How To Set Up A Shared Gluten Kitchen (Or A 100% Gluten Free One!)

Grab a cozy blanket and a warm cup of tea because this is going to be a long post! There is a lot to know about setting up a kitchen when you're on a strict gluten free diet and today I plan on covering it all. 

Today you'll learn:

  • How to make the decision to have a 100% gluten free kitchen or a shared gluten kitchen.
  • Where gluten hides in your kitchen.
  • How to make your kitchen safe, regardless of the circumstances.
  • What you need to replace and keep separate.

Should I have a shared kitchen or 100% gluten free kitchen?

Whether you've just been diagnosed with celiac disease or are on a gluten free diet and are still having symptoms, it's time reassess your kitchen scenario and ask yourself a few questions. According to a study done by Beyond Celiac more then half of people with celiac disease share a kitchen to some extent. Remember this can vary between having more then half the food in your kitchen be gluten foods and having one box of regular gluten cookies stashed away. So when sharing a kitchen it varies substantially on how much of your kitchen is actually gluten free. 

Questions to ask yourself when making the decision

1. How many people am I sharing a kitchen with and what ages?
The risk of gluten cross contamination is highest in a busy kitchen with young children. If this is your house and it's possible, having a 100% gluten free kitchen is safest for you.  If you're sharing the kitchen with one other adult and they are very knowledgeable about your condition then having a shared kitchen is probably manageable. 

2. How big is the kitchen? Will I have a space on the counter that can be dedicated gluten free?
If you're kitchen is very small and there isn't space for a separate space on the counter then consider making the entire kitchen gluten free. It is possible to share a counter top but crumbs are sneaky.

3. How understanding are those that I live with?
It's important that whoever you're sharing your house with that they are at least open to learning about the gluten free diet. If they are opposed to learning then having a 100% gluten free kitchen is what's best for your health. It's a learning curve for everyone involved, but it's important that those in your household are open to learning what they need to know. If they're understanding and willing to learn how to keep you safe then having a shared kitchen is a possibility. 
 

Shared Kitchen Top Tips:
1. Don't have any gluten flours in your kitchen, not only does flour get everywhere, it's very hard to clean.
2. Have a separate part of the kitchen counter and cabinet for gluten foods, keep every where else strictly gluten free. 
3. Have the top shelf of your refrigerator be gluten free. 
4. Mark all of your gluten free foods (especially jars, condiments, butters, yogurts)  with stickers to make sure they stay gluten free.
5. If it's been several months and you still feel ill consider switching to a 100% gluten free kitchen.
6. Have all of your gluten free pots, pans, spoons and separate items be a different colour to make them easy to tell apart. All of my gluten free items are red to make it easy to tell them apart. 
 

100% Gluten Free Kitchen Top Tips:
1. Throw away items that are opened that could be cross contaminated (like for example baking supplies like sugar and baking soda will most likely have been cross contaminated by double dipping measuring cups and spoons)
2. Instead of throwing away gluten containing foods that are unopened donate them to a food bank.
3. Be appreciative to those in your life. It will be hard for yourself and those you live with so try to keep it positive. 

Setting up a 100% Gluten Free Kitchen 

Setting up a 100% gluten free kitchen means cleaning. It's a bit overwhelming at first but with a few simple steps you can de-gluten your kitchen. If you're anything like me you'll be shedding a tear while throwing out your french bread, cookies and favourite cereals, but know your life is going to be better without it! So get your donation bins and kleenex box ready because it's time to get to work.

What you'll need:

Supplies:
Paper towel or multiple cloths
Vacuum with a detachable vacuum hose
Non toxic multi purpose cleaner
Duster
Broom
Donation box (For any unopened boxed goods)
Trash box (Anything you can't donate/ give away)
Give away box (Anything opened that friends or family could use)

1. Remove

Start by removing anything with gluten in your kitchen. You'll quickly find out that gluten is in some unexpected places. Gather up all of your gluten- containing products, including cereals, crackers, cookies, cakes, breads, flour and anything else that includes wheat, barley or rye in the ingredients list.

You also should get rid of any opened packages of baking supplies, such as sugar and baking soda. Although these might be fine in their unopened state, opened containers probably have some gluten cross contamination from your previous baking activities (did you ever share a spoon between flour and sugar?)

You can donate unopened products to either a food bank or friends and family.

Common Names for Gluten on Labels:

Triticum vulgare (wheat)
Triticale (cross between wheat and rye)
Hordeum vulgare (barley)
Secale cereale (rye)
Triticum spelta
spelt
Wheat protein/hydrolyzed wheat protein
Wheat starch/hydrolyzed wheat starch
Wheat flour/bread flour/bleached flour
Bulgur (a form of wheat)
Malt (made from barley)
Couscous (made from wheat)
Farina (made from wheat)
Pasta (made from wheat unless otherwise indicated)
Seitan (made from wheat gluten and commonly used in vegetarian meals Barley or Wheat Grass (will be cross contaminated)
Wheat germ oil or extract (will be cross contaminated)

2. Clean Clean Clean!

This is some extensive cleaning so make sure you set aside some time to get the job done well. It's important to do a good deep clean because flour and crumbs will have found their way all over your kitchen. Not just on the counters, but in the fridge, the drawers, the cutlery tray, and many other places.

A step by step guide on what to clean:

Cabinet and drawer faces: Wiping off obvious drips and spills from cabinet faces is easy, but over time, a thin layer of grease accumulates on these surfaces, and flour dust can stick to that grease. Wash down with a mild soap solution, rinse, and dry.

Cupboard and drawer handles: Handles are easily contaminated by sticky fingers. Wash every handle carefully.

Floors and counter tops: Also wipe down baseboards and windowsills. Inside all drawers: Silverware drawers, especially, can hang on to crumbs and flour dust. Take all items out of the drawer, run them through the dishwasher or wash them by hand, vacuum the inside of the drawers to get out all the crumbs and then wipe down them down and let it dry.

Sink strainers and sink plugs: These items can hold a lot of gunk from everyday use. In fact, buy a new sink strainer and plug for your disposal. Most hardware stores stock them.

Clean out the microwave and remove the glass and clean that as well. Remove everything from your fridge and wipe down any drawers or shelves.

Clean the stove top and inside the oven. 

Wipe down all the counters after removing everything on top of them. Do this until they're completely clean. 

Remove everything from the fridge and clean the glass. Also wipe down all the drawers. 

Clean the trap in the dishwasher if you have one. 

3. Replace

Unfortunately some of your kitchen items will probably need to be replaced. Anything that's porous or scratched can harbour tiny amounts of gluten in the cracks. Here's what you need to replace and why:

Toaster: Your old toaster is going to be full of crumbs! They have invented bread covers that are supposed to protect your bread in the toaster, but over time the cost of those will be far greater then just buying a new toaster. 

Non Stick Pans : If your non-stick pans are scratched at all (and we all know how easy it is to scratch them), you'll need to buy new ones. That's because the scratches in the non-stick coating can harbor minute amounts of gluten. Yes, it's annoying to replace good cookware, but you really can't avoid it. Look at each one really closely for very small scratches, and if you see even one, out goes that pan.

Cast Iron Pan: Iron is porous, and yes, just like other porous materials, it can harbor gluten. Therefore, if you've ever used your cast iron frying pan to cook pancakes or for frying chicken (or in any other gluten-containing cooking activity, including ones involving gluten-based sauces), you'll need to replace that pan or clean and then re-season it.

Cutting Boards: Used cutting boards have scratches in them and usually lots of them. And like the scratches in other types of cookware, the scratches in your cutting boards can harbor microscopic deposits of gluten.

Spatula: When we bake, most of us use flexible silicone spatulas to scrape the sides of the bowl and make sure we blend every last bit of batter. However, these used spatulas can trap particles of gluten, both in their handles (many have wooden handles) and in scratches on the surface.

Wooden Spoons: Many of us use wooden spoons for cooking, but wood is another porous material that can trap small amounts of gluten. Therefore, you'll need to buy new wooden spoons and other tools.

Setting up a shared kitchen 

Eating in a shared kitchen means you'll have the potential to be in daily close contact with various gluten products ... and their crumbs. It also means you'll need to keep close tabs on everything in the kitchen since it's easy to make a mistake and pick up the wrong item to use or eat.

Sadly, the gluten cross-contamination that can result from a shared kitchen has the potential to slow your recovery and impact your health. Remember, the amount of gluten that can make you sick is small (like a crumb)  and gluten seems to have a way of spreading itself around.

It is possible to share a kitchen if you need to be gluten-free, but both you and everyone else who uses that kitchen will need to follow some strict rules to keep you safe. A shared kitchen will only work if everyone in the household is completely on board with the goal of keeping you healthy and away from gluten

In your new shared kitchen, foods that contain gluten and the cooking tools used with them should occupy one corner and stay in that corner, while the rest of the kitchen is gluten-free. That way, the crumbs and other gluten residue remain in one area of the kitchen, and you can avoid that area.

To make this work, choose an area of the kitchen for the gluten foods that's relatively removed from the rest of the work areas. Ideally, this gluten area would have cabinet space (both for foods and for cooking tools) along with counter space for preparing foods and for countertop appliances, such as a toaster.

Once you've chosen it, make sure everyone in the house understands that they cannot work with gluten foods anywhere but this space. Obviously, they're allowed to bring gluten food on plates to eat at the table, but they also need to watch out for crumbs and clean up after themselves.

1. Clean Clean!

Even though you'll be sharing a kitchen it's important to go a good clean in order to make sure your kitchen is safe. There are going to be crumbs and gluten all over the kitchen so doing a thorough clean and starting from a clean kitchen helps keep you gluten free in the future.

A step by step guide on what to clean:

Cabinet and drawer faces: Wiping off obvious drips and spills from cabinet faces is easy, but over time, a thin layer of grease accumulates on these surfaces, and flour dust can stick to that grease. Wash down with a mild soap solution, rinse, and dry.

Cupboard and drawer handles: Handles are easily contaminated by sticky fingers. Wash every handle carefully.

Floors and counter tops: Also wipe down baseboards and windowsills. Inside all drawers: Silverware drawers, especially, can hang on to crumbs and flour dust. Take all items out of the drawer, run them through the dishwasher or wash them by hand, vacuum the inside of the drawers to get out all the crumbs and then wipe down them down and let it dry.

Sink strainers and sink plugs: These items can hold a lot of gunk from everyday use. 

Clean out the microwave and remove the glass and clean that as well. Remove everything from your fridge and wipe down any drawers or shelves.

Clean the top of your stove top and in thew oven. 

Wipe down all the counters after removing everything on top of them. Do this until they're completely clean. 

Remove everything from the fridge and clean the glass. Also wipe down all the drawers. 

Clean the trap in the dishwasher if you have one. 

2. Buy Doubles

Unfortunately some of your kitchen items that will need to be duplicated. There are certain things that just can't be shared because they are very difficult to clean properly. Some materials are not safe for sharing. Cast iron pots are porous and gluten can become trapped on them even after they are washed. Non-stick pans also inevitably have tiny scratches in them where gluten can hide. Wooden cooking utensils can harbor residual gluten as well. In the end, it’s usually best not to share cooking utensils, pots, and pans.

Here's what you need to have two of:

Toaster: Your old toaster is going to be full of crumbs! You need to have 2 toasters because cross contamination is a guarantee. 

Non Stick Pans : You'll need to have two sets of pans if you use non stick cookware. Having a separate pot for your gluten free foods is smart. Don't share baking sheets or muffin tins. I know the idea of having two pot and pan set seems like a lot, so what you can do is buy one and divide it in half. Where half a gluten and have are gluten free. 

Cutting Boards: Used cutting boards have scratches in them and usually lots of them. And like the scratches in other types of cookware, the scratches in your cutting boards can harbor microscopic deposits of gluten. So having a gluten free cutting board is a must. 

Spatula and wooden spoon: These can all harbour trapped gluten. So having a separate holder with gluten free wooden spoons, flippers, pizza cutters and spatulas is important. 

Plastic Bowls/ tupperware: If you use plastic mixing bowls or storage containers in your kitchen, you'll need to buy some new ones — any scratches pose the same old gluten problem. It's best to replace any plastic/ tupperware with glass because of the toxins in plastic, especially when heated.

Mixers/ food processors : Anything that has lots of scratches and places that are hard to clean like food processors that have several scratches may need to be replaced.

3. Educate

You could know everything there is to know about keeping yourself gluten free in a shared kitchen, but if the people you're sharing the kitchen with don't follow the rules then it doesn't matter.

Make sure you know that everyone you're sharing a kitchen with knows
1. What items are gluten free and need to stay gluten free.
2. That the need to wash their hands after handling gluten food.
3. That they need to keep gluten containing items in specific part of the kitchen.

If you have any questions let me know! I'd be happy to answer