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I have a plata--an electric warming tray that does not have knobs or adjustments. I can leave it plugged in throughout Shabbat. I want to use it correctly when I have guests and to up my observance.

Can I use it to reheat solid food from the refrigerator on Shabbat? Do I need to put an empty cooking tray between the plata and the food container? I can move the food to the plata on Shabbat morning, right?

Any other issues with using the plata? Should I not stir the food while on the plata or does that issue not apply?

I can't reheat soup or other liquids on the plata, right?

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Welcome to Judaism.SE and thank you for bringing your pertinent question here. I remind you that advice given here is solely that -- advice -- and I highly recommend you check with a trusted Rabbi for any final decisions. Looking forward to seeing you around! –  Double AA Dec 26 '11 at 4:38
    
Possible duplicate: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/36/… –  Double AA Dec 26 '11 at 5:06
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@Double AA, thanks. Also: I don't think it is a dup, because a plata is different from a blech. Isn't it? The other q focuses on blech. –  Larry K Dec 26 '11 at 5:15
    
Yes, a plata is not a blech. Regarding the empty cooking tray. (flipped over, so there is air between the tray and the plata) It's not always required, but it does help reduce the heat so you don't burn your food! –  avi Dec 26 '11 at 7:15
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I don't have sources for this, but I learned to use my hot plate with a timer, so I put cold previously-cooked food on it on Shabbat morning and later it turns on and I have warm food for lunch. Are there issues with that? (I could ask separately but maybe the answers here will cover it.) –  Monica Cellio Dec 26 '11 at 15:07

2 Answers 2

While researching the questions I asked, I found that there is a wide variety of practice on the question of re-heating solid food on Shabbat. So the answers really depend on you and your community.

Here are some answers that I've found from different Rabbinic sources on the Internets:

Warning Don't take halachic advice from me! Consult your Rabbi

Sources:

  1. Rabbi Asher Lopatin: The Dos and Don'ts of Re-heating on Shabbat. R. Lopatin is an Askenaz modern Orthodox rabbi in Chicago. I found this source to be concise and helpful.
  2. Rabbi Harvey Well: Cooking and Reheating Food on Shabbat
  3. Rabbi Shlomo Levi: Analysis of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's lenient stand on re-heating cold food by using a plata R. Ovadia Yosef is a Sephardi Gadol (great rabbi) in Israel.

My personal conclusions from the above sources are:

  • The food we're talking about here is solid and was completely cooked before Shabbat. The plata was activated before Shabbat (turned on or its timer was set).
  • Can I use it to reheat solid food from the refrigerator on Shabbat? Yes. Rabbi Asher Lopatin says so clearly, source 1. Rav Ovadia Yosef is reported to say it's ok (source 3).
  • Do I need to put an empty pot/cooking tray between the plata and the food container? This is an extra stringency which many follow. And many do not. So check your rabbi and community for your personal answers. R. Lopatin does not require. If I read source 3 correctly, R. Ovadia Yosef doesn't either.
  • I can move the food to the plata on Shabbat morning, right? Yes.
  • Any other issues with using the plata? I can't determine this from the sources.
  • Should I not stir the food while on the plata or does that issue not apply? I can't determine this from the sources I found.
  • I can't reheat soup or other liquids on the plata, right? Definitely cannot. Only "solid" foods, foods which are not "poured." (Some amount of gravy can be on the chicken.)

I found R. Lopatin's instructions of the most help. As I note above, he's firmly in the Modern Orthodox camp. It is interesting that Rabbi Ovadia Yosef is reported to have given the same opinion re plata use.

Bonus answer: Is a plata the same as a blech? Definitely not. A plata is like a Kdeira Blech (a water blech). But a plata is not the same as a Kdeira Blech. R. Lopatin treats the two the same (source 1). But some do not--that's where the idea of an extra pot on top of a Kdeira Blech or, perhaps, plata comes in.

Bottom line This issue of reheating cold food on Shabbat (that was cooked before), is a specific area of leniency/stringency that different rabbis and different communities have their own opinions on. No answer is "right." Rather, each community's answer is "right" for that community.

Remember that there are many sources in Judaism which argue against the concept of "the more piety the better." These sources would urge you to not make the mistake of thinking that greater stringency is better. What matters is your community's answer to these questions.

On the other hand, there are some who do feel that "the greater the piety the better."

Added In answer to the question: where are the sources about piety? Unfortunately I can't quote specific sources. One was from Talmud Sukkot as analyzed by Professor Moshe Halbertal in a class I took. He discussed this specific issue and referenced other Talmudic sources on the issue too. Another example is the mitzvah of the meal before Yom Kippur--thus limiting the length of the fast. There are others too. Remember that when the sources explicitly limit something, they're often saying that it is not better to do "more."

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A late answer, and again, consult your local Rov:

According to Rav Yehoshua Neuwirth's Shemirath Shabbath, chapter 1, sections 36-37 and 60:

Any type of food, even uncooked, may be placed in a pot standing on top of another pot on a fire, as long as there is no possibility of the food reaching a temperature of 45 degrees centigrade/113 degrees fahrenheit. The intention of removing the food before it reaches this temperature is not by itself sufficient. It must not be able to reach this temperature no matter how long it is left.

Fully cooked food of any type that is still partly warm may be placed on top of a pot standing on the fire, even if it will reach a high temperature, as long as there is no chance of it roasting. It can be on the lid of the pot or in a pot on top of the pot.

Fully cooked solid food, even if it is cold or frozen, may be put on top of a pot standing on the fire, even if it will reach a high temperature, as long as there is no risk that it will start roasting. Therefor, cooked meat without gravy may not be placed on top of a pot on the fire, since it will now roast in the dry heat.

The ability to heat solid food is dependent on there not being anything (such as solidified fat or grease) that will melt when heated. This is due to the prohibition of melting on Shabbath. Exceptions: if there is only a small amount of fat which mingles with the rest of the food as it melts, this is permitted. Dissolving a sauce which is customary to each in a congealed state, such as fish sauce, is also permitted.

Since the above all talk about placing on top of a pot and not directly on the fire, you would need to using an inverted pan (or even a pot!) underneath any food that you are warming.

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