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Sterno on Shabbos


  1. If one uses sternos (a small can that is lit under a pan to keep the food in the pan hot) to keep food warm on shabbos, can one take food directly from the pan on the sterno or does one have to remove the pan first and only then take food from it? Why?
  2. Also, what are the Halachic ramifications of sternos on Shabbos (is bottom pan considered blech, is water in bottom pan source of heat or is the fire the source of heat, chazarah etc…)? I have not found any seforim as of yet that deal with sternos. If possible please attach mekoros.

Yasher Koach.


The sterno makes the food hot, and it can technically advance the cooking process, therefore the halachos of stirring food will apply here also. If the food is not fully cooked we may not stir it or even remove it with a ladle etc. because it will get stirred that way. If the food is totally cooked, according to the sefadi minhag it is permitted, but for the ashkenazim it should be picked up. There is an opinion that if it is fully cooked one may stick a fork into a potato and remove it without stirring, even while it is on the fire.

Regarding your second question, if the food is dry, without sauce etc. and fully cooked and there isn’t any issue of bishul, it is permitted. The reason is since people do not cook on a sterno, and it is only used for warming up food or keeping it hot, it is only an issue of chazora, which only applies when it will look like cooking, (mechzi k’mevashel), therefore there is no need for a blech. This should be similar to putting food dry cooked food on a radiator, (Igros Moshe O:CH 4- 74(34)  that although the radiator will heat the food up, there is no need to use a blech since it isn’t derech bishul it isn’t mechzi k’mevashel.

Note: This is all assuming that the sterno was lit and the water underneath it was in place from before shabbos.


O:Ch 318-18, 253-2 M:B 318-117, Chut Shani chap. 29 pg 196, because it isn’t the norm to stir with a fork therefore we aren’t afraid that merely removing food with it that he will come to stir it.

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