KSR Beginner's Guide to Kosher

You've heard the world "Kosher" countless times, yet you are not entirely certain what it entails.

You've come to the right place. In this kashrus guide we will break down the main points involved in the concept.

Do note, however, that tens, if not, hundreds of thousands of pages of literature have been published on the topic. Therefore, saying that this page is an overview would be an understatement.

Kosher, Defined

The term "kosher" is derived from the Hebrew word "kashrus," which means "fit" or "proper." It refers to a set of dietary laws and food preparation guidelines outlined in Jewish religious texts, primarily the Torah.

Kosher food adheres to these rules and is considered suitable for consumption by observant Jews. The key principles of kashrus involve the prohibition of certain animals, like pigs and shellfish, and the separation of dairy and meat products. Additionally, kosher food must be prepared and processed in accordance with specific rules to ensure its purity and adherence to religious standards.

Shulhan Arukh

Observing kashrus is not only a religious practice but also a way for Jewish individuals to maintain a connection to their heritage and demonstrate their commitment to living a righteous and spiritually fulfilling life.

Instructions for practical application of these laws are passed down through oral tradition which have since been published in the form of the Gemara, commonly referred to as The Talmud.

In the 15th century, Rav Yosef Karo, known as "Maran" (Our Master) or "Mechaber" (The Author), wrote a commentary called the Beth Yossef, then condensed it into, what is known today as, the Shulhan Arukh, which you can purchase as a 16-volume set.

To this day, all reference to the laws of Kashrus point back to the Shulhan Arukh volumes called Yoreh Deah.

Alright, let's dive right in
The Three Categories

The term "meat" encompasses the edible flesh of specific mammals and poultry.

Adhering to Jewish dietary laws, there are several crucial criteria that must be met for meat to be considered kosher: Kosher meat must originate from ruminant animals with cloven or split hooves, which includes species like cows, lambs, and deer.

Kosher poultry includes chicken, geese, quail, dove, and turkey.

Kosher meat must be slaughtered by a shochet, an individual who is specially trained and certified to butcher animals in accordance with Halacha.

Post slaughter, the Shochet will proceed with an examination of the animal for what is referred to as "treifot".  Those include physical defects, injuries, or conditions found in an animal that render it unfit for kosher consumption. These defects can occur as a result of disease, injury, or malformation and may not always be immediately visible.

The final step before consumption, the meat must undergo a salting process to eliminate any traces of blood.

All utensils used in the slaughter and preparation of the meat must be kosher and exclusively designated for use with meat and meat-related products.


The term "parve" (or "pareve") in kosher dietary laws refers to foods that are neutral, meaning they don't contain milk or meat ingredients.

These foods, like fruits, vegetables, grains, and certain fish, can be consumed with both dairy and meat dishes without violating kosher rules, offering flexibility in meal preparation for those who observe these dietary guidelines.

In terms of fish, they earn their kosher status when they originate from creatures possessing both fins and scales, examples being tuna, salmon, halibut, and sardines.

Aquatic organisms devoid of these physical traits, such as shrimp, crab, oysters, lobster, and various shellfish, remain prohibited.

Unlike kosher meat, fish preparation does not necessitate separate utensils and can be consumed in conjunction with either meat or dairy products.

Eggs derived from kosher fowl or fish are permissible as long as they are devoid of any traces of blood, demanding thorough individual examination of each egg.

Like fish, eggs may be eaten alongside meat or dairy.


In the realm of kosher dietary laws, dairy products like milk, cheese, butter, and yogurt are allowed, provided they meet certain regulations to be considered kosher.

Dairy products must originate from a kosher animal, ensuring that the source animal adheres to kosher guidelines.

It is essential that dairy products never come into contact with any derivatives from meat, such as gelatin. This separation is especially crucial in the case of hard cheeses and processed cheese products.

The preparation of dairy products must take place using utensils and equipment that are designated as kosher, exclusively reserved for dairy processing. These stringent rules highlight the meticulous care taken in maintaining the separation of dairy and meat in kosher food preparation.

Earth-Grown Foods

Earth-grown foods are parve and may be eaten with either of those food groups.

Nonetheless, these foods also have their own set of kosher guidelines, especially regarding how they’re processed.


Bread and pastries must be made with kosher-certified ingredients. Common ingredients like flour, water, yeast, and salt are generally kosher, but any additives, such as enzymes or emulsifiers, must also be kosher.

Bread and pastries should not contain any dairy ingredients if they are intended to be consumed with meat dishes. If dairy is included, it should be marked as "dairy" to indicate its non-neutral status.

That said, bakeries must separate their equipment and utensils designated for dairy and meat products. This ensures that cross-contamination between dairy and meat does not occur during production.

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are considered kosher in their natural state. However, it is essential to inspect fresh fruits and vegetables for any insects or worms before consumption.

Additionally, products manufactured with equipment that processes non-kosher items like milk and meat are not considered kosher.

In Israel, "Orla", or fruit from a newly planted tree during its first three years of growth is prohibited. In addition, "Maaserot", or tithing, is required on all agricultural produce. 

Every seven-year cycle is concluded with Shmita, an entire year where the land of Israel rests from all laboring activities.

Many agricultural farmers are not observant, and therefore any product exported from Israel must bear a Kosher certification.

Alcoholic Beverages

Kosher wine production involves close supervision by a mashgiach from the grape cultivation through the bottling and sealing stages.  The grapes must be handled exclusively by Jewish individuals from the time of harvest to crush to prevent any non-kosher influence. Additionally, only kosher additives and fining agents can be used in the winemaking process.

Wine production is prohibited on Shabbat and holidays. Since certain wineries are not Jewish-owned, measures would be taken into account allowing their kosher division to only operate when permitted.

Wineries must use kosher equipment, including storage tanks, hoses, and fermentation vessels, ensuring that they have not been in contact with non-kosher wines or other substances like dairy or meat.


Since classic beer is always brewed using the same four ingredients, wheat, yeast, hops, and of course, water, certification is not required...generally.

Flavored and specialty beer, on the other hand, will always need to bear certification. Some breweries have certification but don't print it on their labels, in which case the Kosher Alcohol List should be consulted prior to consumption.

Microbreweries or craft beers raise other issues. Control over their process is very limited which may lead to significant Kashrus concerns. 

Some facilities are even located on premises that serve non-kosher food, leading to possible cross-contamination.

Whiskey & Spirits

Same as with beer, whiskey is generally kosher since all distilleries adhere to the same set of steps and ingredients when producing their spirits.

One concern raised often is that of sherry casks. This means that the spirit matured in barrels previously used for wine.  While some halachic authorities hold that whiskeys marked as "aged in sherry casks" do not require Kosher certification, many others argue that they in fact do need, hence demanding for further clarification.

All grape-based spirits, such as cognac and brandy, will carry the laws found above in the wine section, and therefore must bear certification.

As is with everything Kosher, there are exceptions, and consulting the list of permissible spirits is highly recommended. 


“Kosher for Passover” is a special dietary designation observed during the Jewish holiday of Passover, which commemorates the Exodus of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.

During this time, strict dietary rules are followed to avoid the consumption of leavened products (chametz), such as bread, pasta, and certain grains, as well as to ensure that all food and ingredients used in Passover meals meet the rigorous standards of kashrus. The centerpiece of Passover dietary observance is unleavened bread called matza. Kosher for Passover foods must be prepared and certified to be free of chametz and adhere to kosher regulations.

What this all means for you

If you have landed on this page out of curiosity or are even contemplating establishing a kosher kitchen at home, it is important to understand that in the 21st century, the food industry boasts a highly organized system of certification. Each packaged product either bears a certification stamp or does not.

Although the global landscape features a wide array of certification symbols, it may initially require some effort to become familiar with the reliable ones.

Over time, a quick glance will suffice to determine whether an item should go in your shopping cart or back on the shelf.

The scenario is slightly different when it comes to culinary establishments.

Typically, a kosher restaurant or store will display a sign or awning indicating its kosher status.

Nevertheless, it is crucial to inquire further, either by phone or in person, to ascertain the certifying authority behind the kosher designation. Conducting some research to evaluate the reliability of this certifier is an additional step that should not be overlooked.

On the other hand, you might be contemplating the prospect of establishing a kosher culinary business or transforming your current establishment into a kosher one.

In this scenario, things can become considerably more intricate. When you publicly declare that you offer kosher dishes or products, you are essentially assuring your customers that your entire process, from inception to completion, adheres faithfully to Halacha.

Additionally, the weight of maintaining such a rigorous standard can be overwhelming.

Initially, the challenge arises from the fact that most of your potential clients may not even know you, leaving them with little reason to trust you implicitly.

This underscores the pivotal role of a reputable kosher certifying organization.

When your customers see that the certification is provided by a trusted entity like the KSR, their confidence is instantly secured, and their trust is earned without further scrutiny.

Your responsibility then shifts to cultivating your brand and striving for utmost success.