Gluten-Free Kitchen Rules
Even though my kitchen is not 100% gluten-free, I don’t generally worry about accidental gluten contamination when I’m at home. As of right now, my husband and I are the only ones who prepare food in our kitchen on a daily basis, and we learned how to work together to keep me healthy early in our relationship. However, we do open our home to gluten-full guests on a fairly regular basis, so we have developed some strategies that work for us.
I happen to be very sensitive to gluten contamination, so we take extra precautions whenever gluten is in our home to ensure that I don’t get sick. However, if you are not particularly sensitive, you may not need to be as careful in your shared kitchen.
Feel free to use the following “Kitchen Rules” as a guideline for developing your own strategies for managing a shared kitchen, whether you are sharing that kitchen with gluten-full family members, roommates, or houseguests.
Prevent Gluten Contamination
If possible, try to keep food preparation areas completely separate. If you have a small kitchen, separate preparation areas may not be possible, but you will need to be more conscientious about planning to prepare gluten-full and gluten-free foods at different times. Ideally, you would prepare the gluten-free foods first in a freshly cleaned kitchen.
If you are using appliances (food processor, blender, toaster) to prepare food, I recommend having dedicated gluten-free appliances only for those items that cannot go through the dishwasher. If you are short on kitchen storage space, you may not need to have any dedicated appliances if you work together to ensure you do not get accidentally glutened. For instance, you can have a toaster oven instead of a toaster—simply purchase your own dedicated tray or always use foil on the tray. Again, the amount of time (and money and space) you put into preparing your kitchen will depend on your level of sensitivity to gluten, your particular kitchen space, and your particular living situation.
My husband and I do not have separate appliances or pots and pans, but my husband is kind enough to eat a lot of gluten-free meals to make our shared kitchen as safe as possible and we rarely cook or bake anything that contains gluten. That was our family decision, but it may not be yours.
If you will be preparing gluten-full foods in your kitchen on a regular basis, it may be helpful to have dedicated gluten-free pots and pans, cutting boards, knives, etc. to minimize accidental gluten contamination. Make sure anything dedicated as gluten-free is clearly labeled (see below). If you can, avoid using any gluten-containing flours in your kitchen as flour dust can linger in the air and settle in unexpected or hard to clean places.
In terms of food storage, I always recommend separate areas OR clearly labeled dedicated items, if possible. Ideally, shared spaces or food items (like condiments) will be kept gluten-free, but it may be more helpful to just have separate labeled condiments, food, jams, and nut butters. It may also be helpful to keep gluten-free food at the top of the fridge, freezer, or pantry to minimize gluten-full crumbs accidentally spilling into stored food.
It is important to review the risks of gluten contamination with anyone who will be sharing your kitchen so that they understand the importance of respecting anything labeled as gluten-free. A few crumbs on the counter might not seem like a big deal to your roommate unless you explain that 1/5th of a gluten crumb can make you just as sick as a loaf of bread.
I suggest learning to love cleaning—maybe not love exactly…Think about how you enjoy exercising because how awesome you feel when you’re done.
It’s kinda like that.
Having the ability to change an area that is not safe into one that is safe can be quite empowering.
Effective cleaning is what makes sharing your kitchen possible. Here are my recommendations:
- Clear gluten crumbs and sanitize (i.e. dish-wash) glutened cooking supplies promptly.
- Thoroughly rinse off gluten crumbs from utensils and plates before putting them in the dishwasher.
- Have designated sponges, brushes, and/or dish towels for hand wash items—color-coding these items is helpful. Make sure to sanitize them regularly!
- Disposable sanitizing wipes are not as environmentally-friendly but may be your best option for managing a shared kitchen since they can be thrown away after being glutened. You can absolutely make your own re-usable paper towels or cleaning cloths, but make sure to pay extra attention when cleaning up gluten.
- When in doubt, take charge of the cleaning.
Include your cleaning strategies in the comments below!
Encourage your family member(s), roommate(s), and/or houseguest(s) to ask lots of questions about gluten-free food preparation and storage. It can be overwhelming to try to process all of the subtleties of gluten-free living at once (think about when you were new to living gluten-free), so invite them to check in with you whenever they feel confused.
If you’re hosting houseguests, it may be easier to just dine out and/or take charge of the cooking so that you can ensure you will stay gluten-free without making any extra work for your guests. If you will be hosting a family with small children, it is perfectly acceptable to ask your guests not to bring gluten into your home. Find out what naturally gluten-free snacks and meals they like and provide them with lots of options.
There’s no reason that you can’t enjoy sharing your kitchen with loved ones and friends—just be mindful about working together to find strategies that work for your life.
What are your gluten-free Kitchen Rules?