Laws of Cooking on Yom Tov

Laws of Cooking on Yom Tov

Tuesday, September 11th, '12

I really need to write this article. This past Yomtov, I met someone who told me that he had just learned, from his wife I think he said, that it is prohibited to randomly raise and lower a flame on Yomtov. “Randomly” in this context means that if he wanted to light a cigarette, first he would raise the flame to make it easier to light, and then, when he’d be done, he’d lower the flame because it doesn’t need to be high anymore. He told me that he was surprised this is prohibited, because “everyone that he knows” – I believe those were his exact words – “thinks you can do this”.

So I really need to write this article.

I hope he was wrong, and that the reason he thinks many people do this is because when he asked them whether they do it, they thought he was trying to play a trick on them and they humored him. I hope so, but I probably really need to write this article.


Ten Basic Halochos of Cooking on Yomtov

1.  You can light a flame from an existing flame on Yomtov.

  1. Example: You may light a cigarette or a candle from a Yohrtzeit candle or a stove flame that was left on for Yomtov.

2.  You cannot put out a flame on Yomtov…

3.  But you can let a flame go out by itself.

  1. Example: If you lit a match in a permitted way, you cannot extinguish the match when done with it, but you may put it down lightly and let it go out on its own.

4.  You cannot lower a flame on Yomtov unless you need to do so to save your food from burning. For example, you have food cooking on the stove and it will burn unless you lower the flame to let it simmer.

  1. However, even in such a case, if there is another burner on the stove that has a sufficiently low flame, you should move the food to that burner instead of lowering the flame.

2. You cannot lower the flame after you are done cooking. For example, if you lit a cigarette on the stove, you cannot lower the flame afterwards. You cannot lower a flame just because you do not need it anymore.

5.  If your stove has a pilot light, you may turn on a burner on Yomtov, since the pilot light is an already-existing flame from which the burner flame is being lit.

6.  If your stove has an electronic ignition, you may not turn on a burner on Yomtov.

  1. However, if your electronic ignition will not ignite a flame unless the burner is turned to “High”, you can light your stove by first turning the burner to “Low” so that gas comes out, and then use a match that was lit from a permitted source to manually light the fire. (But remember: You may not lower the flame after it is lit, so make sure that when you light it, it is set to low.)

7.  Electric ovens may not be turned on, nor may the flame be raised or lowered on Yomtov, except for ovens that have an indicator light that goes on when the oven is being heated. For those ovens, you can raise the heat when the light is on, and lower the heat when the light is off.

8.  You cannot add water to an electric urn on Yomtov after the water in it has already been cooked. This is true whether or not there is still cooked water left in the urn when you add the water.

9.  You cannot cook anything for non-Jews or pets on Yomtov. In such cases, the Halochos of cooking on Yomtov are the same as on Shabbos.

  1. Example: You cannot turn on the hot water tap to prepare pet food.
  2. Example: You cannot make tea with a tea bag (except by using a Kli Shlishi) for a non-Jewish housekeeper.

10. You are only allowed to cook food on Yomtov that will be used on that day. You cannot cook food on Yomtov to use after Yomtov. You cannot even cook food on the first day of Yomtov to be used on the second day of Yomtov. When Yomtov comes out on Thursday and Friday you need to make an Eruv Tavshilin, which will enable you to prepare food on Yomtov for Shabbos. If you forgot to make an Eruv Tavhsilin, come to me to discuss.


Important note: Not long ago, a man came into Shul before minchah asking me if he has to bentch gomel. The carbon monoxide detector in his house went off, and when the fire department came, they said the CO in the house was raised to a life-threatening level because the blech on the stove prevented the flame from getting enough oxygen. They have seen many times, the firemen said, that a blech caused CO gas to rise to a life-threatening level, especially when the windows of the house were closed.

So please, use a hotplate if you can. If you must use a blech, make sure there is enough ventilation between it and the flames. Keep windows, especially kitchen windows, open, and make sure you have carbon monoxide detectors.



sukkahThis article is written with gratitude to Yosef Renke and Ben Turner, who, even as I write these words, are assembling my Sukkah and graciously freeing up my time so I can write this article. The great Mitzvah of Hachzakas HaTorah applies not only to those who give loads of money to yeshivas, but to anyone who in any way enables the learning of Torah. And so, whoever learns something from this article, or keeps Yomtov better because of it, Yosef and Ben have a chelek in that.

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