Hi, welcome to Design it Kosher and to our first blog post! Our goal is to provide useful information about what is out there that can enhance the look and functionality of your kosher kitchen. In this post we will look at which surfaces make for a good, kosher countertop.
Countertops are one of the most exciting parts of designing a kitchen. There is SO much to choose from and the different options can change the look of your kitchen drastically. Available options for countertops extend from your more typical granite, marble, quartzite and engineered quartz to porcelain slabs, laminate, wood, tile and stainless steel. All of these options can look great in a kitchen, however not all of them are practical and not all are able to be koshered. (Koshering a counter is the process of returning a surface to its original state, enabling it to be considered new and to then be used for either meat, dairy, pareve or passover. (See more about about what kosher is here.)
So how to choose? Lets go through the options and discuss their pros and cons and of course, how they would work for the kosher consumer. The kashrus information here is based on the opinions of the COR, Star-K and the CRC. Please note that there are differing opinions on koshering countertops.
I’m going to start with engineered quartz because it has officially taken the #1 spot as the material of choice in new kitchens. Some popular brands of engineered quartz are Caesarstone, Silestone and Cambria. Engineered quartz is approximately 98% natural quartz and 2% man made materials (resin and color.) It is non porous and therefore very resistant to staining, scratching and heat. Any imperfections can usually be sanded out by certified technicians. The availability of color and pattern is incredible, and if you are looking for something solid, or clean looking with predictable patterns, then this is a top choice. They generally come with a warranty as well.
What are the drawbacks? Unless you only want the “real thing” then there really aren’t any. The price point is generally in line with a quality natural stone and you don’t need to visit a stone yard to choose your slab. Best of all, this surface never needs to be re-sealed and is able to be Koshered.
Natural stone sits right behind engineered quartz on the favorites list and topped the list for years before that. There are three main types of natural stone countertops: granite, marble and quartzite.
Granite is nothing new and has been a popular countertop choice in kosher kitchen for decades because it can be koshered and is quite durable. However, to maintain your top, granite needs to be periodically re-sealed. Granite became less popular as consumers started looking for lighter tops with marbled patterns as opposed to speckles and splotches.
Marble, while eternally beautiful with lots of open veining and white based options remains an impractical countertop choice for the kosher cook. Yes, it can be koshered but it is extremely delicate, and more importantly, porous! Think of grape juice, beet horseradish and pomegranates before you decide to go this route!
Quartzite is a surface that not everyone has heard of and can be an absolutely stunning choice for a kosher countertop if you are ready to work a bit. It kind of sits somewhere in between granite and marble in all its properties. The patterns are beautiful, light and veined, yet it is more porous than granite so it would need to be sealed regularly. As with all natural stone options, it too can be koshered.
For all stone tops, please keep in mind that you will need to visit a stone yard to choose the slabs that will be used in your kitchen. It is not enough to choose from a sample chip as the variations in natural stone is tremendous.
A newcomer to the world of countertops, this surface is quickly getting a name for itself as a beautiful and durable choice. As a man made material, porcelain slabs are often designed to look like popular marble patterns without the impracticality. They are very resistant to scratching and staining and are available in large sizes if you want to avoid seams. However, as a new material and not yet widely available, porcelain slab countertops are quite expensive. In addition, this surface cannot be koshered and would require full covering for passover. As of now, the main porcelain countertop manufacturer is neolith.
I’ll briefly mention porcelain tile here although it is not a popular countertop for both kosher and non kosher kitchens. at the moment. For both reasons of style and practicality this material has fallen out of favor. In case it is something you were considering though, just like porcelain slabs it cannot be koshered.
Wood and Stainless Steel
These two have been lumped together because although both countertops can technically be koshered, they are not very practical for a full kitchen. Wood countertops would need frequent sealing to remain beautiful while stainless steel counters scratch. Both of these surfaces can do well in small areas of your kitchen as an accent or a cutting surface. Stainless steel is popular in commercial kitchens where the scratching is not a deterrent.
Laminate and Acrylic
An old classic and still a popular choice for apartment, pesach and budget kitchens. Available in tons of colors and patterns from companies such as formica and wilsonart , laminate can look beautiful and can hold up very well. However, a few drawbacks have reduced its desirability. Laminate is not stain, scratch or heat resistant. It has a manufactured look as there is not much visual depth and patterns repeat every couple of feet or so. Seams are vulnerable to popping when exposed to heat and water which impacts this surfaces ability to host an undermount sink. Additionally, according to most, laminate countertops cannot be koshered. The main plus that this surface offers is its price point, which can’t be beat. Additionally, if you are on a very tight time frame, these countertops can be ordered along with the kitchen. This will save 10 – 14 days on the installation time.
Another man made surface that is relatively popular are solid surface / acrylic countertops. These tops are much more durable than laminate but also considerably more expensive. They are quite resistant to scratching, burning and staining, however they do have a bit of a static look and don’t give a “wow” factor to a kitchen. Additionally, according to most, they cannot be koshered either. Corian and Staron are examples of this type of surface.
So this rounds up all you need to know about your countertop options! If you have any questions or comments regarding any of the information written here, please feel free to be in touch. Happy counter hunting!