by Kerry Doyle-Gundlach, MS, RD, LD
When first diagnosed with celiac disease, or gluten intolerance there is so much to learn. You read books, magazines, blogs, websites, and every ingredient label. You ask questions at restaurants, family gatherings and potlucks hoping something is available that is gluten-free. In the midst of understanding what you can and cannot eat, it is easy to overlook a potentially risky source of contamination—the kitchen. Whether you live in a home where gluten is consumed or visit someone who eats gluten, it is important to understand how to avoid cross contamination. When it comes to keeping my kitchen gluten-free I remember these three rules: store and separate; beware of contaminated equipment; and keep it clean.
STORE AND SEPARATE
Store gluten-free foods on the top shelf in bins labeled “gluten-free.”
Label all gluten-free products (spreads, margarines, cheese, butter, peanut butter and jelly).
Use squeeze bottles as often as possible.
Counters and Cutting Boards
Designate a counter space and cutting board as a gluten-free preparation area. Wood and scratched plastic are porous materials that can harbor gluten particles.
Sponges and Dishrags
Keep a dishrag, color-coded sponge, and paper towels for gluten-free cleaning.
Serving Utensils and Food Items
Use separate serving utensils for all food items. Wooden spoons harbor gluten and are not recommended.
Color code a set of gluten-free serving utensils and keep them in a separate container.
Place gluten-free food items in a separate serving area to avoid unintentional cross contamination.
BEWARE OF CONTAMINATED EQUIPMENT
Nooks, crannies, and scratches of many cooking utensils and appliances make it impossible to remove gluten particles with 100% confidence. The following is a list of kitchen equipment that poses the highest risk for cross-contamination. Invest in separate equipment to ensure you are truly eating gluten free.
- Slot Toasters
- Fine mesh strainers and colanders
- Waffle irons and pancake griddles
- Can openers
- Convection ovens
- Pizza cutter
- Wooden rolling pin
- Pastry cloth
- Slotted and wooden spoons
- Deep fryer
- Scratched up non-stick pans
- Cast-iron pans*
* You do not have to buy new cast-iron pans to make them gluten-free. Instead place them in the oven and use the self-cleaning option to burn off the gluten. Re-season the pans as if they were brand new.
KEEP IT CLEAN
Best practice cleaning: First, dry wipe to pick up crumbs, then wet wipe to clean the surface.
Sponges have the potential to harbor gluten. Designate and color code a sponge as gluten free.
Rinse dishes first and then put them in the dishwasher.
Vacuum and clean drawers regularly to eliminate crumbs.
Whether or not you see crumbs, clean counter tops before you use them.
If a gluten containing flour was used in the kitchen, wait 24 hours before preparing a gluten-free dish. This allows time for flour dust to settle. Clean and sanitize all surfaces.
Inspect place mats for crumbs and change them often.
Kiss the Cook! To prevent cross contamination, make sure everyone is free of gluten. Washing around the mouth and brushing teeth should get rid of gluten crumbs.
Remember, it is important to make small, progressive changes. If you feel overwhelmed, take a step back and remind yourself this is a learning process. Circle two things from this article that you can do this week. One-two weeks later, take another look and find 1-2 more things you feel comfortable doing. Over time, these practices will begin to feel like second nature and your gut will thank you!