When You Don’t Live a Gluten Free Life
Chances are if you are living gluten free, you already have a Gluten Free Kitchen (oh for your sake, I hope so). If you are baking for someone who is living gluten free, or diagnosed with Celiac’s disease, we want to provide a few tips to make your kitchen safe prior to cooking or baking.
Gluten is present in wheat, rye and barley grains, but more insidious than the ingredients is cross contamination. Some people barely react, some people react horribly to the presence of even minute amounts of gluten. Cross contamination is the hardest part for those eating gluten free and it is what prohibits those of us with this issue from eating outside the home.
Cross Contamination Won’t Happen in a Gluten Free Kitchen
Here is the truth, if you have baked or cooked in your pans, or glassware, or plastic ware or pots, the truth is that many things will contain cross contamination with gluten. Gluten is very sticky by nature and it is that nature that means we have to take a few little steps to ensure the environment is safe for gluten free cooking. Our Test Kitchen of course contain nothing that could contaminate. But many who bake in solidarity for the gluten free are not so lucky. Cookies, crackers, breadcrumbs, pasta, you name it, most everything has gluten. So if you are cooking or baking in solidarity, put everything in the cabinets if possible. If you have big jars of Flour, Sugar and the like on your counters, you might want to relocate them temporarily.
Flat surfaces are kind of easy. You start out with plain old soap and hot water. Yes, HOT WATER. If there is gluten on the surface of your counters or kitchen island, we need hot soapy water to break down the sticky gluten. Wipe, wipe, wipe those surfaces. Once that is completed and the surfaces have been cleaned, we use a secret weapon to ensure any gluten remaining breaks down. Our secret weapon – LYSOL Wipes!!! We love Lysol wipes. They are an important part of our cleaning arsenal when we cater food in peoples homes, or work in professional kitchens. Lysol wipes not only sterilize the surfaces leaving them pristine, but the lysol wipes have the ability to break down the proteins the gluten resides in rendering it harmless and ineffective.
To be honest, we know the problems with cross contamination, so we often do a wash, a wipe and a second wash to ensure the surfaces are truly safe for our gluten free goodies.
Baking Pans & Utensils
When we first went to a totally gluten free kitchen, the thought of getting rid of our wooden spoon collection was difficult, but very very necessary. What is the point of cooking gluten free only to have a wooden or plastic spoon carry hidden contamination. So, to be safe, We use a great deal of stainless steel for our utensils. It makes cleaning in a mixed kitchen far easier.
If we are in a guest kitchen, and have not taken our trusty pans and utensils, we have to first clean everything in the sink. Again, Hot soapy water is our friend. I let the pans and utensils soak a few mintues. You have to get all the corners and seams of pans very well. It is in seams and corners and around any rivets that gluten can definitely hide. Rinse the pans, dry the pans and then if you are savvy, you have already guessed using lysol wipes on the pans. Then back into hot water for one final rinse.
Is All This Really Necessary?
Overkill? Well, not really, but I understand why you think so. My family’s first gluten poisoning after being diagnosed was from a pan. A wonderful pan that had many stews and wonderful stir-fries created within it. I knew it was time to create a truly Gluten Free Kitchen. Whether I liked it or not, I then got real in the kitchen, threw out every pan we owned that was not stainless (I cleaned the heck out of those) and bought a new set of non stick cookware. My research showed that in non stick cookware, every ding or scratch in the lining left it vulnerable to gluten, the very nature of a scratch made it hard to eradicate the gluten fully. We could not afford to get contaminated when the reactions to contamination took almost a full two weeks to clear from the body.
What is the Big Deal About Gluten?
Well, eating gluten when you have Celiac’s Disease or Gluten Intolerance is a bit like putting sugar in a gas tank. It can corrupt a physical body just like sugar will destroy an engine. For me, it is a week of feeling like I have a bad case of the flu followed by a week of highly painful joint pain, which makes it nearly impossible to walk fully upright. It then leads to another week or so of just being sore all over. Have I forgotten to mention the inability to think straight thrown in there? My daughters do not react quite as badly, but it still takes more than two weeks for one tiny contamination to make it’s way fully out of the body.
If however, you do not have mystery joint pain, or mystery leaky gut syndrome, or are addicted to prilosec, then gluten is not a problem for you (YAY!!!). But, if you are like the many wonderful people in my life that create a gluten free kitchen on the day I come to visit, these tips will help you keep your friends and loved ones safe from the long term effects of a single gluten contamination.