Seven Tips For a ‘Gluten-Free’ Safe Kitchen
Eliminating All Risks Isn’t Realistic
Although I’ve been living a gluten-free lifestyle for over thirty years, my kitchen is not dedicated gluten-free, nor has it ever been. I’ve always been the only one in my home to follow a gluten-free diet – as a child and as an adult. The truth is, you can “gluten-free-proof” your home, just as you would “baby-proof” it. If you choose, you can create a completely safe kitchen without feeling overwhelmed. It isn’t mandatory to eliminate all gluten from your home in order to live gluten-free.
The key to making your kitchen safe is to become well versed on how to avoid hidden sources of gluten and cross-contamination. Always read ingredient labels carefully, and refer to the Canadian Celiac Association’s pocket dictionary to verify the status of ingredients you are unsure about. Cross-contamination occurs when gluten-free food makes direct contact with food that contains gluten. It is the main reason why most manufactured oats are considered unsafe for those who are gluten-intolerant. Cross-contamination can happen in manufacturing and dining establishments, as well as in the home.
Put yourself (or your gluten-free loved one) first. For example, prepare the gluten-free sandwiches, pasta, baked goods, etc. first. Then cook and prepare for the rest of your family. That way you will greatly reduce the risk of cross-contamination. Also, educate your family and friends about cross-contamination and the implications it can have on the gluten-free diet. Teach your loved ones that double dipping in your home is worse than simply poor manners!
This may sound ‘crumby’, however, you’ll need to become a detective in your home and think in ‘crumbs.’ According to the Canadian Celiac Association, “Anywhere you see crumbs is a potential place for cross-contamination.” For example, counter tops, cutting boards, microwaves, toaster ovens and margarine containers (and containers with other spreads) can be major culprits. Catch those crumbs and show them who’s boss!
The following list includes some helpful, often overlooked tips to help you create a kitchen that is safe for you or any gluten-free member of your family.
Clean all of your cooking surfaces, cooking equipment, pots and utensils very thoroughly before preparing gluten-free food. You can dedicate an area of your counter “the gluten-free zone”. Properly clean all cooking/baking equipment and utensils, proper cleaning will remove gluten residue (with the exception of a strainer/colander for draining pasta, cutting boards, wooden utensils which can retain gluten, and the toaster).
Be First When Baking.
Do your gluten-free baking (and storing) before baking anything that is not gluten-free. Flour dust is airborne and can settle, causing cross-contamination. Also, those with celiac disease should not breathe in regular flour dust, as it may get digested.
Let the Other Breads Go Last.
When you are preparing sandwiches for your family which yield a lot of crumbs, prepare the gluten-free sandwiches first.
Treat Yourself to Your Own Toaster and Cutting Board.
Use a separate toaster and make it known that it’s yours. There are also toaster bags on the market that hold your bread, which you can insert into your toaster. Alternatively, you can use a foil liner when unsure about a toaster, grill or oven. You should also have your own dedicated gluten-free cutting board.
Boil, Bake, Fry and Cook Separately.
Do not fry gluten-free food in the same oil used for frying non gluten-free food. The same applies to pasta and other boiled foods – use separate pots for frying, boiling and cooking gluten-free and non gluten-free food.
Find Solutions to the Double Dipping Dilemma.
When it comes to spreads such as butter, cream cheese, jam, peanut butter, etc., bread crumbs often get left behind from double dipping. It is preferable to have your own spreads labelled gluten-free. You can also keep your gluten-free spreads on a separate shelf in your fridge or pantry, away from the other unsafe spreads. Alternatively, you can buy squeeze containers when possible, which prevents the double dipping problem. Consider using mini pre-packaged spreads; they’re cute too!
Be Cautious about Bulk Flours and Foods.
Be careful about what gluten-free foods and flours you bring into your home from bulk food stores, as they can easily become cross-contaminated from the scoops. Pre-packaged gluten-free flours may be a safer consideration. Also, beware of certain flours deemed gluten-free, such as buckwheat flour and quinoa flour, as research has found them to be at risk of cross-contamination during manufacturing processes.
Lisa Cantkier was medically diagnosed with celiac disease as a toddler. She enjoys researching and writing about celiac disease and gluten intolerance, and has a special interest in holistic nutrition. Lisa is the founder of GlutenFreeFind.com (an online resource directory) and co-founder of GlutenFreeSmartStore.com (an online store offering healthy gluten-free products).