How do I convert my kitchen to a gluten-free one?

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Melinda Dennis MS, RDN, LDN
Q: My 19 month old granddaughter was recently diagnosed with celiac disease and we are trying to expedite our research and empower ourselves with knowledge to give her every advantage for a healthy life. Her gluten free life begins tomorrow. I am her alternate caregiver, and I believe it's important for us to keep a gluten free home for her to be sure she does not ingest gluten while she is in my home. My question is about kitchen cooking equipment. Should I replace my Tupperware, toaster, pots, pans, cutting board, can opener, replace sippy cups, to use as dedicated items to prepare her food? Or is it ok to wash what I have and keep them as dedicated food prep utensils. Is it necessary to change the eating utensils, forks, spoons, cerated butter knives that are stainless?Is it possible to rid a non stick pan of gluten if it was previously used to prepare gluten containing foods?

Answer


It’s not necessary to change over pots, pans, forks, spoons, knives, plates, and cups if they are cleaned very well in between uses for gluten-containing and gluten-free food. There is no need to replace Tupperware (unless it’s scratched). If a can opener is cleaned very carefully, it can be shared. If a sippy cup has been used to hold a gluten containing drink I would replace it since they are hard to clean. Use a separate and dedicated gluten-free toaster, colander/strainer, sifter, bread machine, waffle iron and any other appliance that is hard to clean. Dedicated means it is exclusively for gluten-free use. Use a separate gluten-free toaster oven unless the rack is carefully cleaned and crumbs are not on the inside walls - consider using foil.

Avoid sharing any wooden utensils, cutting boards, rolling pins or salad tongs as wood is porous and tends to “hold” gluten.

What to do about non-stick pans, iron skillets, and other items that might “harbor” gluten seems to be a bit up in the air. I asked two wonderful gluten-free chefs, Carol Fenster  and Kristine Kidd, for their thoughts. Kristine reuses pots and pans that have been in contact with gluten after giving them a very good scrub with dish detergent but notes that some people may be more sensitive than others and to keep this in mind.

Re: cast iron skillets: Carol writes “I’m wary of using a cast iron pan that’s been used for gluten-foods because of the possible residue that’s left behind, especially if the pan isn’t cleaned very well after using. But I honestly wonder if this is an unwarranted fear because the food particles left behind would be so incredibly small unless the cook doesn’t [carefully] remove all the residue from previously cooked food. It would depend on what the food is and how likely it is to leave behind residue. Bits of browned bread crumbs from frying flour-dredged chicken pieces might leave chunks behind that could contain enough gluten to be a problem.”All 3 of us agree that we need a food scientist to tell us the extent of the concern about this issue.

My suggestion is to err on the side of caution. Consider replacing scratched (look carefully-  likely there are scratches) non-stick pans, non-stick baking sheets, non-stick muffin tins, mixing bowls, and plastic containers which might harbor small amounts of gluten in the cracks. If they are not scratched, you can carefully scrub any stainless steel baking pans or muffin tins. Be cautious with baking pans with straight corners as dried baked goods can lodge there and be more difficult to clean. Some people use the rounded corner pans for this reason. Replace a plastic, nylon or silicon spatula if it is scratched, frayed or has a wooden handle. Clean pan lids carefully around the seams.

Consider replacing your cast iron skillet and pizza stone which are both made of the same porous material. Another option recommended by Three Bakers, a gluten-free bread manufacturer, is to run the cast iron items through the self-cleaning cycle in a self-cleaning oven, re-season them, and then dedicate them to gluten-free use. They do not mention the self-cleaning cycle for pizza stones.

A few other reminders:

  • Clean counters and table tops often to remove crumbs.
  • Wash sponges (in dishwasher) and towels frequently.
  • If a household member tends to wipe hands on the dish towel without first washing hands, consider having a separate hand towel for yourself.
  • Store gluten-free flours and other gluten-free foods separately to protect against cross contact with gluten-containing food. For example, store gluten containing flours on a lower shelf.
  • Be careful of cross-contact from knives and other utensils that have been used to spread peanut butter, mayonnaise, mustard, jellies, etc. If you share condiments with people who eat gluten, consider the “single dipping rule.” To avoid cross contact with gluten, a knife goes into the condiment jar ONCE, rather than repeatedly. Another option is to use squeeze bottles or mark the gluten-free condiments with a sticker or marking pen.

“If you decide to make your kitchen gluten-free, please remember that the gluten-free diet is not recommended for someone for whom it is not medically necessary. If an individual with celiac disease, non celiac gluten sensitivity or dermatitis herpetiformis (the skin rash associated with celiac disease) shares a kitchen with those who eat gluten, consider setting up a system that strikes a balance between all members of the family/household.”1 (from NCA’s New Member Welcome Packet coming soon)

Note: Melinda Dennis and Delete the Wheat, LLC do not have any financial interest in the resources listed.

Note: This information is provided by NCA and Melinda Dennis, NCA's Senior Consulting Dietitian. This information is meant for educational purposes and is not intended to substitute for personalized medical advice or replace any medical advice provided directly to you by your health care provider. This information can be printed and used in consultation with your physician or dietitian. No liability is assumed by NCA, Ms. Dennis or her nutrition consulting service Delete the Wheat, LLC. by providing this information.

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About Melinda Dennis MS, RDN, LDN

Melinda Dennis, Senior Nutrition Consultant for NCA, is an expert celiac dietitian and and Nutrition Coordinator for the Celiac Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, MA. Diagnosed with celiac disease in 1990, she specializes in the nutritional treatment of patients with celiac disease and gluten-related disorders. Melinda lectures internationally and has written extensively on the nutritional management of celiac disease including the award-winning book Real Life with Celiac Disease. Melinda was the original founder of NCA in 1993 and so it is only fitting that she comes back to us in this capacity. We are truly honored to have her on our team.