Gluten Free Kitchen: Your kitchen really is the centre of the universe. After all, this is where it all begins right? The command centre for your new healthy lifestyle, free from the pain of gluten is right here in your gluten free kitchen. The goal is to avoid cross contamination.
The first thing you need to do is decide how you are going to approach this. Are you going to have a completely gluten free kitchen, or are you going to try to manage gluten free and glutenous diets from the same kitchen?
Gluten free and glutenous family members can live harmoniously. Many families, mine included, end up eating meals that are mostly gluten free with some treats for the Glutenous Ones. Bread for sandwiches, perhaps some pasta although gluten free pastas have improved and my family eats it most of the time. The kids do need their Kraft Dinner fix once in a while and it would seem just plain mean to deny them that. I suggest if you keep these items in your home, give them their own area separate from the gluten free food to reduce the risk of cross contamination.
That's actually an important distinction. When I first re-organized my kitchen I thought I'd have a special shelf for my food. It turned out that the opposite approach worked best. Most of the food in our house is gluten free so the stuff with gluten needs very little shelf space.
Some people are really anxious about having gluten anywhere near their food so they decide to eliminate even the smallest risk of cross contamination. Families are usually very understanding of this. After all, who wants to see a loved one upset and in agony? If this is you then you may want to consider banishing all gluten from your kitchen and go entirely G-Free.
The pantry of course is central to your gluten free kitchen. It's where the food is! That’s why it's a whole separate article. Click here for The Great Pantry Purge.
Does having a gluten free kitchen require you to have separate pot and pans for gluten and gluten free cooking? It’s really for you to decide based on your level of sensitivity and how anxious you are about the whole thing. I’m quite careful in my home about cross contamination. I’ve learned the hard way that a small amount of gluten can cause a reaction. But for me I think a whole separate set of pots and pans is a bit of over kill. 20 parts per million is widely considered to be the amount of gluten at which most celiacs will not react and I’ve found that if my family makes wheat pasta in one of my pots, so long as it’s washed thoroughly in hot water I’m fine. If you are a super sensitive celiac, then you may find it necessary to provide the fam with their own pot for pasta, or simply have everyone eat mostly gluten free. Give them some bread and crackers that you can easily keep separate from your stuff and they will likely be satisfied.
I do keep a separate colander for wheat pasta. Gluten is sticky and I'm not comfortable that all those little holes come perfectly clean. If you use one of those pasta servers with the prongs you may want to consider a separate one of those as well. Especially if you're using plastic as the pasta seems to stick to it more.
I've heard people say that when they converted to a gluten free kitchen they threw out all of their dishes and cutlery and started fresh. Again, you need to feel comfortable in your own home, but this is expensive and should not be necessary.. So long as your dishes are washed well in hot water, there should be no need to keep separate dishes for gluten and gluten free. I find the dish washer does a fine job. Do be careful of anything that has texture or grooves as the gluten can get lodged in crevices. Make sure knives that slice bread for example are well cleaned and you may want to replace your wooden spoons and your cutting boards.
Okay, we all know what the bottom of the toaster looks like. It's a black hole of evil gluteny bread crumbs down there and you need protection!
I keep a separate toaster for myself labelled “Gluten Free” and it sits on a separate counter from the regular toaster. This way I can be sure my toast is not being contaminated by wheat bread crumbs. If your gluten free kitchen doesn't have the counter or cupboard space for a second toaster there are some other things you can do.
This way everyone can make their toast in the same oven. You just need to make sure there is a piece of foil or parchment under yours so it doesn't touch the rack. You may need to flip it over and do each side separately. You can also make toast in the oven. I often do this if I'm travelling or staying in someone else's home where I don't have the luxury of a gluten free toaster and maybe don't have parchment or toaster bags handy. Just do your toast on a piece of foil under the broiler. Keep an eye though or it will burn.
You can buy toaster bags, or make them by folding a piece of parchment in half and then folding in the edges. This keeps your bread from touching the edges of the toaster. I haven’t tried the bags but saw some mixed reviews on the web. Some said the bags burned or melted. I did try making one from parchment and using it in my toaster and it worked just fine. The parchment came out a bit scorched but it was okay and the toast turned out great. I would say why spend the money on special bags? Parchment is cheap. Keep an eye on it though just in case it does burn.
We all know that bread crumbs get everywhere. They sneak into the corners of your counter, even into the drawers if you’re not careful. So here is where you need to be almost obsessive and teach your family to be as well.
Counters must be wiped often, especially the area around the toaster. Teach the fam to wipe up immediately after making a sandwich. They should use a disposable paper towel or put the cloth or sponge into the laundry immediately. You don’t want to wash your dishes with a gluten soaked sponge!
If the utensil drawer is near where sandwiches are made, be vigilant. I don’t know how it happens. I’ve never actually seen somebody wipe bread crumbs into the cutlery drawer, but somehow they get in there. You need to clean it out often. While most of the cutlery is in the dishwasher is a good time.
The dish cloth or kitchen sponge: Change it often! Mine goes to the laundry a minimum of once a day. In perusing the internet, I’ve seen all kinds of complicated systems for washing dishes. One lady said she has four different brushes. I didn’t quite understand how it all worked but she seemed happy with it. In my opinion that’s just too complicated. If you’ve cooked items containing gluten and gluten free items at the same meal, wash the pots and dishes that held the gluteny items last. Change the water if it gets murky. Rinse well in hot water. Throw the cloth into the laundry immediately.
A few tips and strategies for preventing cross contamination in your gluten free kitchen. It may seem a bit daunting at first but it’s really not that hard. The main thing is awareness. Everyone in your home needs to understand how important it is for them to clean up after themselves to prevent cross contamination. Soon you’ll get into the rhythm and it will all be second nature.