Gluten Free Barbecue Guide: Tips for Staying Safe at a Summer Party

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Pin Image - barbecue with burgers and vegetables in foreground, people in background.  Text gluten free barbecue guide.

If you have celiac disease you might have just got a little knot in your stomach. We enjoy socializing as much as the next person, but staying safely gluten free at a barbecue is hard.

Here are a few things to watch for and tips to make the summer party season enjoyable and easy on the tummy.

Things to Watch For

What’s On the Menu


Whole fresh cuts of meat, fish and poultry are naturally gluten free. It’s what’s added that matters. These things can make your gluten free barbecue not so gluten free.



Burgers, sausages and hotdogs may have breadcrumbs and seasonings added. There are gluten free versions, so ask to see packages. If you're not sure then take a pass.

Marinades and Seasonings:

Steaks, chops and chicken breasts are great choices for a gluten free barbecue. Sadly, marinades and seasonings may not be gluten free so ask about how the meat is being prepped. You can suggest brands or offer to bring gluten free ingredients. If that won’t work then ask to have your meat seasoned simply with salt and pepper and a little oil.


Many barbecue sauces, dips and dressings are gluten free, but many are not. You can suggest a safe brand or ask to have your food plain then add your own gluten free sauce.


veggies with hummus and flatbread

Fresh fruit and veggie trays are likely safe for your gluten free barbecue. Salads and casseroles can be a mine field.

We’ve talked about salad dressing and we know to avoid croutons. Also look for garnishes like candied nuts, seeds, dried cranberries and shredded cheese. These might be gluten free, or they might not.

I avoid anything that the ingredients aren't obvious. A green salad with big chunks of vegetables, no garnishes and no dressing is a good bet. Anything where a recipe was needed is a no unless you know who made it and you trust them.

Cross Contamination

cooking steak on outdoor grill

On the Grill

If food with gluten has been cooked on the grill then gluten can transfer to your food. Burning off any residue and brushing thoroughly with a wire brush will make the grill safe.

If food with gluten is being cooked along side your food, there can be splash over.

In the Kitchen

People who aren't used to celiac disease will do dangerous things in the kitchen. They'll use a cutting board or knife for bread then use it for meat or cheese. They'll stir two pots with the same spoon or strain veggies with the pasta colander.

At the Buffet Table

People double dip. They switch spoons. They hold their crusty role over the salad or drag the spoon across their bread then put it back in the mayo.

Tips to Stay Safe at a Gluten Free Barbecue

Call the Host

Ask what's being served. Ask what sauces or seasonings will be used. If in doubt, ask for your food to be left plain or seasoned with salt and pepper.

Get Involved

Helping in the kitchen is the best way to keep an eye on what’s happening. You can make sure spoons aren’t double dipped and contaminated cutting boards are not used. At the very least you can keep your own portions safe or know what dishes to avoid.

Cook on Foil

If you're not sure the grill is clean, cook your food on foil or in a foil pouch. A foil pouch is an especially good idea if gluten foods are being cooked at the same time.

Keep Your Food Separate

Dish up your plate before everything gets set out for the rest of the crowd or get to the table first. This will keep you safe from the double dippers and bread crumb scatterers.

Bring Your Own Food

This is the safest choice and if you’re not comfortable don’t take a chance. It’s not rude to bring your own food. You have the right to protect yourself. If the meat on the grill is safe but you don’t know about the sides, bring your own salad or potato. Having your own barbecue sauce and salad dressing is a good idea too.

Bring Food to Share

This is a great way to get around the problem of sides. Bringing a salad or casserole to share is helpful and ensures that there is something you can eat. Check with your host first though.

Bringing a dessert is a good idea too. You’ll get something sweet to eat and you can share with others.

Bring Your Own Drinks

Barbecues often include drinks and a gluten free barbecue means having something you like that's safe. Wine is fine, beer is not. The best way to ensure there is something for you is to bring it.

Have an Ally

You can’t have eyes everywhere, so a partner or friend who understands can be invaluable. At barbecues my husband often hangs out close to the grill. Guys like to bond over cooking meat, and he can keep an eye on my food.

Make it About the People

It can be stressful and awkward to attend a function that is centered around food, as most are. You feel a loss of control, and a real, justified fear of getting sick. Just remember why you’re there. It’s about being with and enjoying the people in your life. Even if you end up with a granola bar for dinner, have a laugh and try to keep it in perspective.

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