Preventing Cross-Contamination - What to do?
By Jennifer Harris, Gluten Free Go-To Guide
Preventing cross contact in a kitchen where gluten food is stored and prepared is a battle that must be fought daily. If your kitchen isn’t able to be 100% gluten free, don’t panic because you are not alone. A number of households, like mine, have shared kitchens and manage to keep food free from cross contact with gluten.
Cross contact occurs when gluten crumbs or residue are transferred to gluten-free products during preparation. Some simple examples of how easy it is to cross contaminate gluten-free food include using the same spoon to flip regular and gluten-free pancakes, cooking gluten-free pasta in water that was just used to make wheat pasta, and making sandwiches with wheat bread and not washing your hands before touching gluten-free bread or other sandwich ingredients.
The best piece of advice I can give you to prevent cross contact is to prepare gluten-free food first and gluten full food second. Following this practice will help to keep residue and crumbs from gluten out of the equation. Another good piece of advice is to store products that contain wheat on the bottom shelf in the pantry. Storing wheat-based products like this prevents crumbs from falling into gluten-free products.
Here are a number of tips to get the kitchen ready to prepare gluten-free food:
Clean before preparing a meal, clean and sanitize all surfaces
- Gluten is sticky, so keep surfaces thoroughly cleaned and sanitized
- Refraining from putting gluten products directly on the counter will cut down on issues with crumbs and residue
- Have two separate hand towels in her kitchen; one gluten-free and the other for gluten. Make sure to wipe your hands on a clean towel and not one with gluten crumbs as the crumbs can transfer.
- Separate sponges/dish rags are also a good idea to prevent gluten residue transfer.
- If using a spoon rest on the stove for utensils, clean it between uses, or use two – one for gluten and one for gluten free.
Segregate and dedicate
- Pots and pans, baking sheets, cooking utensils, appliances, etc. can be stored in a separate drawer or cabinet, labeled, and used only for gluten-free cooking/baking.
Replace – appliances, utensils, pots and pans, etc. that have previously been used to prepare gluten containing foods, but cannot be run through a dishwasher and sanitized at high temperatures should not be used to prepare gluten-free food.
- Pots and Pans
- Toaster/Toaster Oven - crumbs from wheat bread get stuck on the heating units and cannot be cleaned. Get a new one and label it.
- Bread maker, waffle irons, sandwich makers, non-stick griddle, George Foreman, Panini press, etc. should be replaced.
- Cast iron skillets can be re-seasoned and 'baked' in the oven
- Teflon pans with any scratches shouldn’t be used because gluten can hide in the scratches
- Wood utensils and cutting boards are also not recommended as the nicks that are carved into them when used can absorb liquids from wheat-based products. Instead, purchase disposable cutting boards to be used for wheat-based products and keep a separate glass one dedicated for gluten-free products.
- Pizza cutter and pizza stone - have two and dedicate one gluten free
- Colanders - switch from plastic to metal and keep it labeled
- Flour sifter, biscuit cutter, rubber spatulas, etc. need to be replaced
Preparation – keep it separate and/or covered
- Separate pots and pans should be used to cook gluten free and gluten containing food, or cook the gluten-free food first.
- Baking trays – use foil on cookie sheets and trays when baking gluten products
- Condiments – buy and use squeeze bottles whenever possible and label them
- Do not set any gluten products directly on the rack because crumbs can and will transfer
- If anything baked or cooked in the oven spills or boils over get it cleaned before using it for gluten-free cooking