GF Dining: Minimizing Gluten Contamination
Most restaurants you eat at will not prepare food in a dedicated gluten-free kitchen. Therefore, it is essential that you understand how commercial kitchens operate so that you can ask the right questions to keep you healthy.
Remember that just because a restaurant may offer a gluten-free menu or naturally gluten-free options does NOT mean you are guaranteed to receive a gluten-free meal. Gluten contamination is the primary concern during all stages of food preparation. Restaurant kitchen workers prevent gluten contamination through proper cleaning and sanitizing of food stations, maintaining proper personal hygiene, and preparing and storing foods separately.
Shared kitchen equipment (grills, ovens, fryers, toasters, blenders, etc.), condiments, and/or buffet-style food preparation areas (such as salad bars) pose the greatest risk for contamination, especially in kitchens that bake with wheat flour as flour dust can linger in the air and settle on equipment.
Thorough training on gluten-containing ingredients and the importance of preventing gluten contamination as well as proper labeling of gluten-containing and gluten-free ingredients serve as best practices for maintaining a gluten-free-friendly commercial kitchen.
Questions you can ask to investigate your risk of gluten contamination include:
Are you familiar with preparing gluten-free food?
What on the menu is naturally gluten-free?
Do you have a dedicated preparation area for gluten-free food? (Ask this when you go to restaurant with GF options on the menu)
Do you fry anything coated with flour in your fryer?
Do you use a convection oven?
Do you prepare or bake your own bread?
What substitutions can I make for meals that contain gluten?
Is there any flour or thickener in this sauce/dressing/marinade?
Requests you can make when ordering:
Will you please clean the pan, pot, and/or grill before preparing my meal?
Will you please use a new salad bowl to mix my salad?
Will you please use new pasta water to cook my GF pasta?
Will you please change your gloves before you prepare my food?
May I substitute x, y, or z? (Roasted potatoes can be a great substitute for fries!)
Can this dish be baked or pan-fried instead of fried?