Baked and Cooked Foods
All baked goods must have reliable kashrut certification. Some bakeries in Jewish communities carry the certification from a local orthodox rabbi or the kashrut board in that city.
In addition, bread, cake and other baked goods from a Jewish bakery with reliable kashrut certification often ensures not only the kashrut of these products but also that they are pat Yisrael. It is preferable to use pat Yisrael products whenever possible. This means that a Jewish person has baked or assisted in the baking of the products. Even if he simply lit the oven he is considered as having assisted.
Non-commercial bread and cake that is completely baked by an individual non-Jew is called pat akum and may not be eaten.
Under certain circumstances, baked goods prepared with kosher ingredients in a non-Jewish bakery (not by an individual) may be permitted. Such bread is called pat palter. The conditions under which pat palter may be used are 1) that the bakery is under reliable rabbinic supervision to ensure that the ingredients, utensils and all substances coming in contact with the food are kosher, and that 2) comparable pat Yisrael baked goods are unavailable. Many packaged baked goods sold in supermarkets are pat palter, even if certified kosher.
For spiritual reasons, many Jews do not use pat palter even in cases where it is permitted. All should avoid its use during the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. A hechsher on packaged baked goods does not mean the product is pat Yisrael unless it is labeled as such. NOTE: Commercial breads often contain milk or milk derivatives; check the label to make sure it states that the product is pareve. If bread is dairy, even if it is known to be kosher, there are various problems involved which make it necessary to consult an orthodox rabbi.
Certain foods which were completely cooked by a non-Jew (bishul akum) may not be eaten, even if the foods are kosher and are cooked in kosher utensils.
Foods that generally come under the category of bishul akum are: 1) Foods that cannot be eaten raw, such as meat or grains. (This excludes foods that can be eaten either cooked or raw, such as apples or carrots.) 2) Foods that are considered important, “fit to set upon a king’s table.” There are various opinions regarding what are considered “royal foods.”
The way the food is prepared (boiled, steamed, pickled, etc.) can also affect its status regarding these laws.
If a Jew has supervised and assisted in the cooking of these foods, such as by lighting the fire of the oven or stirring the food, such food is considered bishul Yisrael and is permitted.
These laws affect many commercially prepared foods. Some supervising services write the words bishul Yisrael on their hechsher. These laws must also be kept in mind when enlisting the help of a non-Jewish housekeeper or cook.
Important Note: The above follows the accepted custom of Ashkenazi Jewry relying on the ruling of the Rama1 who contends that symbolic participation in the cooking process such as lighting or adding to the fire is sufficient to render the food permissible.
On the other hand, Sephardim follow the ruling of the Beit Yosef2 who maintains that in the case of cooked foods a Jew must actually place the food on the fire.