Does Charcoal require a Hashgacha for Pesach?

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Pesach Barbecue-Does Charcoal require a Hashgacha for Pesach?

Charcoal briquettes: Charcoal briquettes [square shaped manufactured charcoal, typically used for barbecues] are compressed together using a starch binder, most notably corn or wheat starch.[1] Accordingly, it is proper for one to use charcoal briquettes that have a Hashgacha for Pesach to verify that they do not contain a Chametz starch which will then enter one’s food.[2] [The Eida Hachareidis provides supervision over certain companies of charcoal, to enable its use for Pesach.] Certainly, one may not use unverified charcoal briquettes that were produced during Pesach.[3] Nonetheless, those who are lenient to use any charcoal that was produced before Pesach have upon whom to rely.[4] A company who was verified to use corn starch in their production, may have its charcoal used on Pesach even according to Ashkenazim who avoid Kitniyos.[5] [The company Kingsford[6], which is the leading charcoal manufacturer in the US, manufactures its briquettes using corn starch, and hence their products do not pose any Halachic issue.[7] One can contact any given company to verify its status.]

Lump Charcoal: Lump charcoal does not require a Hashgacha, as it is not known to contain any problematic additives. [The company Rockwood[8] does not manufacture briquettes, and hence all their products are lump charcoal which do not pose any Halachic issue.[9]]

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[1] The charcoal making process: Charcoal is produced by drying wood, such as timber wood, and then heating the wood to a very high temperature until it blackens. The wood is then crushed into pieces of ash and combined together into small squares, known as briquettes, using a starch binder, either of corn or wheat.

[2] See Rabbi Blumenkrants Pesach digest p. 10-306

The reason: Although the charcoal is not edible, and is hence like all non-food products that are permitted to be owned and benefited from, nonetheless, they remain Rabbinically forbidden to be intentionally consumed due to Achshavei. [See Admur 442:22 and 32-33; 445:11] Now, since the coals release heat and smoke through which the food is cooked and flavored, the food certainly contains taste of the coal, which would include taste of the starch that is in it. One cannot argue that the Chametz starch is nullified to the other ingredients and hence permitted in use, as an intentional ingredient is not nullified even in 1000, even regarding the Rabbinical concept of Achshavei. [Admur 442:22] Now, although one can argue that perhaps the concept of Achshavei does not apply in such a case, as there is no actual starch that enters one food, and it is merely the burnt taste that penetrates, and hence we find ruled in 445:11 that one may cook using Chametz charcoal that was created prior to the 6th hour of the 14th, nevertheless perhaps that only applies in previous times when the intent was not to add flavor of the ash to the food, and it was simply the only cooking method available. However, by today’s charcoal, since one certainly intends to enter the flavor of the coal/ash into the food [as this is one of the prime reasons people grill using charcoal-so it receive a smoked flavor] perhaps this would contain an Issur of eating due to Achshavei. In addition, regardless of the above, the custom is to abstain from using Chametz charcoal for cooking over Pesach, even if it became charcoal before Pesach. [Admur 445:11 and in Siddur; M”A 445:4; Tur 445; Maharshal; Maharil; P”M 445 A”A 4] The reason for this is because one may come to end up using Chametz charcoal that was created on Pesach. [Beis Yosef 445; P”M ibid; Rebbe in Haggadah] Accordingly, one is to abstain from using charcoal briquettes that do not have a Hashgacha.

Can one use a corn starch bound briquettes? Yes, as a) The Kitniyos is not edible once mixed with the ash and we do not find the concept of Achshavei regarding Kitniyos, which is a mere Minhag. b) Kitniyos is nullified in majority. [See Admur 453]

[3] Admur 445:8 “Even the ash and charcoal of the Chametz are forbidden in benefit”; Many companies ship the briquettes the same day of production.

[4] The OU and CRC both write that charcoal does not require a Hashgacha for Pesach.

The reason: As the simple understanding of Admur 445:11 is that one may cook using Chametz charcoal, irrelevant of whether it adds flavor to one’s food. The reason for this way of understanding is possibly due to that the Rabbinical prohibition of Achshavei does not apply to the smoked flavor of a product, and only when eating the actual Mamashus. This is in addition to the fact that some Poskim rule it is permitted to even eat Chametz that was destroyed before the 6th hour. [See Peri Chadash and Rashbatz, brought in Kaf Hachaim 442:99] Now, although earlier we stated the custom is not to use Chametz charcoal even if it was burnt before the 6th hour, nevertheless, perhaps this custom would not extend to this situation.

[5] See previous footnotes

[6] See https://www.kingsford.com; Currently, the Kingsford Products Company remains the leading manufacturer of charcoal in the US, enjoying 80 percent market share.

[7] Verified to me through a written correspondence with the company At this time, we do not claim to be gluten free.  We can confirm that we use corn starch to bind the char in the briquettes.  We do not use wheat starch.”

[8] See http://rockwoodcharcoal.com/; This is a S.L. Missouri based company.

[9] Verified to me through a written correspondence with the company “You are correct that briquettes use binders such as potato or corn starch to bind them together…..some use a dextrin product (which ultimately comes from starch or gluten, I believe.)  The good news is, we use NONE of that as we do not produce briquettes.  Our charcoal is natural lump.  It’s just wood that has been carbonized to remove the moisture, tars, & liquors.  It has ZERO fillers, binders, or additives such petroleum, starch, borax, limestone, etc.  100% natural untreated wood in ours. Our lump charcoal is probably the most natural and organic products you could ever buy, as it’s mostly carbon…..the basis of all living organisms.”

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