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What instant foods can be made on Shabbas by Ashkenaz minhag? For example, instant coffee can be made because the coffee has already been cooked; are there any other common foods or drinks that can similarly be prepared because they've already been cooked?

(I'm particularly interested because of the usefulness when travelling but interested more generally as well.)

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  • Wouldn’t the box say if it’s already been cooked?
    – DonielF
    Nov 10 '17 at 18:06
  • Note that many instant coffees now include fine-ground coffee as well as freeze-dried, and thus potentially pose a problem
    – user15253
    Nov 12 '17 at 19:52
  • @Orangesandlemons Very good point. I assumed that's what instant coffees with "microground coffee" for flavour were and I've been avoiding them.
    – Jakub
    Nov 12 '17 at 20:47
  • I'd prefer if you narrowed down your definition of "instant food", because that's a pretty broad definition, I think. Offhand, it seems almost any food that doesn't involve cooking shouldn't be a problem. Powdered milk is OK. So is tahini (which I wasn't sure could be prepared on Shabbat b/c of possible problem of "smearing" / forming a paste. But my rav checked this and it is permitted.)
    – DanF
    Nov 13 '17 at 1:30
  • @DonielF Not necessarily. Also, what's cooked from a halachic point of view may differ. Instant coffee isn't explicitly described as such on the packaging but we know that the roasting and freeze drying process used is considered to be cooking halachically.
    – Jakub
    Nov 13 '17 at 2:26
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I think you can start getting some ideas by reading this Rabbi Kaganoff article. It won't answer every type of instant food around, but it should give you some ideas of the main rules. Before starting, we have to assume that the base ingredient has already been cooked, so instant coffee, would be OK. I'm unfamiliar with how powdered milk is made. Of course, if you add cold water to any instant item, there is no concern of cooking it, anyway.

The bigger problem that Kaganoff's article addresses is the melacha of losh or kneading (forming a "dough"). Generally, in the article, he claims that if the "instant" items are small and adding liquid forms a sticky dough-like mass, then you have a problem. A similar problem happens if you form a "batter".

Applying these rules, from my best analysis, using milk powder doesn't seem to be a problem because it doesn't form a dough. Same thing to be said with soup powder. But instant mashed potatoes would probably be a problem. Now that I think about it, tahini has a strange character. It first becomes a "dough", but as you add more water, it thins out. So, I'll try to re-ask my rav why he believes this is still OK, but why mashed potatoes may be a problem. To me, they both seem to act similarly.

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    Thanks for the link to Rabbi Kaganoff's article. As usual he's written a clear and practical piece. (It's a small world: Rabbi Kaganoff escorted me to my chuppah last year in place of my father.)
    – Jakub
    Nov 13 '17 at 20:29
  • His application of losh makes sense. Interestingly I've seen some sources specifically permit making instant mashed potatoes - such as this reference page on Chabad's site: chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/164516/jewish/… - if kept runny and made with a shinui. I suppose there's not necessarily a contradiction as if it's kept runny enough not to be making a dough for the purposes of losh although runny mashed potatoes doesn't sound particularly appetising.
    – Jakub
    Nov 13 '17 at 20:34
  • Applying these rules I think it might be possible to make instant couscous (which has been pre-steamed and then dried) with hot water from an urn? At least, this seems to not involve losh but it could involve another melacha. Perhaps I should ask this as a separate distinct question!
    – Jakub
    Nov 13 '17 at 20:41

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