What exactly is “halal cooking” ?
Halal cooking is cooking without the use of haram, or impermissible, ingredients according to Islamic dietary guidelines. That means abstaining from the use of alcohol and pork or from things which contain the by-products of those. There are other impressible ingredients such as blood and predatory animals with fangs, but since they aren’t commonly eaten in this part of the world, they are rarely mentioned in discussion surrounding halal cooking.
What are the basic requirements for cooking and eating halal? What is prohibited and how must food be prepared?
The basic requirement for cooking halal is that all the ingredients used in cooking should be in accordance with what is halal (permissible foods, according to Islamic law). For more on an explanation of halal ingredients, please visit this page.
Are there any cooking methods that may not be used in halal cooking?
No particular methods of cooking, per se, are forbidden, however anything that involves impermissible ingredients such as alcohol or pork or other non-halal ingredients (i.e. blood, human body parts, carcass of animals, animals with fangs or claws, birds of prey). For example, cooking with alcohol (which does not completely burn off) or cooking even with the broth or bouillon of animals not properly slaughtered in accordance with Islamic practice, are not considered halal.
Must someone following halal use special equipment or prepare equipment for cooking in a special way? Can someone who follows halal use dishes, pots, pans, etc. from a kitchen that also prepares non-halal food?
There are no special pots, pans, utensils or cooking equipment required for use in a halal kitchen. Anyone desiring to make halal food in a kitchen in which he/she is unaware of what was cooked in those pots is simply advised to clean the utensils and equipment thoroughly before use.
I don’t cook halal, but I want to make a halal meal for my friends. Where am I supposed to get the meat and other halal ingredients?
Look for Mediterranean or Middle Eastern markets, but don’t assume the meat is halal just because the butcher tells you so. Ask the owner where the meat comes from and how it is slaughtered. If there is a certification or stamp of approval regarding the authenticity of it being halal, ask to see it.
Typically these types of stores will carry halal-certified ingredients, too, but many mainstream companies are certifying products that you can find in your everyday supermarket or at places like Whole Foods. Check out IFANCA ‘s website (the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America) website at www.ifanca.org for a list of products but be sure to look at the date it was updated, as companies change may change their formulas often and not renew a halal certification.
So long as halal foods are not mixed with or touch non-halal foods, a dish will be considered halal.
What other grocery shopping tips do you have for people who want to cook halal?
All consumers today must take a look at product labels, something Muslims have been doing this for quite a long time when searching for ingredients that may be red flags in terms of their halal factor.
Now more than ever, however, there are products that may seem to have ingredients that are free of pork or alcohol, but are they really good for us? Some ‘halal’ products contain chemicals, artificial dyes and sweeteners and other synthetic elements that simply aren’t good for us. As Muslims, we have the obligation to care for the one body that our Creator gave us by feeding it sound, nutritious and healthy food that is free of impurities. Our food should be halal, but we shouldn’t assume those products marketed to us are also healthy for us.
Today, alhamdullilah, there are halal products that are also healthy for us and convenient, too. I also like to choose products with the least amount of ingredients as well as the most ‘real’ and natural ingredients as possible: real cane sugar, real milk, real sour cream, real vanilla bean, etc. That way I know what I’m getting and it’s easier to determine whether or not it’s a halal option I can take home.
I want to cook halal dishes, but many of the recipes I like involve alcohol and other non-halal products. Are there good substitutes I can use?
Use real vanilla beans in cooking just by opening up the pod and scraping it into a recipe if you can’t find the no-alcohol extract. For things like peppermint extract or lemon extract, use real crushed mint leaves or lemon zest, which result in fresher tastes than extracts, anyway.
As far as substitutes for wine or other alcohol, choose real grape (white grape or purple grape) juices or apple juice to substitute. They have the sweetening effect you’re looking for in a dish without any of the alcohol or compromise on taste.
If you really want the extract, Whole Foods Market has a nice variety of no-alcohol extract for baking and cooking.
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