Steps to Safely Share a Kitchen with Gluten and Gluten-Free Eaters

By: Zach

There’s a myriad of challenges that living under the same roof with someone can create – whether it’s your loving college roommate, spouse or family – but sharing a kitchen between gluten and gluten-free eaters does not have be an added challenge. Since there are many ways for gluten to cross-contaminate gluten-free foods, I’d like to offer a few tips to keep celiacs safe while sharing a kitchen with gluten-tolerate eaters.

Step #1: Label and designate things to be used for gluten-free usage only.

One of the easiest and most secure ways of preventing cross-contamination is by labeling all of your food (bags, jars, bottles, etc.) and preparation supplies (silverware, plates, appliances, etc.). Sticky notes or a label maker is going to be very helpful in this step. Right after you buy your gluten-free food from the store, come home and label it with your name so that those living with you clearly know whose food is whose. This should apply to refrigerated items especially as condiments and containers can innocently be tampered with.

If you can afford it, having two toasters – one for gluten breads and one for gluten-free breads – is highly advised. Also, for toaster ovens, you should request another tray from the manufacturer and designate one for just gluten-free use. Silverware is the same way; if you can afford a second set of silverware, you should buy one. Either way, make sure you clearly label which silverware is for gluten-free use to make sure there are no confusions.

Step #2: Explain your lifestyle and establish ground rules with clear communication.

First, you should educate the person(s) you live with about your gluten-free lifestyle and explain to them the serious side effects of ingesting even just a particle of gluten. Informing them on this issue will help them understand your request and allow them to be more conscious of it. You’ll learn that this exercise will go a long way.

Secondly, lay down some basic ground rules like keeping the counter crumb-free and not tampering with your labeled items. Understanding someone’s dietary requests and safety precautions is not a difficult task, though it may take some time and constant reminders from the gluten-free individual.

Step #3: Use thoroughly cleaned surfaces and supplies to prepare gluten and gluten-free meals.

The chance of gluten being present on a surface, dish or kitchen item is probably more common than you might think. For example, gluten-containing flour has a tendency to stay airborne for hours and fall on many different surfaces and utensils in the kitchen. Using gluten-containing flour is not safe for gluten-free patrons because the slightest trace of gluten can trigger an illness for them. If at all possible, avoiding the use of wheat flour in a gluten-free-needed environment is recommended to prevent the risk of contamination.

Additionally, a gluten-free eater should never prepare a meal on the same surface that gluten products have touched unless it is thoroughly washed and dried with a gluten-free designated drying cloth. The same goes for utensils or any dinnerware for the same contamination reasons. The remnants of gluten can linger on any kind of surface and the proper safety measures should not be taken lightly by celiacs or people(s) living with celiacs. As a joint effort, both parties can hopefully sustain a gluten-free-friendly kitchen challenge-free.

11 thoughts on “Steps to Safely Share a Kitchen with Gluten and Gluten-Free Eaters”

  1. I was under the impression that washing utensils, plates etc. in the dishwasher or with warm soppy water would remove gluten, thus eliminating the need for 2 sets in a household that is not entirely gluten free. Is this incorrect?

    1. If the dishes are washed very thoroughly, this can be a safe route for a home. Yet, if you have someone in your home that is extremely gluten-intolerant, it may be a better option to use 2 sets. This way, you can be absolutely positive no cross-contamination could occur. Hope that helps!

  2. I’m thinking the acrobatics involved with different silver, plates, etc.
    is a bit overboard. Afterall, the dishwasher not only washes clean, but
    sanitizes. In addition, who today doesn’t spray down the cabinet tops with a sanitizer/bleach solution before preparing ANY food?? It’s the
    ‘hysteria’ around lifestyle/dietary changes that turns most people off and
    prevents good, accurate information for those that need it.

  3. People have a wide variety of tolerance to gluten, those like me with just about no tolerance do not think anything is over board. I won’t use a scratched Teflon coated pan or cutting board if any bit of gluten was cooked/cut on it no matter how well it’s washed. As for less porous items like metal and glass items I agree a thorough wash is sufficient.

  4. I am sorry but the suggestions are not hysteria or overkill. I have gotten ill from throwing wheat flour into the garbage can and apparently breathing some particles. I also got sick after using a waffle iron that I washed with a brush and put through the dishwasher. I had to replace my dishes, bakeware and pots because of contamination. It is much too easy to double dip or take a second pat of butter so I won’t serve gluten in my kitchen. I have wasted far too many days so ill I could not function!

  5. The only issue we’ve ever had is the butter dish where sometimes the gluten-eaters inadvertently leave behind bread crumbs.

  6. I agree , it can be very fustrating exspecially when you have family members that don’t understand about the gluten free and take it out on the person , they don’t understand when they have to use a different flour to make gravy or they have to open a brand new margarine to make sure there is nothing in it so that he can eat the food at there house , cross contamination is so easy to do and the side affects are not worth it at all.

  7. We have a 6-year-old with celiac and to-date, I am not sure whether he has been sickened. We have not had him tell us anything and he has not been physically ill. He had a yearly checkup in October and the test said he was clean, but I do wonder what his tolerance is and what, if any, physical signals we will get if he gets ill. We pretty much wash everything with a dishwasher, but I am concerned about cross-contamination, since we have things from time-to-time (like pizza) from takeout. I haven’t cooked with wheat flours since he was diagnosed and have always been afraid to even think about doing that. I appreciate these comments and the advice.

  8. I use a separate cutting board for items with gluten. I have my margarine items labeled in the refrigerator. I wash the grate of the toaster oven before using it to prepare a gluten-free item for myself. I have Celiac Disease, but perhaps I am not as sensitive as some. It seems to me that diswasher cleaned non-porous dishes and flatware should be fine. At Christmas time, I do make a couple types of non-gluten free cookies, but I am extremely careful with the way the wheat flour is handled. I combine everything except the flour in the kitchen, and go to the garage to gently add the flour to the mix. I do not want to get it airborne. I wish I could keep everything in my house gluten-free. It would be easier. My family is just too set in their ways at this point, but they are getting pretty good at knowing not to contaminate anything I might be using.

  9. I have had to be gluten free since 2007. I do not think you can go over board in spite of what some may think. You can be very algeric and so much as a crumb can make you sick. I am the only one in my family so far that needs to be gluten free. It was not easy to make some family members understand this. It takes some time to get use to, but it does happen that they understand and become supportive.

  10. I pretty much made my whole kitchen gluten free. If you eat at my house, you eat gluten free. At first there was some resistance, but now everyone likes my food better. There have been so many changes in what is available, it is easier than before to cook & snack. And for me, there are no worries about contamination. One drawback, it makes the food bill a little expensive.

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