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I often need to taste the food I’m preparing to see if it’s ready or seasoned properly. I’m usually not particularly hungry at the time, and I’m not eating to satisfy my hunger, just to see what the food tastes like. Does such tasting require a blessing?
The Talmud (Brachot 14a) states that one who tastes food does not recite a blessing (bracha). There is a basic debate in the commentators over what constitutes “tasting”. According to some, “tasting” means any time one eats (and swallows) but only to see what the food tastes like – as in your case – so long as the quantity he consumes is relatively small. Others maintain that only eating without swallowing constitutes “tasting”.
Both opinions are mentioned in Jewish law without resolution (Shulchan Aruch 210:2). Thus, one who eats and swallows to taste would not say a blessing, based on the principle in Jewish law that one does not make a blessing in cases of doubt (Rema there).
However, it is best to avoid this situation so as not to enter a situation of doubt. There are two suggestions offered by the later commentators for doing so:
(a) Taste the food without reciting a blessing on it, and subsequently spit it out.
(b) Recite a blessing first and then taste and swallow the food. You must, however, have in mind that you are not eating only to sample the food, but to enjoy it as well (Mishna Berurah 210:19).
As an important aside, even if you’re not especially hungry, if you enjoy the taste of the food you’re eating (assuming you didn’t burn it completely), you may recite a blessing on it. The only person who does not recite a blessing on food is someone who is so stuffed that he feels a revulsion towards eating anything more (Mishna Berurah 197:28).