Question: May one use the same gas stovetop grate for both dairy and meat pots?
Short Answer: While some poskim rule that one should ideally have separate grates for dairy and meat, others, including Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l, are lenient. All are lenient b’dieved, i.e., in a case where the dairy pot was already cooked on the meat grate (or vice versa).
I. The Ideal
Rav Moshe Sternbuch shlita (T’shuvos V’Hanhagos 2:387) addresses this issue and notes, as an initial matter, that one should ideally use different grates for dairy and meat on a gas stovetop. Indeed, because kashrus problems frequently arise, one should be strict in this area. Rav Sternbuch similarly cites the K’sav Sofer, who discusses various sources and reasons to be lenient on this issue, but nevertheless concludes that it is preferable for any G-d-fearing individual to be strict.
Rav Sternbuch notes that this is the generally accepted practice nowadays, especially because people spend exorbitant amounts of money on other aesthetic parts of their house. Why should fulfilling Hashem’s commandments be treated any less seriously? He adds that those people who spend lavishly on other household items but not on kashrus appliances will have to answer to Hashem at 120. While it is better to have separate burners designated for meat and dairy, one should certainly try to have separate grates for dairy and meat.
II. Reasons to Be Lenient
Nevertheless, Rav Sternbuch rules that one may be lenient in cases where meat food was cooked already on a dairy grate (or vice versa), and in other b’dieved scenarios. Even if dairy sauce previously spilled on the dairy grate, there is no problem, b’dieved, of placing a meat pot on that same grate. Since the burner was on, and there was fire under the grate, while the dairy sauce spilled, the grate becomes self-cleaned through “libun kal,” a kashering method that is defined as making the grate hot enough to burn straw.
Libun kal is sufficient here, and “libun chamur,” a kashering method tht is defined as making the grate hot enough to create sparks, is not necessary, because the grate absorbed something that was permitted, i.e., kosher, dairy sauce. Thus, by the time that the meat pot is placed on the burner, the grate is already kashered. You do not need to kasher the burner (fire) itself because it never touches the meat pot.
However, this leniency does not apply where the dairy spills after the fire is already off, and the grate is still “yad soledes bo” (i.e., hot enough that you would burn your hand if you touch it, approx. 110°F according to Rav Moshe Feinstein, see Igros Moshe Orach Chayim 4:73). In such a case, when you subsequently put a meat pot on the burner, the grate will be absorbing both milk and meat, creating a forbidden absorption that requires “libun chamur,” which does not exist by simply turning on the burner.
Notably, Rav Sternbuch writes that there is room to be lenient even if the dairy spills when the fire is off. The Chavos Daas (92:22) holds that we only view the grate as being dairy with respect to the spilled amount. In other words, the dairy may be nullified by 60 times more meat, and the dairy is measured not by the entire size of the grate, but only based on the actual spilled amount.
III. The Mishnah B’rurah
Rav Sternbuch cites a proof from the Mishnah B’rurah that a grate may be used, at least b’dieved, for both meat and dairy. The Mishnah B’rurah (451:34), in the context of using chametz grates on Pesach, writes that even if chametz spilled on the grates, it is permitted to use them on Pesach, as the fire serves as libun kal and thus kashers the grates. Indeed, the Mishnah B’rurah (ibid) cites the P’ri M’gadim that even if no libun is performed, one may be lenient b’dieved.
Practically, however, at least with respect to Pesach, the minhag generally is to clean the grates, kasher, and cover them.
IV. Other Opinions
Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe, Yoreh Dei’ah 1:40, 1:59) is lenient and allows using the same grate for both dairy and meat. At worst, the foods themselves never mix, but one food simply spills over onto the grate, which will get immediately burned through the burner.
Next Week’s Topic: What should a person do if he makes a brachah on coffee with milk and realizes (before he drinks) that he ate meat less than six hours before?