Are burgers gluten free? Is the bun the only part that is not gluten free? So wouldn’t taking the bun off the burger make it safe now?
A burger made without a bun is generally safe. However, removing a bun from a burger does not make it gluten free. People with Celiac Disease need to be extremely cautious about any gluten coming into contact with their food. Even a crumb could cause symptoms and damage.
There are a few things in this question to consider, such as cross-contamination, ingredients of the burger, and what condition the gluten free person has.
Does Taking The Bun Off A Burger Make It Gluten Free?
If the burger and the bun have never been in contact, making a gluten free burger can be as easy as not including the bun.
But if the bun and the burger have ever been in contact, the burger cannot and should not be considered gluten free. The explanation behind some of these things can get a little complicated, but it comes down to how much gluten can make someone sick. The answer is a crumb.
This concept applies regardless of where food is made. Burgers made at home or a restaurant needs to be taken care of to avoid contact with gluten. The bun is the biggest offender, but it also includes anything else that contains gluten the burger may touch.
Some restaurants add ingredients to burgers. These include seasonings, but they can also have breadcrumbs, which are not gluten free. Breadcrumbs help the burger meat go further and help it stick together better, especially when made from frozen.
Something else to consider is what the condition is that the person who is avoiding gluten has. This includes how sensitive they are to gluten. For some people, a crumb can cause symptoms for weeks. This applies to Celiac Disease, but it can also apply to people avoiding gluten for other reasons as well.
If a person is gluten free because it makes their IBS better but doesn’t react to a small amount, removing a bun may be an ok solution. However, it would destroy the gut of someone else who is sensitive.
I’m writing this for people who are highly sensitive to gluten or have Celiac Disease.
Where Is The Best Place To Get A Gluten Free Fast Food Burger
The best environment to get any gluten free food is in a dedicated gluten free kitchen. There are plenty of situations where you may need to get food in a space that is not entirely gluten free.
In these circumstances, look for a restaurant with the least possible gluten and the best kitchen visibility.
My personal favorite is 5 Guys.
Dedicated fryers are used only for fries, and their kitchen is entirely open to see the entire process. Just make sure to tell them no bun and specify it is an allergy. When you do this, they will change their gloves and separate your food from gluten in the environment.
The only gluten they have is the burger and hotdog buns. Burgers are cooked on their surface and do not share space with a cooking space for buns. And I love that I can watch the process to assure myself that the food provided is as gluten free as possible in a kitchen that uses gluten.
I cannot give a second-best recommendation because all the other fast-food restaurants are the same in my experience. You cannot watch them, and they typically have much more gluten in their kitchen. I have no way to know if they have removed a bun from a burger already made.
I have had fast food burgers with bits of the bun stuck to the burger when requesting a gluten free burger. I have also received fries sprinkled with crumbs or larger chunks of gluten-containing food.
Burgers and Cross Contamination
There are many points of making a burger where it may come into contact with gluten. The bun is the most obvious one.
If there are items made from scratch with flour in the kitchen, there is flour in the air. This flour settles on all other surfaces. These surfaces may have been clean and gluten free safe in all different situations but contaminated from the flour in the air.
There is no such thing as truly gluten free food in an environment that uses flour.
Cooks can introduce flour by dipping foods into flour to fry them, scooping flour to make baked goods or any other situation where wheat is in flour form.
If the buns are prepared off-site, if fried food is pre-coated, and there is no flour in the air, it will be much safer for the gluten free consumer.
Other points of cross-contamination are whenever the gluten free food is near gluten. If buns are opened over a gluten free burger, there are likely crumbs now on it. The same goes for fried foods or any other food with gluten.
While using a convection oven, the air is pushed around inside it and circulates gluten, covering otherwise gluten free food with gluten if used for both products.
Eating gluten free out is complex, and the possibilities of contamination of gluten can be endless, from touching both foods, using the same cutting boards and knives to accidental contamination in the environment.
Eating anywhere that is not entirely gluten free comes with risks.
If you want to read more about cross-contamination and learn how to cook so that food is ultimately gluten free, read this article.
Are Burger Patties Gluten Free?
Meat does not absorb any gluten that the animal eats to pass onto the consumer.
Ground beef, chicken, fish, pork, and more are all naturally gluten free. It is what happens during the preparation process that could make it not gluten free.
Seasoning mixes can contain gluten. For at-home spices, be very careful to read ingredients and go to the manufacturers’ website if possible. When eating out, this isn’t always possible, but it is a potential place for cross-contamination.
More meaningful, though, is the possibility of additives to burgers.
Meat is expensive, and wheat is cheap. It is a filler in some foods. Burgers are no exception to this.
Some burgers may contain breadcrumbs or other fillers that make burger patties not appropriate for gluten free people.
Potentially having breadcrumbs in the burger patties is a much more serious consideration than some cross-contamination as gluten in the food will be much greater.
What Else Has Gluten On Burgers?
Besides the bun, other toppings may have gluten.
The top one is, of course, the bun. Buns are made from wheat flour which contains high levels of gluten.
However, there are other things to be aware of and watch out for that may potentially make otherwise gluten free burgers gluten free at all.
Onion strings, onion rings, or anything fried as a burger topping is likely made using wheat-based flour. Honestly, they would be much better off using white rice flour instead of wheat flour because the gluten works against the desired result that crispy, crunchy, fried food is after.
Read more about how gluten free flour can be better in some applications here.
Other things to watch for are condiments. In particular, be cautious of house-made sauces and specialty sauces. Some house BBQ sauces boast whisky or are otherwise made with gluten grains. You can find a list here for gluten free alcohols.
If anything is listed as “crunchy,” “crispy,” or similar terms, be cautious and ask. Flour is the main component. See the above article on why everyone should start using rice flour for frying.
Can Taking A Bun Off A Burger Be Ok For Gluten Intolerance?
Gluten intolerance covers such a wide variety of issues that it is hard to write any blanket statements about it.
Gluten intolerance could apply to someone with an autoimmune disease and finds that not eating gluten helps alleviate their symptoms. It could apply to someone that has had chronic pain and finds avoiding gluten helpful. It can even apply to people who see not eating wheat works better for them overall, but they can sometimes still eat it.
Instead of referring to a condition, I will discuss the people who have a lower level of sensitivity.
Removing the bun from the burger may be ok for those with gluten intolerance who do not notice symptoms from slight cross-contamination but find avoiding most gluten products helpful.
I find that this type of gluten free person is rare. More often, they have not been gluten free very long or been able to connect other symptoms. In any case, if they are not sensitive to gluten in small amounts, most of this article will not apply to them.
What is more common is people find themselves highly sensitive to gluten, where even a tiny amount will send them into agony.
If you are cooking for someone else, always assume they are the kind that is extremely sensitive unless otherwise stated. You can read about cooking for someone else who needs to be gluten free here to get some ideas.