NFCA thanks The Hain Celestial Group, Inc. for sponsoring this blog series.
The warm weather is rolling in, which means the grilling season is upon us. Barbecue grills can pose a risk of cross-contamination, so people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity should take extra caution. Use these tips next time you break out the grill, whether at home or at a friend’s house, to reduce your risk of getting “glutened.”
Grilling at Home: When the Entire Household Isn’t Gluten-Free
If you share a kitchen with gluten-eaters at home, use these “best practices” to keep surfaces safe from cross-contamination.
Designate the grill’s top rack as “Gluten-Free Only.”
Cross-contamination can occur if a gluten-containing food is being grilled above a gluten-free food, so keep any gluten-containing foods on the bottom rack.
Even if you have a designated gluten-free rack in the grill, it’s always best to create a barrier between your food and the rack. Using tinfoil as a barrier can prevent any gluten that may be stuck to the rack from touching your food and causing cross-contamination.
Use multiple utensils.
Tongs, forks, knives, grill-cleaning brushes and all utensils are big sources of cross-contamination. Clearly label all utensils are “gluten-free” and keep them in an area away from the other utensils. Don’t forget the grill brush! You may want to buy two brushes and label one brush as “gluten-free.” This way, you minimize the risk of you or someone else cleaning the “designated gluten-free rack” with a contaminated brush.
Don’t believe the myths.
It’s a common misconception that gluten can be “killed” if it is cooked at high temperatures. This is not true. Gluten is a particle, not a bacteria, so it cannot be destroyed with heat. The only way to remove gluten is by thoroughly cleaning the surface.
Grilling Away from Home: When You’re Not in Control of the Grill
One of the best things about summer is hanging with friends and family, enjoying a tasty burger while shooting the breeze. Try these tips at your next away-from-home barbecue so you can stress less and enjoy the lazy days of summer with the ones you love.
Bring your own tinfoil.
Sure, your host will probably have some tinfoil of their own, but physically handing them a roll will remind them how it is to keep your food safe. Plus, it shows how serious you are about your gluten-free diet and lets them know they should be, too.
Buy a travel grill.
Travel-sized charcoal grills are fairly inexpensive and easy to bring along to a friend’s house. You can grill up your own food if you’d like, but your host may be willing to flip that burger for you (with your designated gluten-free tongs, of course!). By bringing your own grill, you can enjoy freshly grilled food and relax without as much worry about getting “glutened.” Having a mini gluten-free grill at home is a great idea for people with a shared kitchen, too!
Call ahead and talk to the cook.
While fresh chicken, pork and beef are gluten-free in their natural form, the sauces and marinades used on those meats can contain gluten. If your host is grilling marinated foods, ask if you can bring your own or if they would mind leaving a piece for you that is not marinated. Keep in mind, barbecues tend to be less formal than other parties, so bringing your own food is usually welcomed.
Grill Equipment: Where are the Cross-Contamination Risks?
It can be hard to remember every potential source of cross-contamination. Here is a quick list of many (but not all) of the places where cross-contamination can occur while grilling. Keep this for yourself or share with your grill host so they can adjust their cooking methods to keep you safe.
- Forks, knives, spoons, tongs and all utensils
- Cutting boards
- Grill racks
- Basters, meat brushes, meat scissors
- Spilled/dripping marinades and sauces
- Hands (Cooks should always wash their hands after handling gluten-containing foods and before handling gluten-free foods. For the safest approach, handle gluten-free foods first.)
- Aprons, plates, bowls, containers and serving trays