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Is It Permissible To Use A Crock Pot On Shabbat

The question was asked if whether or not it is permissible to use a crock pot for Shabbat? Many people want to place Hamin or Chullent into a crock pot from before Shabbat on Friday, and let it be warmed and cooked over Shabbat night into Saturday. Is it permissible to use such an apparatus from Friday?

We have learned previously in Daily Halacha (see ‘Using An Oven On Shabbat’) that it is permissible to place raw foods, or foods that are more than half cooked, into an oven from before Shabbat and take it out on Shabbat so long as one is not activating any device within the oven when opening the door. So the question today deals with the issue of Hatmana. Hatmana is the prohibition of insulation on Shabbat, whereby the insulation adds heat and thus comes to cook the food. Now for the most part, crock pots are appliances that produce and expel heat into a chamber that holds a pot of food. So would a crock pot hence violate the prohibition of Hatmana? Seemingly, this would be a problem because the food is being insulated, and more so since there is a mechanism which is heating the food.

Rabbi Sheinberg has a Teshuba (responsa/answer) on this, as does Rav Moshe Feinstein. They both came out and said that using a crock pot poses no problem of Hatmana. They explained that the normal way for preparing Hamin or Chullent is in a crock pot. They are slow cooking foods. The Chachamim did not restrict insulation where it is part of the normal cooking process. The laws of Hatmana only apply to insulating foods that were cooked already, whereby the insulation is serving to keep the food hot and cooking. But it would be permissible to use a crock pot for Hamin and Chullent because this is the normal way to prepare these foods.

Furthermore, according to Sephardim, Hatmana only applies when the insulator is actually touching the interior pot. Hatmana therefore does not apply to crock pots, since crock pots are suspended inside the appliance.

Halacha Lema'ase, it is permissible on Friday to put Hamin or Chullent into a crock pot and let it cook over night into Saturday. But of course, do make sure that the Chullent or Hamin was either raw or more than half cooked when putting into the pot on Friday.