High-Profile Cooking

Published 17 years, 8 months past

Kat and I were watching “Good Eats” the other night, and as Alton slid a dish into a nice toasty warm 350-degree oven, I suddenly sat bolt upright.

“Hey, that’s our oven!” I blurted out.

Kat and I (okay, mostly Kat) recently decided that enough was enough, and that our old oven had to go.  It was a Jenn-Air that came with the house, and frankly, it was either not very good in the first place or else had just been beat all to hell.  Cramped, dark, and uncalibrated—and with an unreadably worn set of control dials to boot—it was time for the warhorse to go.

After a good deal of research, Kat settled on a GE JK955 electric double oven, which we were relieved to find fit almost exactly into the space where the old oven was, once we removed a couple of drawers.  It’s got all kinds of toys and features that would send any food-porn addict straight into overdrive, including a built-in probe thermometer.  It even has a nice warm proofing function, which is one of the reasons Kat picked it.

There is one thing about it that cracks me right up, and that’s the Sabbath mode.  Seriously.  When you put it into Sabbath mode (the display reads “SAb bATh” when you do so), it will help you observe Orthodox Jewish law as regards the Sabbath.  Really!  See, you’re not allowed to do any work on the Sabbath, which includes things like turning lights on and off.  Ovens fall under that restriction as well, which makes cooking dinner a bit tough.  However—and here’s the funky part—you get off the hook if you don’t directly cause the work to occur.  If the work happens indirectly, then you’re okay.

So when the oven is in Sabbath mode, you input the temperature and cook time you want.  Then you press start, and for a random amount of time that ranges from 30 seconds to a minute, nothing happens.  Then the oven kicks on.  Ta-daaa!  Indirect action!  Sure, you pressed all those buttons, but the random time delay is enough to get around your religion’s restrictions on Sabbath work.  It’s all, pardon the term, kosher.  Check out the Wired article about the man responsible for Sabbath mode, if you don’t believe me.

I’m still trying to decide if this letter-of-the-law approach lessens my respect for Orthodox Jews’ conception of religion, or if I have more respect for their pragmatic willingness to hack the problem.  I think it’s the latter.  Apparently there’s still no progress on a molecular screen that will prevent the insertion of porcine products into the oven, so I guess some things are still up to the individual.

So not only do we have a frum oven, but without realizing it we had settled on the same model that A.B. himself uses, which is about as weighty an endorsement as we can imagine.  (Of course, his is the larger unit, but that’s okay—ours fills its space very nicely, thank you.)  The degree to which this makes us feel all smug and superior is probably cause for alarm.  If you hear our friends are getting ready to stage an intervention, well, that’s probably why.

Comments (19)

  1. My parents had an oven that was somehow set on Sabbath mode when it was installed. Not ever seeing that before, it was quite amusing trying to figure out why the oven wasn’t working…

    I haven’t though about this in a couple years, but I’m glad someone else gets a good laugh over it!

  2. I was so thinking Black Sabbath initially.

  3. Oh yeah, a oven that belts out “Paranoid” – now that would be nice! Would get me in the kitchen more often!

  4. Obviously we have different celebrity chefs over here so I’ve never heard of Alton Brown. Does he genuinely cook in his own kitchen? I have always assumed that pretty much all of the kit you see on any TV food programme has been ‘donated’ by the manufacturer for marketing purposes. I occasionally see the set of pans that I own but I don’t think it means I have particularly great taste in pans,,,

    Also, I wonder if (many) Americans know that meat thermometers are hardly used in European domestic kitchens?

  5. I hear there is a Catholic “Indulgences” model too!

  6. Mazal tov on your new oven. I never heard of such a Sabbath saving feature, but that’s pretty neat. You can probably use it to make a mean Cholent or slow-cooking sabbath stew. Check out the recipe links at the bottom of my blog.
    Bon appetit!

  7. I’m in desperate need of a newer, much more efficient, oven. I appreciate you jotting this down.

  8. @jgraham,

    Alton Brown cooks in a studio. He used to cook in his producer’s kitchen till they got a cease and desist order from a neighbor.


    The probe thermometer works really well with a Turkey at Thanksgiving. I have a convection oven with a probe thermometer and the Turkey cooked in less time, had moist white meat and fully cooked dark meat. I didn’t even have to use Alton’s shield (sorry, inside joke).

  9. Dude, I have serious oven envy. It is a nice compliment to my counterspace envy and cupboard envy. I know you guys want to redo the kitchen, but even now, it’s vastly superior to what we’ve got!

  10. The appliance industry is an excellent example of standards done correctly. The appliance industry has set for itself strict standards on size and color, so the GE bisque matches the Kenmore bisque matches the Bosche bisque. The consumer benefits. Kat is free to choose from many different brands based on their individual features without worrying whether they will match her existing appliances.

  11. Sabbath mode? That is both hilarious and slightly disturbing. Are there that many people out there that observe the Sabbath and must use their over on that day? I guess so for them to take the time on this over. Thanks for the article.

  12. All I could picture was Ozzy wandering around your kitchen mumbling incoherently…

  13. I see you decided to go with an electric. We should see where everybody is next Web Jam and see if any others defect from gas.

  14. You don’t understand the sabbath mode. An observant Jew sets it BEFORE the sabbath and leaves it on for 25 hours until after the sabbath and then turns it off. No buttons are pressed during shabbat.

    It maintains the set temperature more or less during that time. If you open the oven to take something out (to warm something pre-cooked), the light will not turn on and the heating element will not automatically go on in response to the cool air from opening.

    We frumskis are legalistic and obsessed, but not quite as dumb and hypocritical as you assumed.

  15. Barbara, I never assumed you or those like you to be dumb or hypocritical, as I think a reading of my post will reveal. I’m all for people who are willing to work around inconvenient barriers, and not being religious myself, I do extend that to religious barriers. Hackers unite!

    That said, your description of how Sabbath mode works is at odds with the instructions manual for the oven, my testing of Sabbath mode in the oven itself, and what’s described in the Wired article to which I linked. The oven we own has a time gramma built in, as described in the article. I tried out the mode when I found it, and it does indeed start up the oven at a random interval after the time and temperature are input, going up to about a minute. I can even cancel the settings, perhaps on the theory that pushing that button directly causes a lack of work. Not sure about that last, though.

    So while leaving an oven on for 25 hours has long been a Sabbath hack, there are apparently more advanced hacks now, ones that allow for button-pushing on the Sabbath. I don’t know if they satisfy everyone’s reading of Sabbath law, but they’re apparently good enough for “the Star-K rabbinical authority, Moshe Heinemann” (from the Wired article).

  16. While thumbing through my owners manual on our GE oven I came across the Sabbath Feature too. Unfortunately, it did not give me a description and/or reason for this feature. Quite honestly the feature has been bugging me for a few days..so this evening I decided to ‘google’ and see what popped up! Here I am! Now I know what the Sabbath feature is, and why I would need to use it. Thanks! PS, I cant think of one reason why I would need it…unless I wanted to use it as a ‘slow cooker’ but my patience runs very thin when I have to cook for hours…so it will remain, Im afraid an un-used feature. :-)

  17. I don’t think you quite understand the interpretation of the Sabbath law here. Even on the Star K site, they say:

    Note: The Sabbath mode does not allow us to turn these appliances on or off on the Sabbath. The Sabbath mode also does not allow us to use these appliances completely at will on Shabbos or Yom Tov. Rather, it enables us to use these appliances within the guidelines of halacha as delineated in the letters of certification (available from the Star-K office) or as posted in our appliance section.


    Observant Jews do not push the buttons on a certified Kosher oven on the Sabbath. People who observe the Sabbath plan the Friday night and Shabbat day meals well in advance. It’s not like we’re thinking on Sabbath day, “oh I think I have a hankering for a piece of cake. I’ll just go make a cake now.” Instead we’re thinking on Friday morning, “oh and I better make sure we have cake for a special Shabbos treat.” We have the food cooked well before sundown Friday night. I use my top oven to keep the food warm, and my bottom oven for hot food the next day.

  18. Batia’s description of what goes on before Shabbos is entirely accurate. Batia is speaking the truth – she is obviously an observant Jew. B”H And to the poster who couldn’t believe there were that many Jews observing the Sabbath, yes, absolutely, there has always been a remnant of Jews who have kept all the laws and there is still that same remnant today. A small group, but definitely a strong one.

  19. Why would my Jenn-Air; double oven gas range spontaneously go into SABBATH mode? After all…I am a Methodist…we cook all the time! :)

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