When I found out that my husband John and two of my sons had non-celiac gluten sensitivity, it meant completely transforming our lifestyle. However, two of my children were still eating wheat, so my kitchen was not a 100% gluten-free zone. Research shows that it can take as little as 1/64 of a teaspoon of gluten to cause small intestinal inflammation in those with celiac disease.
In order to prevent cross contamination, I immediately segregated toasters, cooking utensils, storage areas, and counters for preparation. Thankfully, my entire family now eats gluten-free so there is zero chance of cross contamination in my kitchen. However, for those of you who will be sharing your kitchen with family members who eat gluten containing foods, here are five steps you can follow to prevent cross contamination.
1. Designated Gluten-Free Cooking Utensils, Pots, Pans, and Appliances
First, make sure you have appliances, cooking utensils, pots, and pans that are safe for preparing gluten free foods. For example, you should have a gluten free only toaster, cutting board, waffle maker, etc. Colanders, muffin tins and other baking utensils should be designated as gluten free only or at least washed thoroughly in the dishwasher before using for gluten free cooking.
However, some materials are not safe for sharing. Cast iron pots are porous and gluten can become trapped on them even after they are washed. Non-stick pans also inevitably have tiny scratches in them where gluten can hide. Wooden cooking utensils can harbor residual gluten as well. In the end, it’s usually best not to share cooking utensils, pots, and pans.
Here is a list of items you should make sure are gluten free safe:
- Baking pans
- Bread machine
- Cookie sheets and cookie cutters
- Cooking utensils (knives, spatulas, spoons, etc.)
- Cooling racks
- Cutting boards
- Kitchen towels
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Mixing bowls
- Pots and pans
- Stand and hand mixers
- Storage containers
- Strainers and colanders
- Waffle Maker
- Whisks and beaters
2. Gluten-Free Pantry
Second, make a separate space in your kitchen where you can store your gluten free foods. Clear out and wash down a cabinet or shelf (preferably the highest one so no gluten crumbs have a chance of falling onto it). You can keep your gluten free only cooking utensils here as well. Color coding your utensils will prevent them from being mistakenly used by those who aren’t eating gluten free.
3. Separate Food Items
Condiments and spreads are another place where wheat crumbs can hide. Think butter, mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, peanut butter, jelly, etc. It is best to buy two of each product (you will want to make sure the product is certified gluten free as well). Label prominently the products that are for gluten free foods only. Alternatively, you can buy squeezable containers for condiments to avoid double dipping. These 8-ounce easy squeeze plastic condiment bottles are BPA free and available from Amazon.
4. Gluten Free Cooking Surfaces and Storage Containers
Be very careful when cooking food and storing leftovers. BBQ grills for example should be 100% gluten-free or cleaned very well. Wheat flour remains airborne after being used and can contaminate cooking surfaces. Make sure to wipe down counters after preparing any gluten containing foods. It is often best to prepare gluten-free foods first so that there is no chance of cross contamination.
When storing leftovers, use stickers or labels to mark which containers are gluten free. If you use plastic containers to store gluten containing leftovers, do not use them for your gluten free foods. Plastic can remain greasy from previous foods. Glass and ceramic are the best choices.
5. Gluten Free Safe Oven
Ovens are another danger zone where cross contamination can happen. If you don’t clean your oven frequently, crumbs will collect on the bottom as well as in the drawer under the oven. Racks are another place where gluten can hide. Here is a rack that fits in this baking sheet that you can dedicate for your gluten free foods. You can elevate your pizza, for instance, over a dedicated baking sheet and voilà, you’re good to go.
Ultimately, a good rule of thumb to follow is if you aren’t sure it’s safe, it probably isn’t. Make sure friends, relatives, and young children know which items are to be used for gluten free foods only. For more information about cross contamination, read our article here.
Have a happy and healthy week, friends!