You often hear the term “Kosher” to describe certain meals, and if you aren’t Jewish, then you may not know how important it is. Kosher is a beautiful concept that isn’t dissimilar to Native Americans’ tradition of saying a prayer of thanks for any animal they hunt.
So is pizza kosher? In most places, pizza is not kosher. However, since most ingredients in pizza including dough, sauces and cheese can all be prepared in accordance with Kosher tradition, pizza can indeed be Kosher.
But if this is a part of religion that is of severe importance to you, it’s worth seeking out pizza from stores that advertise they’re Kosher.
In this post, I’ll walk you through some of the basic principles of Kosher food preparation and then explain why pizza can often be a sticky issue.
Is Pizza Kosher?
Kosher is Hebrew for “fit”, so when someone asks if a food is Kosher, they’re asking essentially if it’s “fit” for eating. There are some basic rules for certain foods, starting with:
All meat, and any part of an animal such as bones, soup or gravy must be animals that chew their cud and have split hooves. This means that cows, sheep and goats are all fit for Kosher serving.
Animals that are not Kosher would be rabbits, kangaroos, lions, tigers and foxes. Those may seem like obscure animals that aren’t traditionally eaten normally anyway, but in some parts of the world, kangaroos and rabbits are more common.
There are also other animals who don’t have split hooves, so any that you can think of would also not be appropriate.
Certain species of bird are not permitted by the Torah. Basically anything predatory or that is a scavenger would be off-limits. Chickens, cornish hens and turkeys, however, are domesticated and not mentioned in the Torah.
Furthermore, not all parts of the animal are Kosher. Only the front half of the animal can be eaten, and it matters how they’re killed as well. Animals must be killed by a trained person of Jewish descent, and another then has to inspect it for any bacteria.
Then there’s the process of actually koshering the meat, which involves washing the meat, soaking in water for a half hour, salting it for twice that and then rinsing it thoroughly exactly three times.
So far, we haven’t run into too many issues regarding pizza, however you should probably say goodbye to some toppings such as pepperoni and bacon.
The milk and cheese of the pizza is where most of the problems stem from traditional pizza and is why most pizza must be specially prepared for those seeking Kosher meals.
Jewish dairy milk must have actually been observed being produced by the animal by a member of the religion. They watch it from cow to bottle. Of course, this can be hard when dealing with large companies, so they devised MK dairy, Kosher milk that’s not always observed, but guaranteed.
Still, unless you’re shopping specifically for that kind of milk, using regular milk in the dough and cheese is a little difficult, particularly if it’s a place like Pizza Hut. Pizza Hut can’t account for the religion of every employee.
Never mind the fact that this is already incredibly complicated. To know where the milk in bread and cheese came from, you have to ask the company. Most companies have been quite reliable in providing information for Kosher eaters, but that’s a lot of trust to put in a money-making organization.
Kosher Pizza: The Right Way
To properly follow Kosher regulations, here are the steps you need to take:
One interesting aspect of Kosher bread (and therefore pizza dough) is that it’s calendar-specific. Not because it can age differently, but because it matters when the grain was harvested. For bread to be Kosher, the grain could not have taken root before Passover of that year.
While this is Kosher law in Israel, it’s not one that’s generally regarded by American Jews as one that absolutely must be upheld.
The reason Jewish observers are present is to ensure that the enzyme rennet is used in dairy, so likewise cheese would have to be similarly observed.
Even Kosher pizza is not typically served during Shabbat, the Sabbath day. Furthermore, other major religious observations don’t include Kosher pizza.
But the biggest problem with most pizza and Kosher law is that the latter insists that meat and dairy should not be mixed. So you won’t find meat on any authentic Kosher pizza.