rishon or a kli sheni. One is your question, where the kli in which the food is now found also was itself in a kli rishon, becoming hot not only from the food within it but from heat from the outside. There is a machloket on the matter (see the Taz, Yoreh Deah 92:30), and it is generally viewed as an unresolved issue to be treated as a safek (doubt). The Chazon Ish (OC 122:3) claims that if the ladle is in a pot while it was on the fire, it turns into a kli rishon. The consensus is that if the ladle sits in the kli rishon for a long time, it takes on halachic characteristics of a kli rishon (Mishna Berura 318:87). How long this takes is arguably affected by how hot the soup is and the heat conductivity of the material. However, in general terms, the poskim do not distinguish in this matter based on what material the ladle is made of. It is only in tangentially related contexts that a possible distinction between metal and other materials exist (see Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 94:1).
How we practically deal with the safek about the status of a ladle depends on what other factors are involved, and we will mention a few, according to the Mishna Berura. One should not pour from the ladle onto something that is forbidden to be cooked (318:87). Even according to the Rama (OC 318:5) that one may not put bread into a kli sheni, he may put bread into a bowl into which soup was ladled in. Acharonim explain that the leniency in this case is due to the fact that many do not agree that it is forbidden to cook bread that is already baked (see Orchot Shabbat 1:(163)). Another case where the Mishna Berura (253:84) is lenient regarding a ladle is pouring from a ladle onto the leftover soup in a bowl that already cooled down totally, and thus is usually forbidden to reheat. (This is the case regarding pouring doubles of soup into leftovers of firsts.) The apparent logic there is that since it is not unanimously agreed that it is forbidden to reheat a liquid that was cooked and cooled off (see Rama, OC 318:15), we can be lenient to treat the ladle as a kli sheini.
If one wants to avoid the ladle becoming a kli rishon by consensus, he should leave it out of the soup pot. However, then there is an issue of returning the ladle to the soup when one wants doubles without first cleaning off the liquid residue. There are indeed some who recommend cleaning it off before putting it back in (Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 1:40). However, we feel that (at least, Ashkenazim) may rely on the Igrot Moshe (OC IV, 74:19) that insignificant quantities of already cooked liquid may be heated up again.
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