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By Rabbi Dovid Cohen, Administrative Rabbinic Coordinator
Q. What can you tell me about eating meat and fish together?
A. It is considered a sakanah/dangerous to eat meat and fish together. [For these purposes, poultry is the same as “meat”.] As relates to mixtures of meat and milk, there are several restrictions beyond the prohibition to eat them together, and the Poskim discuss whether those same halachos apply to mixtures of meat and fish, as follows.
In many cases, it is forbidden for a person to eat meat on a table where another person is eating dairy. This is out of concern that each might taste some of the other person’s food, thereby eating milk and meat together. It is generally accepted that this caution is technically not necessary for meat and fish. Thus, the letter of the law is that at a kiddush or Shabbos meal some people can, for example, be eating gefilte fish while others eat cold cuts. Nonetheless, the common custom is to avoid this.
Another issue is that after eating meat, we wait 6 hours before eating dairy; that does not apply between meat and fish. In the opposite case, where a person ate dairy first and now wants to eat meat, they must eat and drink something pareve and also check (or wash) their hands. All of these ensure there is no residue of dairy in one’s mouth or on their hands which might get eaten with meat. There are different opinions whether this type of “cleaning” must be done between meat and fish. Shulchan Aruch rules that it is required, while Rema says that the letter of the law is that this is not necessary, but the custom is to eat and drink something as a separation. Chochmas Adam goes one step further saying that it is sufficient to just drink something between the fish and meat to provide a perfunctory cleaning of one’s mouth.
What if there is so little fish in the mixture that it is batel b’shishim and cannot be tasted? Taz says that since this is an issue of health/safety, the leniency of bitul b’shishim does not apply. However, Shach disagrees, saying that bitul is effective even in this case, and most of the later Poskim accept this lenient ruling.
This is particularly relevant for Worcestershire sauce. The traditional way to create Worcestershire sauce involves fermenting anchovies (a type of fish) and then blending them into a sauce. When made in this manner, the fish is not batel b’shishim in the sauce, and the sauce cannot be used on steak (which is a common use for Worcestershire sauce). However, many companies create Worcestershire sauce by blending fish-free flavoring components with a bit of anchovies, so that it will be perceived as authentic, but the amount of fish in the recipe is small enough that it is batel b’shishim. Shach noted above would allow this sauce to be used with meat.
Another difference between meat and milk, as compared to meat and fish, relates to ta’am absorbed in utensils. As is well known, if a utensil was used for (hot) meat, then it cannot be used for dairy, or vice versa, because ta’am from the meat will become mixed into the dairy food. However, this restriction does not apply to utensils used for meat and fish. Therefore, for example, if one cooked chicken in the oven, they can bake fish in that same oven once the chicken has been removed from the chamber.
However, this leniency is limited to cases where all that will be absorbed is ta’am but does not apply if residue of meat remains on the utensil when the fish is cooked (or vice versa). For this reason, a grill board, or the grates on a barbecue, which were used for meat should not be used for fish, unless they are thoroughly cleaned between these uses. We do not have to be concerned about ta’am from meat spreading into the fish but must clean these surfaces to ensure that no leftover scraps of meat will become attached to the fish. This is also the reason why the common practice is that the plate and fork used for eating fish are not used for eating meat.
This article first appeared in the Let’s Talk Kashrus column, Yated Ne’eman, January 12, 2024.