Kosher 101

Kosher 101

Kosher is a Hebrew word meaning “fit”. The Torah lays down guidelines for what’s fit – kosher, for a Jew to eat – and what’s not. Kosher is divided into three categories: Meat, dairy and pareve.



All meat and fowl and their by-products, such as bones, soup or gravy are classified as meat. In order for items to be designated as kosher meat, they must meet the following requirements:


Kosher meat must come from an animal that chews its cud and has split hooves. (Cows, sheep and goats are kosher; rabbits, kangaroos, lions, tigers and fox are not).


Kosher fowl are the domesticated species of chickens, Cornish hens, ducks, geese and turkeys. The Torah names the species of fowl that are forbidden, including all predatory and scavenger birds.


Animal and fowl must be slaughtered with precision and examined by a skilled shochet (ritual slaughterer), a G-d fearing individual extensively trained in the rituals kosher of slaughtering. All utensils used in slaughtering, cleaning, preparing and packaging must be kosher.


Not all parts of kosher animals are permitted to be eaten. The permissible portions , which is the front half of the animal and fowl therefore must be properly koshered before cooking.


Koshering is the process by which the blood is removed from the flesh of meat and fowl before it is prepared for eating. The koshering process, known as melichah (salting), entails the following steps: washing or rinsing off the meat; soaking it in water for a half hour; salting it for an hour; and rinsing it very well three times.



All foods derived from or containing, milk are classified as dairy, including milk, butter, yogurt and all cheese – hard, soft and cream.

Dairy products must meet the following criteria in order to be certified kosher:


They must come from a kosher animal.

All ingredients must be kosher and free of meat derivatives. They must also be produced, processed and packaged on kosher equipment.


Cholov Yisroel (literally Jewish milk) dairy products mean that a Jew was present from the milking of the cow until the supervision of the bottling of the milk or the packing of the Dairy product.


MK-Dairy means that the dairy products are kosher but not necessarily constantly supervised and are NOT Cholov Yisrael.



Kosher fish must have fins and scales. The scales must be visible to the naked eye and must be easy to remove from the skin of the fish, either by hand or with an instrument.


If the scales can be only be removed after soaking the fish in scalding water, there are differing views as to whether the fish is considered kosher. Sturgeon is one such fish, and, in practice, it is not considered kosher.


If a fish is not completely covered in scales – it only has several scales – it is still considered kosher.



Foods that have a neutral status are pareve. This means that they contain no meat or dairy derivatives, and have not been cooked or combined with any meat or dairy foods. Common pareve foods are eggs, fish, fruit, vegetables, grains, unprocessed juices, pasta, soft drinks, coffee and tea and many candies and snacks. The pareve status of a processed food must be indicated on the product.

The following are the main concerns of pareve foods:

  1. Pareve foods lose this status when cooked or processed on equipment where meat or dairy foods have been processed.
  2. Certain fruits, vegetables and grains must be cleaned and checked for the presence of small insects and larvae, which are not kosher.
  3. Eggs must come from kosher animals and should be checked for the presence of blood spots.


Cooking on Meat or Dairy Equipment

The implication simply means that the Pareve food may no longer be eaten with dairy if it is been cooked in an oven used for meat, for example, and vice versa. While one does not have to wait for a certain time period after eating a cooked pareve food before having meat or dairy, it is important to eat something in between to cleanse the mouth.


Cleaning and Inspecting Fruits and Vegetables 

While the FDA (Food and Drug Association) allows a certain bug-to-produce ratio, this is much more than what Jewish Law allows. Thus, Kosher-certifying organizations like the MK have experts on Hilchot Tolaim, laws of insects. These experts inspect produce, both local and imported, at the beginning and throughout each season, and then make a decision whether the fruit or vegetable has been infested. In this event, the MK sends warnings to members of the community, specifying which produce and sometimes from which source cannot be consumed. We also prescribe various washing techniques.

For a full list of accepted fruits and vegetables and how to clean them, click here.

Wine: A special rule governs the production of wine. Even if all the ingredients in wine are of kosher origin, it is kosher only if production was done exclusively by Torah-observant Jews.

Glossary of Hebrew Terms

Basari (Hebrew), Fleishig (Yiddish): A food that contains meat or any animal or fowl by-products; all meat must come from kosher animals and fowl

Chalavi (Hebrew), Milchig (Yiddish): A food that is or contains dairy products; any milk must come from a Kosher animal

Chalav Yisrael: Dairy products that contain milk that has been under produced under constant rabbinical supervision from milking through packaging, ensuring that no milk from a non-Kosher animal has been added

Chametz: Any foods that contain fermented-grain products, which are not kosher only during the eight days of Passover

Kosher: Fit or proper, in terms of Kashruth meaning fit to digest

Hechsher: Certification on processed or previously prepared foods proving the kosher status has been maintained under rabbinic supervision 

Mashgiach: A Jewish supervisor with a strong knowledge of Kashruth, who oversees the processing or preparation of food in a restaurant or business. 

Pareve: A food that has the neutral status of neither a meat nor dairy product

Pesach: Passover; the eight day festival (seven days when living in Israel) where no fermented-grain products are permitted for consumption.  

Shechita: the laws governing the ritual slaughter of animals and poultry; this must be performed by a Shochet

Shochet: Torah-observant Jew who has received rabbinic ordination specializing in the laws of Shechita

Shulchan Aruch: Codified rabbinic interpretation with a detailed explanation of the laws of Kashruth, Sabbath, Holy Days, etc. 

Treyf: Not Kosher, therefore not permitted for ingestion to any Jew


  • When boiling eggs, you need to boil at least three at a time. This is so that if one egg has blood in, it would still be considered Kosher when cooked with another two, as the majority of eggs had no blood.
  • Wine must be made by Jews for it to be Kosher. This comes from the fact that wine was often used in pagan ceremonies and was sanctified during the preparation process.
  • Liver is not made kosher by soaking and salting like other meats, because it contains so much blood. Other meat is soaked and salted, but liver can only be made kosher if (broiled) grilled, so that the excess blood can drip out of it.
  • China is a big producer of kosher ingredients and finished products.
  • There are about 1500 kosher food certifying bodies in the world, the majority of which are headquartered in the U.S.
  • Food coloring and food made with coloring like maraschino cherries have to be certified Kosher as some may be made with carmine, which is a red dye made from a certain beetle and since we are forbidden to eat insects, this would render the coloring not Kosher.
  • An animal that dies by natural means, or is killed by another animal or a hunter, may not be eaten.  Meat from a sick animal may not be eaten.
  • No amphibians or reptiles may be eaten. Examples of these are frogs.
  • From the time of slaughter, kosher meat and poultry must be properly supervised until it reaches the consumer. A metal tag called a plumba, bearing the kosher symbol is often clamped on the meat or fowl to serve as an identifying seal of supervision. Alternatively, the meat or fowl is packed in tamperproof packaging with the kosher logo prominently displayed.
  • All fillings, cremes, and fudge bases must be certified kosher because they may contain fats, emulsifiers, gelatin stabilizers and flavors.
  • There is a mistaken notion that natural products are inherently kosher. In fact, all non-kosher food items are natural, and therefore natural has no bearing on the kosher status. This applies to ‘natural’ or ‘pure’ health food products.
Click here to Chat
Hello there! 🙂

Welcome to MK Kosher

Chat to us directly on WhatsApp for instant assistance.