Cooking a meal for someone who is gluten free can be daunting. But if you follow the tips in this article, it can be easy and safe.
You can cook for someone who is gluten free if you take all the necessary precautions and safety measures. You need to make sure the ingredients are safe, the cooking area is safe, and all equipment is safe. Even the smallest amount of gluten can make someone gluten intolerant or has Celiac Disease extremely ill.
For this article, I assume that the person you cook for is very sensitive to gluten for medical reasons. If the person you are cooking for is not very sensitive and doesn’t react badly to gluten, these tips won’t all apply.
1. Find Out If It Is Ok To Cook For Them
Many people that are gluten free choose not to eat from anyone else’s kitchen.
This isn’t a judgment or criticism.
So many of us have gotten sick from being polite and wanting to feel normal in social situations where food is involved. We really want to eat every bit of food you make for us. But facing literally weeks of recovery is a hard sacrifice to make.
Most people who try to cook gluten free for their friends and family try their very best to do it safely. And we know that.
By being here and taking the time to read this article, I know that you care about the health of the person you are cooking for. And I want to thank you for that.
So the very first thing you need to do when considering cooking for someone who is gluten free is to ask them.
You can choose to skip this step if you are trying to surprise them or support them when they need help. But make sure you follow along and do the final step.
If you do skip this step, there is a chance that they will still not feel comfortable eating something prepared outside their control. So make sure you are prepared for that outcome as well.
When you talk to them about making their food, you should mention all the steps in this article that you are taking to ensure the food is safe for their consumption.
2. Find A Gluten Free Recipe
This is usually the primary step people take when preparing a gluten free meal for someone. And it is probably one of the most enjoyable parts.
Search through all the gluten free recipes you can to find one that will work for what you would like.
I suggest typing in “gluten free” when searching, even if you think the recipe is naturally gluten free. Sometimes you will learn something new and get a new tip by doing so.
You can browse the recipes we have on this site or look through another. My favorite site for baking recipes when I don’t have one is Gluten Free On A Shoestring. Nicole is the queen of gluten free baking. Please look at this link for one of her cookbooks, and the others are also linked.
For most people, it is helpful to find recipes that are basically gluten free with an ingredient different such as my green bean fries recipe. Or find your favorite meatloaf recipe and use gluten free breadcrumbs. My favorite breadcrumbs can be ordered from Amazon at this link.
Whatever recipe you end up going with, it can be helpful to try it ahead of time and read up on how gluten free baking and cooking are different. I wrote an article on how gluten free flour can be better than wheat flour. It has many tips about what you might find are some great recipes to try gluten free. You can find that link here.
I recommend that whatever recipe you go with, make sure the equipment and the appliances are simple. We will go over why in the following steps. I’d even recommend reading this through the end to know what to look for in your recipe.
3. Get The Proper Equipment
When I refer to equipment here, I refer to anything you use to cook in the kitchen that is not an appliance.
This means pots and pans, spatulas and spoons, and anything else that you use.
Anything that will touch the food you are making should not have had gluten on it in the past.
That may seem really overwhelming, but you need to make sure the equipment is safe to make safe food.
I do not suggest going out and purchasing a brand new kitchen set to cook one meal for someone. But if you were looking for some new kitchen pans, I am just in love with these on Amazon.
If this is someone you will want to cook for regularly, getting a nice set to keep outside your kitchen that is only used for gluten free cooking may be a great option.
But if you are making one meal for someone, Dollar Tree has great disposable options or that you could continue to use in your kitchen after you make this meal.
If you are using stainless steel already, they may be safe. But make sure to follow Step 5 very closely.
So what do you need to replace? Anything that touches the food.
Let’s talk about an example to get an idea of what you’ll need.
If we were to make a meatloaf, some things we might need would be:
- disposable baking tray or bread tin
- cutting board
- large spoon
- spatula for serving
You can find all of these items at Dollar Tree. And You could reuse all except the disposable baking tray.
So look over what you will be cooking to see exactly what you might need equipment-wise for your recipe. And plan to find them.
Remember that they don’t have to be expensive. They only have not to be used with gluten in the past.
4. Collect Ingredients
Now that you have your recipe and equipment, it’s time to pick up those gluten free ingredients. In general, I do recommend using new ingredients for everything you are going to use. Don’t plan on using spices or other things from already opened packages in your home.
Any meat you get should not be seasoned.
Anything in the produce section should be fresh and not come with any sauces or be prepared in any way.
I reviewed some scanning apps you can check out here. But in general, it is better to know your ingredients than to rely on a scanning app.
I understand how overwhelming it can be, though, especially when only learning this for one meal. This is one case that a scanning app works well.
However, check the packaging for “certified gluten free” or “beyond celiac” certifications for the best choices. Some things that are naturally gluten free, like eggs, will not have this. But most processed ingredients will.
Any questionable ingredients should be easy to find if they are gluten free. Just bring your smartphone and Google “is ___ gluten free” and the answer is usually readily available. Make sure to include the brand name.
You may be surprised to find that certain ingredients are not gluten free as you go through this. It is essential to check every ingredient, no matter how simple it may seem.
If you follow these steps, you should be able to find safe ingredients for your recipe easily.
5. Clean Your Space
Before you start to actually cook the food, make sure that you have a clean space to work in. This is general in good cooking tips, but especially for gluten free cooking in a kitchen that typically cooks with gluten ingredients.
Make sure to wipe down the surfaces and anything above where you will be working or otherwise nearby. We don’t want a stray crumb to get into what we will be working on accidentally.
This includes the appliances you will be using. Make sure that you wipe out the appliances, especially above where the gluten free food will be. Make sure the door gets cleaned as well. We will cover appliances more thoroughly in Step 7.
If you plan on using any of your own equipment, make sure it is cleaned very well. I would only recommend using the equipment if it is made from glass or stainless steel and has no imperfections on the surface.
Use a brand new sponge with soap and water to clean these after being cleaned in your typical way. Please do not use the dishwasher and expect them to be clean enough.
Gluten is not a germ or bacteria, so hot water or sanitizer is not enough to get rid of gluten. It is a microscopic protein that likes to stick and hold to everything it touches.
So make sure you give anything that has ever touched gluten an excellent second wash with a clean sponge before using it.
Do not use any nonstick or plastic equipment as gluten can easily hang onto those. Cast iron is also not recommended. I will put tin foil between a cooking surface and the food to make an easy cooking surface sometimes, though.
As long as your knives are stainless steel, you can use those, but make sure that you give them an extra wash and clean out any little cracks that you can.
The last thing that is extremely important is not cooking wheat-based flour for at least 2 days before making the gluten free meal. Flour can get into the air when cooking, and it can stay there for days. This is one source of contamination, so many people overlook and can be so devastating.
If you plan to cook separate gluten and gluten free meals, I recommend fully making and packaging up the gluten free items before starting on the other ones. This is the only way to ensure that the food will be safe.
6. Prep Your Ingredients
Before touching anything, make sure you wash your hands well with soap and water. This is usually an obvious step, but I want to mention it so we can take as much care and separation between gluten and gluten free as we can.
Use your cutting board and knife to prep any vegetables or protein for your meal.
Or mix up your ingredients in your bowl.
Any food that touches a surface that was not prepared for gluten free needs to be tossed or set aside to cook for yourself. For example, if you are cutting up onions and one falls on the counter, toss that piece, do not add it back to the rest.
In general, you want to be as cautious as you can not to mix surfaces or food.
7. Cook With Safe Appliances
Let’s talk about appliances and which ones are safe to use and which are not.
In general, as long as the food is not touching the appliance, it will be safe to use. For example, you can use any stovetop for cooking on as long as it is clean.
Appliances where the food touches it include a toaster, slow cooker, or instant pot (pressure cooker). You can still use these appliances, but you will need to get a barrier between the cooking surface and the food.
Some appliances cannot be used, such as waffle makers.
Most appliances where the food touches you can adjust it, but a few cannot.
Something to keep in mind as well as ovens. If you have a conventional oven, you will be fine.
However, if you use a convection oven or a small version known as an air fryer, these are not safe to use.
Convection ovens and air fryers circulate the air to cook the entire contents evenly. These are really nice appliances, and I personally love using them. The problem is that flour, aka gluten, can get sucked into the fans as they circulate the air. When you bake something gluten free, that gluten will end up contaminating the food you have worked so hard to make safe.
The only way to make these appliances safe is to fully surround the item you cook in tin foil or other covering. It is still a dangerous thing to do, though, and I do not recommend it.
8. Serving Or Packaging Food
If you plan to make food with gluten in your kitchen after making the gluten free food, you will need to package it up to maintain its safety.
Follow the same rules as with cooking for what to use.
Ziplock bags, plastic containers, or anything else similar is fine as long as they are new. Consider using tin foil or plastic wrap instead of using a plastic reusable cover for a casserole dish.
Any utensils you are using should be new and never be used with gluten. Keep this in mind as you package the items up.
9. Inform Them Of Your Care
Almost as important as taking all this care is letting them know you took it.
As we discussed initially, many people are not comfortable eating from a kitchen that cooks using gluten ingredients.
If you let them know how much care you took in preparing their food, they will feel much more comfortable. If they ask other questions about handling or food content, be honest with them. If you did make a mistake, know that they probably appreciate how much care you took to include them still.
When people who are gluten free get contaminated with gluten, it can be weeks or months of recovery time.
So make sure you let them know the care you took in preparing their meal to help them feel comfortable eating it. And know that you prepared it in a way that was safe for them.
I personally want to thank you for taking the time to learn more about cooking gluten free for other people. Dietary restrictions can be so socially isolating and difficult to manage.
People who try to make us feel more included mean a lot. So thank you.