During the time of the Mishna, some communities had a custom to refrain from eating roast meat on Pesaĥ night, since it would look like they were eating the meat of the Paschal sacrifice – which must be roasted – outside the precincts of Jerusalem. Elsewhere, people did eat roast meat on Pesaĥ but did not roast a whole lamb, which would really look like offering the korban Pesaĥ outside the Temple. The Sages stated that each custom is valid: where the custom is to refrain from roasted meat, one should not eat it, and where the custom is to eat it, one may (Pesaĥim 53a). In practice, Yemeni Jews customarily eat roasted meat on Pesaĥ night, but all Ashkenazim and most Sephardim customarily prohibit roasted meat on Pesaĥ night (Ben Ish Ĥai, Year One, Tzav 30; Ĥazon Ovadia p. 175). We shall now specify the details of this prohibition:
The prohibition against roasted meat applies to all types of meat, even from species that could not be used as the korban Pesaĥ, such as beef and fowl. However, one may roast foods that do not require ritual slaughtering, such as fish and eggs (SA 476:2). Though the meat of the Paschal sacrifice was roasted over the fire and not in a pot, pot roast is nevertheless forbidden, because it looks like meat roasted over fire. It is likewise forbidden to eat meat that was first cooked and then roasted, because it looks roasted. However, meat that was first roasted may be cooked and eaten on the Seder night, because it looks cooked (MB 476:1; Kaf Ha-ĥayim 4 ad loc.).
Some have a custom to eat eggs during the Seder meal in order to recall the destruction of the Temple, as eggs are a sign of mourning, and because the first day of Pesaĥ always falls on the same day of the week as Tisha Be-Av (Rema 476:2). The Vilna Gaon explains that eggs commemorate the pilgrimage sacrifice (korban ĥagiga) that was eaten on the Seder night before the korban Pesaĥ. Therefore, the custom is to eat the egg from the Seder plate during the meal, as it is placed there to commemorate the korban ĥagiga (MB 476:11; Kaf Ha-ĥayim 25-26 ad loc.). Some people refrain from eating the egg from the Seder plate in order to keep the plate intact; they eat it on the following day (Ma’amar Mordechai 473:1). However, the widespread custom is to eat the egg from the Seder plate at the Seder.
As on any other Yom Tov, a distinguished feast should be prepared for the Seder night, with fine utensils and festive delicacies. One may drink wine during the meal; this is not considered adding to the four cups. However, one must be careful not to eat and drink too much, because the afikoman must be eaten with an appetite at the end of the meal (see below, section 33), and because one must be able to continue reciting the Hallel and the concluding songs without becoming too tired.