Whether you are Celiac, have wheat allergies, or just feel better sans gluten, you need to know that gluten can hide in some pretty sneaky places! Here are six risky areas of gluten cross contamination that you need to know about if you share a kitchen with gluten eaters.
#1 Butter – As it turns out, butter can damage your health in more ways than just increasing your cholesterol. I’m looking at you, Paula Dean! If you use a shared kitchen space with family or roommates, chances are you also share some cooking must-haves like butter. Weather in a tub or in stick form, it is easy to find gluten cross contamination here. For example: Someone uses a knife to get some butter then spreads it onto their toast. Maybe they want a little more so they go in for another helping of that golden, greasy goodness with the same knife they’ve just rubbed all over their gluten filled bread. Bam! The butter is cross contaminated.
But fear not! There are a couple of ways you can protect yourself from this risk. Buy your own butter and label it. Label it good! I use freezer tape and a Sharpie. I have found, however, that this is not a foolproof method – particularly for people who have children in the kitchen. For you, depending on what you use it for, spray butter may be your best option.
#2 Mayonnaise – Much like butter, mayo is a kitchen must-have which is typically shared, and the main risk of cross contamination is using a knife to spread it on regular bread then putting the now contaminated knife back into the jar! OR the even WORSE scenario – your family member or roommate gets too much mayo and they scrape off the extra and put it back in the jar.
RED ALERT! RED ALERT! Please step away from the jar!
If you are Celiac and you use the mayo now, you will be in a world of hurt! The same goes for any kind of spread sold in jars, including Nutella, jelly, and peanut butter. To resolve this problem, I usually go with squeeze bottles.
SQUEEZE BOTTLES EVERYWHERE!
Squeeze mayo, squeeze jelly … anything I can get in squeeze bottles instead of jars. If this isn’t your preference that’s fine, just use labels!
#3 Toaster or Oven Racks – If you have ever experienced gluten free bread, then you know it can be pretty tough, dry, and generally brick-like. The best way I’ve found to bring gluten free bread from brick-like to edible (and actually pretty delicious) is to toast it! Even the toughest and driest gluten free bread is made instantly more edible through toasting. This can be accomplished a couple of ways, you can use a toaster oven, or if you’re like me and don’t have room for one, you can toast it in the regular oven. For best toasting results, it is recommended to put the food directly on the rack.
RED ALERT! RED ALERT!
Chances are, your gluten-loving family members or roommates ALSO put their food directly on the rack when they toast things. Uh oh! Now your food is cross contaminated. To protect myself from these areas of risk, I use a sheet of aluminum foil to cover the cooking surface, or just use a cookie sheet. Yum! Breakfast is served!
You can also toast bread with a pop up toaster, but I just don’t recommend using those in a shared kitchen environment because most can’t be sufficiently cleaned between gluten and non-gluten breads.
#4 Crumbs on Counter Tops – Don’t EVER lay your gluten free bread, pop tart, or other treat directly on the counter top in a shared kitchen. That’s a sure way to pick up a few crumbs that have been dropped by your gluten eating friends. Always create a “clean space” for your foods by placing them on a paper towel or just grab small dessert plate. It’s absolutely worth the extra effort of washing that plate later!
#5 Kitchen Towels – In a shared kitchen, hand towels are a hotbed of cross contamination! Often, gluten eaters will use the kitchen towel to wipe the crumbs from their hands or even from the counter tops. Just make a habit of reaching for a paper towel and avoid the kitchen towel altogether!
#6 Buffet Style Meals – This one applies more to family dinners or special events involving both regular foods and gluten free foods. When foods are being served buffet style, it is imperative to keep serving utensils away from gluten containing foods, and this is best accomplished by placing the gluten free foods in a designated place AWAY from the regular foods. This will decrease the chances of the serving spoons cross contaminating the gluten free food. If you are hosting the meal, a separate serving area is an easy way to protect your gluten intolerant guests.
BUT if you are a guest, this can be a tricky situation to navigate because you don’t want to insult your hosts or the other guests who may not understand that even the tiniest amount of contamination can have a major impact on your health and well-being. In these instances, be careful to use a clean fork or spoon (perhaps the ones you will be eating from later) to scoop your portion and then choose your portion from the side of the dish where no one else has been scooping. Crisis Averted!