Today I am handing over to Samantha Stein who writes gluten-free recipes, reviews and travel tips at The Happy Coeliac. Her latest book, “Gluten-free Bites: Backyard BBQ” is out now, so being the expert in barbecuing she is going to tell you how to avoid that dreaded cross-contamination when hosting or attending a BBQ.
Summer is in full swing and while we might never have the long, hot summers of our dreams, we can certainly celebrate the weather with some delicious barbecues.
As anyone with coeliac disease or a food allergy knows, a barbecue can be a cross-contamination nightmare if you or your hosts are also serving gluten-containing foods. For this reason, I love to host my own parties where I can control the menu and give suspicious side eyes to any oblivious guests that bring gluten.
However, being a gluten control freak is not always possible and there will be plenty of occasions where you won’t have much – if any – control over the menu. This can be a bit nerve-wracking if you are a coeliac or very sensitive to gluten, but by following some simple guidelines, you can ensure that you stay safe and don’t accidentally get “glutened”!
When hosting barbecues yourself
It is extremely important that any tools/surfaces that have been exposed to gluten in the past are thoroughly cleaned. This is especially true of the grill itself, as heat doesn’t destroy gluten. You’ll need a wire brush, some BBQ cleaner and a lot of elbow grease.
If you can’t get it clean enough, place a couple of layers of aluminium foil on the grill to make a “gluten-free section”. Make sure it is securely fastened so that it doesn’t get caught in the wind. Anyone who cooks at the BBQ should be aware of this section.
If you own a BBQ with two cooking racks, be sure that any gluten-containing food is placed BELOW the gluten-free food, not above it! The last thing you want is gluten falling through the rack or dripping onto your food.
If everything going on the actual grill is gluten-free, consider keeping any gluten-containing foods like burger buns on a separate table to the rest of the food. Breadcrumbs are insidious, and a gust of wind could mean our plate is covered in crumbs.
Be careful about your use of tongs and utensils. If possible, use two sets of utensils, and be sure to only use the gluten-free set for the gluten-free food.
This applies to:
- Cutlery and tongs
- Basters and brushes
- Marinades and sauces
- Serving trays and containers
- Cutting boards and surfaces
- Condiments (consider a squeezy bottle style to prevent double dipping)
- And don’t forget about your hands!
When attending barbecues hosted by others
Quite often, my hosts get even more anxious about keeping me safe than I do, and although they desperately want me to be safe, they aren’t quite sure what to watch out for. I have found that if I help supervise “my” section of the BBQ, everyone involved is a lot more at ease. Communicating with your host is key – make sure they understand what you can and can’t eat (as with any dinner party situation) and brief them about cross contamination. Sometimes you have to be your own coeliac awareness ambassador.
It’s not always possible to communicate with the host beforehand, so there’s no shame in bringing a cool box with some food you have prepared earlier, just be prepared to fight off onlookers who like the look of your food!
Sometimes barbecuing with others is inescapably risky, either because it’s a larger event or because the host doesn’t really understand your needs. At these events, consider your options. Bringing along a small disposable BBQ is probably the easiest and cheapest way, although they can be quite small and don’t last very long. If you really love to barbecue, there are many smaller “travel size” or table top BBQs that might be a better investment in the long run and are better for the environment than the throw-away variety.