Sunday, May 25, 2014

Removing Gloom from the Gluten-free Grill

Summers already here and it’s time to scrub down that grill. But for someone with celiac disease, a backyard party could be a horror show. Most recently a few of my friends have been diagnosed with celiac disease and are making major adjustments to the way they live and eat; In the US nearly 1 in 100 people have celiac disease. When consumed, gluten triggers an autoimmune reaction which causes the body to attack the cilia in the small intestine. The result is malnutrition and possibly irreversible damage. For some the experience is painful. As the BBQ host you don’t have to keep your gluten-free friends down in basement in hazmat suits. You can share the grill. Here a summer primer to remove the gluten gloom from your grill.

What is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein naturally found in grains of wheat, rye, barley and spelt. It’s composed of two molecules, glutenin and gliadin; although these are naturally present in certain grains, gluten only forms when combined with liquid. Although some foods are free of wheat, rye, barley and spelt are free of gluten, contamination in a shared kitchen is a possibility. The FDA defines GF food standards as containing levels less than 20 ppm (parts per millions), meaning that in a million grams (one metric ton) of food only 20 grams of gluten are acceptable.

Do a little online product research. If there’s a type of food that you want to share (chips, mustard, BBQ sauce), search online for reviews and visit the manufacturer’s web site to make sure it’s made properly. You can also email or call them. I’ve found that Goya can not guarantee GF production at this time, but Bush’s Best canned beans are made in a facility that is free of gluten.

Meats, cheeses, eggs and vegetables in general are fine for people with celiac disease, but watch for packaged foods and bottled sauces. Even though they may be labeled as gluten-free, read the ingredients list to be certain that they do not contain an offending grain; FDA enforcement of GF claims are not official until August of 2014. Oats in particular may be cross contaminated with wheat product unless it states “gluten-free oats.” Some foods are labeled as “Gluten-free but made in a facility that also processes wheat”— just to be safe, avoid foods with this disclaimer unless you know someone with celiac disease who can vouch for the product.

Foiled Again!
Aluminum foil is a celiac person’s best friend at the grill. Although that grill may never come clean enough, you can cover an area of grill with heavy duty aluminum foil and brush it lightly with high-heat oil (peanut, canola, vegetable, etc.), grill as usual. If your meal needs a little board prep, cover the cutting board with foil. For foods like grilled cheese sandwiches, wrap them in lightly greased foil and toss it on the grill; this works well for corn, portobello mushrooms and vegetables too, just throw some butter and salt in before you seal. Simply discard the foil after use.

De-glutenize Your Tools
Gluten can NOT be removed from wheat, nor can it be neutralized at grill or oven temperatures. According to cereal food studies it will disintegrate at 800°F / 426.67°C and above. That’s great if you like pizza ashes. A more practical method would be to deconstruct the two gluten components on your kitchen tools. Glutenin is soluble in light acid or alkali solutions; gliadin is soluble in a 70% isopropyl alcohol solution. The later is potentially hazardous and more appropriate for surgical tools, but in a pinch this works well with non-serrated knives. Just keep it away from open flames.

You can share pots, pans, and bowls made with stainless steel, aluminum/alloy or pyrex after a vinegar or bleach treatment. Any protein that is treated this way it will never reassemble. Follow these instructions and store your wares away in a clean, dry place to avoid cross contamination. Use these only for cooking and preparing GF foods.

Step 1:  Spray heavily or sponge large items with either solution, soak smaller items in a tub. Wait for two minutes:
• Acid Solution: Mix 2 cups of distilled vinegar to 3 cups of water with 1/2 tsp dish washing liquid.
• Alkali Solution: Mix 1/2 cup bleach to 5 1/2 cups water  with 1/2 tsp dish washing liquid.

Step 2: Follow with washing and scrubbing with hot tap water and dish washing detergent, rinse well and repeat if needed; use a toothbrush for tight areas. Dry and store away in a clean area that is not shared with other kitchen items.

This treatment should be also used when sharing stainless steel/alloy forks, spoons, tongs and kitchen knives. Other items should be purchased new and kept separately. Here’s a list of items that you should never share.
• Non-stick pans and bake ware (e.g. Anodized, Telfon)
• Silicon bake ware and oven mitts
• Cast iron ware
• Plastic, silicon or wooden utensils
• Wire/mesh tools such as strainers, sieves, spiders, flour sifters, cooling racks
• Plastic or silicon colanders, bowls and funnels
• Plastic, marble or wooden preparation surfaces
• Wooden or stone rolling pins
• Cloth aprons, dish towels, bowl covers, oven mitts
• Metal or plastic deeply serrated knives
• Plastic or rubber storage containers
• Worn-out ceramic ware

Never share a deep fry-set up or the frying oil. Also avoid sharing toasters, food processors and mixers; their complex structure and many surfaces make it hard to absolutely treat and clean.This sounds like a lot to remember, but the key is to simplify what you use.

Store and Label Separately
To avoid contamination gluten-free foods should be stored separately from other kitchen tools. When your on the go at a picnic, Use plastic zip-lock bags, plastic wrap and plastic or glass containers for temporary storage. There’s been and explosion of GF baked goods, but they come at a price; the ingredients to make these goods simply cost more. GF bread, rolls and most pastries freeze well. For long term storage wrap them in plastic wrap and aluminum foil before freezing and remove most of the air first. If you have a vacuum sealer system this is ideal. Use clean glass jars for storing GF sauces, pastes and liquids; baby jars work well for spices but lean them as described above before hand.

Life can be a picnic for everyone with a little prep and a little research. For more information about celiac disease visit the Celiac Disease Foundation website:

1 comment:

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