by Lauren Busser The House Designers’ Editorial Director
Designing a kitchen based around certain dietary considerations can be a huge plus for a client. When it comes to Judaism these dietary laws, known as kashrut, define which foods are permitted in the home and how these foods must be stored and prepared. For example kashrut adherents keep meat and dairy separate so it is crucial that a kosher kitchen be equipped and organized well to accommodate this. Among the primary concerns are storage and appliances, since duplicates of everything from dishwashers to refrigerators might be needed.
The details of kashrut are extensive, but the laws all derive from a few fairly basic rules that deal with what can and cannot be eaten and how it is prepared. When it comes to kitchen design we are concerned with the separation of meat and dairy. There's a bit more detail to be found but generally, kashrut decrees that meat cannot be eaten with dairy and utensils, pots and pans that have come into contact with meat must not be used with dairy and vice-versa.
If you are planning a kosher kitchen the best source of information is Star-K Online which provides plenty of detail on how to build a kosher kitchen to your needed specifications.
Most kitchens have a sink, a refrigerator, and a stove installed in a specific pattern that allows for storage, prep, cooking and cleaning. In a kosher kitchen, you'll need two overlapping triangles for meat and dairy. That means double sinks and double stoves, and many prefer double dishwashers and refrigerators as well.
This means that kosher kitchens need more pre-planning than the average kitchen and since there won’t just be double appliances, but also silverware, dishes, bowls, pots, pans and glassware, storage is going to be one of your primary concerns. In some cases, not only are meat and dairy supposed to be stored separately but so are unleavened breads for Passover.
For countertops you need a hard surface. When you are thinking about countertops you want to make sure that the counter is easy to maintain and durable. Since the separation of meat and dairy also applies to preparing food, any cracks can lead to contamination. Countertops are subjected to a kashering process in order to clean them.
For the kosher kitchen quartz countertops are ideal surfaces. Quartz is an extremely hard surface that's non-porous and doesn't require sealing making it one of the best for preparing foods. For this reason they are ideal for busy family homes or anyone who wants quick and easy cleanup.
Stainless steel sinks are another amenity found in the kosher kitchen. Stainless steel is a material that can be kashered and cleaned in several ways. You will need two sinks in your kosher kitchen, one for meat and one for dairy. Keep this in mind when placing the sinks to allow for two prep areas.
Traditionally, Sabbath observance requires that Jews refrain from working and the use of electronics. For this reason a lot of appliance manufacturers have created a 'Sabbath' mode. There are a number of appliances that have been reviewed by Star-K Online which can be used in a kosher kitchen from top brands like Viking®, Whirlpool®, and Jenn-Air® and you can even find dishwashers from Maytag® and Electrolux®.
As you are designing your kitchen and accounting for doubled appliances and maximizing it's storage, keep in mind that twice the appliances also means twice the electrical and plumbing needs. Be sure to take this into account and factor in clearance for your appliances, and also to install adequate ventilation to remove extra cooking fumes and moisture. These may infringe on spaces that would otherwise be used for cabinetry and for this reason a lot of designers suggest extending cabinetry to the ceiling to allow for maximum storage.
Keep in mind that a lot of the features needed in a kosher kitchen are what you'll find in any modern kitchen. There are many times when you will see two sinks and two stoves in the same kitchen. When deciding to invest in this kind of setup, keep in mind the size of your space. A little creative design effort will be appreciated. Also, while keeping kosher may be associated with Judaism it's important to know that different Jews observe differently or sometimes not at all, so a kosher kitchen based on individual preference means that any of these features can be mixed and matched for a one-of-a-kind dream design.