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Avoiding Cross-Contamination in a Gluten-Free Kitchen

Cross-contamination can occur with the tiniest bread crumb or bit of flour dust in your gluten-free kitchen. If your gluten allergy or sensitivity is severe, you may react to a minute amount of gluten. Keeping your kitchen gluten-free really does minimize cross-contamination risk. But if gluten-containing foods are sharing the space, some special consideration is needed.

Avoiding crumbs in a gluten-free kitchen

Cross-contamination is the corruption of gluten-free products with gluten. This can occur when you use the same spatula that flipped a whole-wheat grilled cheese sandwich to remove gluten-free cookies from a cookie sheet. Or a gluten-free biscuit can be contaminated with a knife that you just used to spread butter on a whole-wheat muffin.

Now you have a decision to make. Are you going to get rid of all the gluten-containing products in your kitchen and home? Or, if some members of your family aren’t sensitive or allergic to gluten, will you keep some gluten-containing foods on hand? A kitchen where gluten-containing and gluten-free products coexist can be called a mixed kitchen.

If you don’t get rid of all the gluten-containing foods in your kitchen, you have to institute a strict system to minimize cross-contamination. You may want to keep one cupboard, shelf, or drawer completely gluten-free. Or you can declare the kitchen mostly gluten-free and designate one cupboard or drawer for gluten-containing foods and baking equipment. Or you can mark products clearly, writing “gluten-free” or “warning: contains gluten!” on them.

Separating utensils and equipment

Dedicated spaces for utensils and baking equipment are the key to reducing cross-contamination. For a mixed kitchen, you should have two of each of these appliances, equipment, and utensils or be willing to deep clean each item every single time it’s used:

  • Baking pans

  • Bread machine

  • Cookie cutters

  • Cookie sheets

  • Cooling racks

  • Cutting boards

  • Kitchen towels

  • Knives

  • Measuring cups and spoons

  • Mixing bowls

  • Rolling pins

  • Sifters

  • Spatulas

  • Spoons

  • Stand and hand mixers

  • Strainers and colanders

  • Toaster

  • Toaster oven (can be used for gluten-containing items if the food is put on foil)

  • Whisks and beaters

You need to keep many food products separate as well. Think about the number of times you dip a knife into peanut butter and spread it on bread. Every time the knife is put back into the peanut butter, it’s carrying gluten with it, and the whole jar is contaminated. Any food product you serve with gluten-containing foods should have a “twin” that’s labeled for gluten-free use only.

Training your family

After you clean and separate everything, you have to train your family to make sure they understand your system and how to keep these items separate. Training can take some time, especially if you have young children. Using colorful stickers can help warn little fingers to stay away from certain products. You may have to put locks on drawers or cupboards to keep small children away from products they shouldn’t eat.

Make sure everything has a home it can return to after you use it. If you aren’t creating a gluten-free kitchen, designate a special shelf or drawer for baking ingredients and baking equipment.

Storing gluten-free food safely

Storing gluten-free and gluten-containing items in the same kitchen can be quite the balancing act. If you empty out a plastic container that contained bars made with gluten, wipe it out with a damp cloth, and add some gluten-free cookies, are those cookies still gluten-free? The answer? No!

Storage containers in your kitchen should be made of glass or ceramic. Plastic containers can hold on to greasy residue that attracts gluten, from crumbs or dust. Metal containers can have seams that trap flour and crumbs. Glass and ceramic are easy to clean and sterilize. You can run them through the dishwasher and eliminate all traces of grease or gluten.

What if you want to freeze your gluten-free baked goods? Although you can find freezer-safe glass containers, most glass isn’t a good candidate for freezing because the shock of extreme temperature changes can make it crack. Instead, use freezer wrap to store gluten-free baked goods in the freezer. It’s specially marked and can be found in any grocery store.

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