The laws of placing food on top of a pot

A. Returning food onto a fire which is covered by an empty pot:[1]

 One who awakens in the morning [of Shabbos] and sees that his food which is in a pot is burning on a Kirah which has not been swept or covered, he is allowed to remove the pot from the Kirah and place an old[2] empty[3] pot on the Kirah. He may then place the pot which has the food in it on top of the empty pot. There is no prohibition involved here of him returning food to a Kirah which is not swept or covered, as since the empty pot closes off the opening of the oven which is under the pot that has food in it, [therefore] it is considered like it is swept or covered. [See Q&A 1 regarding if one may even initially place a food on top of an empty pot.]

 

B.  Initially placing food on Shabbos on top of a hot pot:[4]

It is permitted to place food on Shabbos on top of the Chulent pot even though that area is Yad Soledes. We are not worried that one may come to stoke the coals [when doing this], since the [chulent] pot separates between this food and the coals. Furthermore even if one removed this food from the Kirah before Shabbos and he did not have in mind to return it, and he placed it on the ground, and placed the food into another pot, and the food is old and has thus completely cooled down, [nevertheless it is permitted to place the food on top of another pot on Shabbos] as long as there is no cooking prohibition involved, such as that there is no liquid in the food. [See Q&A 2-7]

The reason: Now, although [the lacking of] every single one of these conditions forbids one to return the pot onto the oven on Shabbos, even onto a Kirah which was swept or covered, being that doing so appears like one is initially cooking on Shabbos, nevertheless, [it is permitted to place it on top of another pot as] when one places it on top of a pot which is on top of the coals (that are in the Kirah) it does not appear like one is initially cooking [this food] as this is not the usual way of cooking.

 

Summary of placing food on top of a pot which is sitting on the fire:

One may place any food [even if it was taken from the fridge] on top of a pot that is on a fire, as long as the food is fully cooked, and if it contains liquid the liquid is still warm. There is no need to fulfill any of the other Chazara conditions.

 

Q&A

Does the above allowance to initially place food on top of a pot that is on a flame apply even if the pot is empty?[5]

If the empty pot is directly over the fire [no blech], then Lechatchilah one should not place on it any food, even if it is fully cooked and hot. However by pressing times, such as if not doing so will diminish one’s Oneg Shabbos, then if the food was removed on Shabbos, one may place it on top of an upside down pot, even if he already put it down.[6]

If the empty pot is on top of a blech or electric plate then one may place food even initially on top of an empty pot.[7] Thus whenever one desires to heat his food, and he did not fulfill the Chazara conditions, he may place an upside down pot on top of his Blech or electric plate and then place the food on top of it. This however is on condition that the food is fully cooked and does not contain cold liquids.


When placing food on top of a pot of food that is on the fire, does the food inside this pot need to be fully cooked?[8]

Yes. If the food is not fully cooked then it is prohibited to place anything on top of the pot, as this hastens its cooking.[9]

 

May one place the upper pot/food into the inside of the lower pot?[10]

No, it must be placed on top of the pot as opposed to inside the pot.

 

Must the upper pot/food be completely above the lower pot, or may it slightly sink into the lower pot?[11]

One should not place the food/pot in a way that it enters at all into the inside of the lower pot.[12]

However if the cover of the pot sinks into the pot, such as one placed an upside down cover on the pot, then if the cover does not enter into the food it is allowed to place food into the cover even though it enters into the volume of the pot.[13]

 

May one place the pot/food over the lower pot even if the lower pot is not covered, and thus as a result of this one will be covering the lower pot?[14]

Yes, it is allowed as long as the upper pot does not enter into the inside of the lower pot.

 

If one has a double deck pot on the flame, may one initially place food into the upper pot?[15]

No, as since the pots were made to be that way, it is considered the usual way of cooking for one to place food there and is thus forbidden to be initially placed there on Shabbos because it appears like cooking.

 

May one place a pot on top of a pot of food that is in the oven?[16]

No.[17]


[1] 253/26

[2]  Meaning that it had been previously used. However as explained in Chapter 502 this only refers to an earthenware pot. However a metal pot may be used even if new.

[3]  Meaning that it has no food or liquid inside, including drops of water which were leftover from cleaning it.

[4] 253/26

[5]  Shabbos Kehalacha Vol. 1 page 405-408

[6]  The Alter Rebbe in the Kuntrus Achron [10] brings two possibilities regarding why an empty pot perhaps may be viewed differently than a pot with food in it. 1) When placing a pot of food inside the empty pot it is appears like initial cooking.  And 2) Even when placing food on top of the empty pot it appears like initial cooking, as when a pot is empty the heat can run through it more freely and cook the food above it. [Now although Admur rules [in Halacha 26] that an empty pot may be used to cover the flame, that was only with regards to returning a pot of food on to the flame, as explicitly mentioned there. However to initially place a pot there without the other Chazarah conditions was never discussed by Admur in the scenario of an empty pot].

Practically Rav Farkash rules stringently Lechatchilah being that the Mishneh Berurah explicitly rules in the name of the Peri Megadim, that if the pot is empty then all the conditions of Chazarah apply. However by a time of need he is lenient, being that it seems that according to the Alter Rebbe his main opinion is that in truth there is no difference if the pot has food in it or not.

[7]  So rules Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurbach and Sheivet Haleivi, and so sides Rav Farkash. [And so seems to be the explicit ruling in Halacha 26 regarding placing food on top of an oven which is covered by a sheet of metal and the like]

[8]  Shabbos Kehalacha Vol. 1 page 402

[9] See next chapter Halacha 4. Vetzaruch Iyun on the Ketzos Hashulchan which seems to allow this even if the food is not fully cooked.

[10]  Shabbos Kehalacha Vol. 1 page 403

[11]  Shabbos Kehalacha Vol. 1 page 403

[12] This is a question which has supports for both permitting and prohibiting it. Practically the Poskim have ruled stringently, and thus one should not place the food/pot in a way that it enters at all into the inside of the lower pot.

[13]  Shabbos Kehalacha Vol. 2 page 43-44

[14]  Shabbos Kehalacha Vol. 1 page 403

[15]  Shabbos Kehalacha Vol. 1 page 403

[16]  Shabbos Kehalacha Vol. 1 page 404

[17] As this is done even during weekdays.  It is thus considered the usual way of cooking for one to place food there and is hence forbidden because it appears like cooking.

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