Regarding making cholent in a slow cooker before Shabbat; according to sephardic minhag, what is the proper halachic way to prepare cholent before shabbat?
I always thought that cholent needed to be fully cooked before Shabbat starts, but recently I heard that putting in raw meat right before Shabbat starts is not a problem.
Also, I was invited to someone’s house who I know put the meat in the cholent an hour before shabbat. Would that be mutar to eat?
The short answer to your question is that as long as there is a blech (metal plate between the fire and the pot), or a hotplate with no knobs, you may put up cholent immediately prior to Shabbat. A crockpot should ideally have aluminum foil between the pot and the internal walls of the base.
If someone put raw food up immediately prior to Shabbat, and the food was on an open flame, you may not eat the food until enough time after Shabbat that the food could have been one third cooked after Shabbat.
To expand and explain on this; raw food may not be left on a fire right before Shabbat because it looks like cooking. To permit putting food up immediately prior to Shabbat Chazal decreed that one needs to either extinguish the coals in the oven and cook with the heat left behind (such as in a brick oven), or one must cover the coals in a way which they cannot be adjusted and fanned. Both of these methods serve to make it clear that one is not cooking on Shabbat.
In modern times, we do not use coals in our ovens. How can one accomplish either of these two conditions to permit putting up raw food immediately prior to Shabbat? On a stove one can put a blech – a piece of metal which covers the fire – and this is the equivalent of covering the coals, since one does not normally cook this way. Some Poskim are stringent and rule that you need to cover the fire and the knobs, but you may be lenient and rely on those that rule that covering the fire is enough.
A hotplate may be used for raw food, as long as it has no adjustable temperature. Since one cannot raise and lower the temperature of a hotplate, it is as if the fire is covered and does not appear as if one is cooking on Shabbat itself. (see Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 1:25)
A crockpot has an issue, since there is a knob for adjusting the temperature. Therefore, the proper way to use a crockpot would be to line the inside with aluminum foil. This is the equivalent of covering the coals mentioned earlier. It is also proper to cover the knob, but you may be lenient regarding covering the knobs if you must.
All the best!