This is the fourth in a series of what to do when you discover you can no longer eat gluten.
Probably the hardest issue when dealing with no longer being able to eat gluten is the issue of cross-contamination. Cross-contamination basically comes down to tiny pieces of gluten which have been cooked, or prepared on a surface, coming into contact with your non-gluten food. Depending on your sensitivities, (I am fairly sensitive to it), very small amounts can make you ill. Even if you don’t feel a physical effect, small amounts of gluten in a cross contamination situation may still affect your gut, brain or other areas. If you are sensitive to gluten, it’s a good idea to keep your food uncontaminated.
If you have been gluten-free for a while and are still experiencing issues, your kitchen may be at fault. Basically keeping your kitchen uncontaminated is the basis for keeping your food uncontaminated. If you are lucky enough to have everyone in your household following a gluten-free diet, then its really a one shot deal. If you have to share a kitchen with others who are eating gluten, then it’s going to be an ongoing situation where everyone, gluten-free and non-gluten-free needs to be aware of what is happening and help to keep gluten-free items gluten-free. In reality, the best way to do this if you are sharing the kitchen with gluten eating people, is to designate a counter-top (and cabinet) as gluten okay and keep the rest of the kitchen gluten-free.
Cleanliness is Necessary
The first step is to make sure the counter top where you prepare your food is thoroughly cleaned before you begin cooking anything. Wipe down the countertop with a cleanser and paper towel. Any gluten on your countertop will find its way into your cooking. Make sure your utensils are throughly cleaned as well. If you are living in a house that still contains gluten, do not leave your gluten-free utensils out on the countertop where they can be contaminated.
Some Items Will Need To Be Discarded.
Regardless of whether you are living in a totally gluten-free household or not, there are certain appliances and utensils which will need to be purchased again. The reason is that certain appliances that have been used for gluten items in the past cannot be throughly cleaned and other items may be either scratched or porous enough to have gluten adhere to them.
Anything that is replaced in a shared gluten/gluten-free house needs to be clearly labeled gluten free and family members that are still eating/cooking with gluten need to be aware that the gluten free items are off limits to them.
Unfortunately, a toaster or a toaster oven that has been used to toast breads or other items cannot be throughly cleaned enough to make it safe for a gluten free lifestyle. Anytime a toaster has been used for these items, crumbs sift off, not only into the crumb catcher, but into other parts of the toaster/toaster oven as well. If your toaster oven never handled a piece of toast or other glutened items on the shelf, you are probably safe. Otherwise, invest in a new one. If you are living in a house that has both, make sure to label your new gluten-free toaster/oven and make sure that family members know that anything they toast has to be done in the old one.
Non Stick Pans
Non stick pans are fine if they are not scratched, but if they are scratched at all, they must be replaced. Gluten can and will find its way into those scratches and will continue to be there, no matter how carefully you clean up. Remember that gluten is not only found in breads and grain items (such as pancakes), but in many sauces and marinades that you might have used in those pans.
Cast iron is also porous and can be replaced. You can also clean and re-season it. Before following re-seasoning procedures, make sure to run your cast iron through a cleaning cycle in a self-cleaning oven. Self-cleaning ovens get themselves up to a temperature of about 900 degrees Fahrenheit and this will kill any gluten on both your cast iron and in your oven. (Two for one).
Cutting boards by regular use, get cut and scratched up. This means that any gluten that was on that cutting board, from bread or from any sauces or marinades that contained them, can end up on your cutting boards. Replacing them is paramount
Even though bread knives are used for bread, most of them can safely be re-used for gluten-free cooking. Just make sure to check them for pits and scratches. If they are free of these, make sure to wash them thoroughly between uses.
Plastic and Silicone Utensils
Plastic and silicone can become scratched. They can also contain gluten particles in the crevices in that space where the handle comes into the head or even in the handle itself. Fortunately, these items are fairly inexpensive and can be replaced easily.
Wooden Spoons / Rolling Pins
Any wood item, can trap small amounts of gluten in itself since wood is porous. These definitely need to be replaced.
Any item that is used for baking really needs to be looked at carefully. If you are living in a mixed household, and will be doing gluten-free baking do yourself a favor and replace everything. If you are single or living in a totally gluten-free household, look at the following:
Flour sifters definitely need replacing. Many recipes for gluten-free baking call for sifting and as you know, there is no way to perfectly clean a flour sifter. Get a new one.
Non-stick / silicone baking sheets and muffin tins that are scratched need to be replaced as well. Don’t fool yourself that one little scratch doesn’t matter. It does.
I’ve heard of some people who use parchment paper to bake glutened items on gluten-free bakeware. I don’t recommend this. Remember, getting glutened may not be giving you a physical problem, but it can still wreck your health. Make sure all bakeware is separate and clearly labeled.
Plastic Bowls and Colanders
Many of us have used our colanders for pasta. Unless your colander is metal and thoroughly cleansed, chances are its harboring gluten. Make sure you have a clearly labeled gluten-free colander for yourself (even if your colander is metal).
Many of us don’t think about our sponges and dish towels as needing to be gluten-free, but they do. If you use the same sponge to clean both gluten and non gluten items, you are taking the chance of transferring gluten to your gluten-free items. Someone who has eaten a sandwich and then wiped their hands on the dish towel has contaminated it. Buy separate colored sponges and dish towels for gluten-free and make sure you don’t store your gluten-free sponge near the glutened one.
If you are washing your dishes and utensils by hand, make sure you wash your gluten-free items first. Don’t contaminate the water. If you are washing in a dishwasher, items can safely be washed together.
Label your Gluten Free Items
This goes for both food and utensils/appliances in a mixed gluten/gluten free household. Make sure everything is labeled. Make sure to store gluten-free food items at the top of your pantry and refrigerator. Make sure to store your gluten-free utensils in their own (scrubbed clean) cabinets and drawers. When you are talking about your health, you need to be very careful about keeping everything separate.
Make sure your family and those in your house who are still eating gluten, know and agree to not touch your food items and your utensils/appliances.
A Note about Baking
If someone in your house is a baker of gluten containing items, it’s going to be very difficult to keep your kitchen gluten-free. Flour can go everywhere, and a person who is sensitive, can get glutened just from breathing in a bit of flour. If someone is going to bake glutened items, have them start the measuring and combining process outside. Any bit of gluten containing flour in the kitchen can make it impossible to keep your kitchen uncontaminated. Don’t bring the batter into the house until the gluten containing flour has been thoroughly combined and won’t spray particles in the kitchen.
- Gluten Free Series: Discovering The Need To Be Gluten Free
- Gluten Free Series: Holidays and Gluten and Thanksgiving
- Gluten Free Series: Cleaning up your Pantry
- Gluten Free Series: Eating Out
- Gluten Free Series: Kitchen Equipment, What Can Stay, What Can Go