Tips For Cooking For Gluten-Free Friends
We love to entertain and invite people to eat in our homes. Here are a few tips on the best way to serve your gluten-free guests. We realize this may seem like a daunting list and task, and your celiac friends will appreciate and remember your efforts.
Be extra aware of cross contamination
- When you cook gluten-free in a kitchen that regularly cooks with gluten ingredients you must be very careful to clean every item that will touch the gluten-free food. This includes bowls, mixers, utensils, pots and pans, plates, dish rags and sponges, and the counter top.
- Do not use a regular toaster for gluten-free bread. If you must toast use your grill and place foil under the food first.
- Do not eat anything containing gluten while cooking, even the residue from your hands is a potential source of cross contamination.
Make the gluten-free items first
- If you are making two versions of the same dish or a separate meal, do the gluten-free cooking first.
Check every single label
- Gluten hides in ingredients that you may not suspect. Any product that has an ingredient list that includes wheat, barley, rye, oats, malt, soy sauce, flavors, spices, permitted additives should not be used.
- If you are in doubt leave it out.
- If you are unsure about any ingredients and or labelling, ask your guest for their opinion.
Avoid processed foods
- Using whole, single ingredients foods such as fruit, vegetables, unprocessed meat, eggs, etc., makes it much easier to be confident of safe ingredients.
Purchase special foods that are certified gluten-free
- Look for gluten-free certification symbols on special foods such as cookies, cakes, bread, crackers.
- Do not unpackage these items until it is time to serve.
- Do not place on the same plate or serving platter as gluten containing items.
Open new containers for easily contaminated items.
- Foods that come in jars or containers such as mayonnaise, peanut butter, jam, or hummus is easily contaminated through double dipping of a utensil. Purchase and label gluten-free a new jar for your guest.
- Please remember that this same principle applies to butter.
Have a plan B
- Keeps some safe snacks or frozen gluten-free meals on hand. If you have a guest staying with you for a few days, it is good to have a backup in case a meal becomes accidentally contaminated.
- Be flexible and willing to change your plan if your gluten-free meal is not working out as anticipated.
Don’t be offended!
- Conventional etiquette is secondary when dealing with a potential health threatening food.
- Be prepared to answer numerous questions about ingredients and preparation. People who know they get very ill from a small amount of gluten will want to know the details so they can assess any risk and feel comfortable about eating their meal.
- Please do not take it personally if someone (especially a child) questions and/or declines eating something you have made.
Communicate clearly with your gluten-free guest
- Be very honest and open about what you can, cannot do, and how comfortable you are with preparing food in your kitchen.
- No surprises, let your gluten-free guest into the kitchen to see how food has been prepared.
- Let them know the menu well in advance
- Accept their offer to bring a dish and ask them about serving instructions
- Let your gluten-free guest serve themselves first at the buffet. This greatly reduces the possibility of cross contamination of dishes.
- Reserve some of your guest safe foods in the kitchen for later. After other guests have been to the buffet, there is a higher risk of cross contamination between serving utensils, crumbs, etc. Your gluten-free guest will appreciate a safe stash of their favorite dish.
What to do if you are unsure you can make a safe meal
- Speak directly with your guest and let them know your concerns
- Ask for help
- Plan ahead, don’t leave the meal preparation until the last minute
- Have your guest bring a favorite dish to enjoy.
- Going out to a restaurant is not necessarily a better option. Unless it is a restaurant your gluten-free guest knows well, they will have even less control and confidence for a safe gluten-free meal.