Are you ready to fire up the gluten-free BBQ? Whether you host or attend a summer picnic or BBQ, the fun of grilling can come to a screeching halt if you aren’t aware of how easy it is to get glutened.
The key to gluten-free grilling is to keep things simple and cook safely away from any potentially contaminated parts of the grill. See, you can’t simply scrub off the charred gluten gunk from the grill and figure you’re safe.
Gluten isn’t like a virus or bacteria that can be easily ‘killed’ with heat. This very stable protein can take a pretty hefty heat beating of temperatures between 500 degrees F to 600 degrees F depending on where you look. Few allow the grill to go that high for long enough periods of time to actually char gluten and no one really cooks at those temperatures.
Are Charcoal Briquettes REALLY gluten-free?
For those with charcoal grills, there have been a few articles such as this About.com piece claiming that charcoal briquettes can contain wheat as a starch to help hold the briquettes together. Note that every single blog I could locate on this topic was over a year old. That prompted me to do some digging since only one company is named in the article as being gluten-free.
I took a poll on my Facebook page of the brands of charcoal used by the GFS community and contacted those companies. To date, we have not been able to locate any company that uses wheat or gluten in their charcoal briquettes. It’s not to say that there aren’t companies out there who do use it, however we couldn’t find any. If the brand you use is not listed here, I’d suggest contacting them as the embers do waft up onto the food (though I could not verify at what temperature briquettes normally burn).
These are the more common brands sold in the US. If you live outside of the US, I would recommend checking with the company you purchase about the type of starch (if any) used in their product.
Mali’s Gourmet Lump Charcoal (Ph. 716-688-2210) — They confirmed that their product is NOT briquets, rather lump charcoal, which is 100% wood (mostly oak and maple).
Duraflame & Stubb’s brand — “Corn starch is used in the production of Duraflame and Stubb’s brand all natural hardwood charcoal briquets. Hardwood charcoal fines make up 95% of the mix with the corn starch at 5%,which is used as a binder. Although it is burned up in the grilling process, we have not done testing to assure that food cooked over it would be gluten free. Cowboy Hardwood Lump Charcoal that is 100% natural hardwood with no binding agents,” shared Alexandria in the Duraflame Consumer Affairs department.
Trader Joe’s Store Brand — “There is no gluten in our charcoal,” stated Kerry from their Customer Relations department.
Kingsford — “Our charcoal does not contain wheat or any other gluten products,” said customer response representative Amanda Bentley. Note that in researching I did learn an interesting fact that some of you might like to know… Kingsford is a subsidiary of Clorox.
As of the date of this blog, this is current information. Obviously you should follow up with a company on your own if you have any concern and double check for your own safety as product formulation can change at any time and I certainly am not privy to every change that companies make. It’s just my intention to make you aware of this. It seems like your best best is to look for 100% natural wood.
10 Tips to Grilling without getting Glutened
1) Grill Grates — Unless you’ve got a brand new, never glutened, clean grill grate, use aluminum foil under anything that you plan on eating since gluten will still linger from past BBQs. If you’re using a multi-tiered grill, make sure to keep your food above everyone else’s and that no gluten-bearing food sits on the warming rack above your food. All it takes is one drip of the juices and your food is glutened.
2) Cooking Utensils & Hands — Use clean utensils for the grill. Make sure that whatever will be flipping your food has been well-cleaned and won’t be touching gluten-contaminated food in the midst of cooking your meal. Also use clean hands while handling the food before it’s cooked and afterward.
3) Marinades & Rubs — Beware ! Many add in gluten as a binder so make sure that whatever you’ve used in marked gluten-free or make your own.
4) Spices — Keep flavors simple. Olive or coconut oil and spices can really make fresh veggies or meat taste incredible. Just double check that your spices are gluten-free.
5) Chips — Check the ingredients before you dig in and look for a gluten-free label. Most ‘multi-grain’ chips aren’t actually gluten-free. If they are ok, take some for yourself first, but beware of an open bag since you don’t know who’s glutened hand dug in before you. Late July is an organic brand that offers a tasty variety of chips that anyone as a BBQ will enjoy.
6) Condiments — If you can stick a utensil into the jar, I’d suggest avoiding those all together since it only takes one knife rubbed across a wheat bun to contaminate the entire jar. Even be careful with squeezable bottles because the area where the condiment comes out the lid could have touched someone else’s bread. Heinz has quite an extensive list of gluten-free condiments which you can check out here (though they also have a clear disclaimer before the list you should read and call about depending on your level of sensitivity).
7) Eating Your Meat — If there aren’t any gluten-free rolls or buns in sight, clean lettuce or collard greens make a great way to wrap up your meat. Or you can always top a salad with your meat and enjoy!
8) Meat — Make sure the meat is … meat! Cheaper brands can have gluten added to them as a filler, so double check that the burgers and hot dogs are actually gluten-free. Applegate Farms offers gluten-free hot dogs as well as frozen hamburgers. Here’s a list of some other companies to check out (and double check that they are still gluten-free). And don’t forget about gluten-free sausage! Check out this list of brands available at your local grocer.
9) Beer & Alcohol — Double check even your gluten-free beer! According to my pal Gluten Dude, some beers marked gluten-free which were originally made from gluten-bearing grains might not be safe. Opt for gluten-free beer made from gluten-free grains like sorghum, try some Hard Apple Cider, or try out some wine. Though distilled alcohol is considered to be safe regardless if it’s made from wheat, I find that it makes me feel even worse if I accidentally get glutened so I personally tend to avoid them.
10) Salad dressing — The pre-made type could be problematic, so ask for some olive oil and vinegar. You can also top your salads with salsa, guacamole or hummus. Obviously make sure that those available are also gluten-free. They’ll add a delicious zing to your meal.
Putting the tips into action
Firstly, I prefer hosting my own barbecues so I can have one that’s completely gluten-free and don’t have to worry about any of this stuff. If you want to know how I delegate to guests who want to bring food, check out this guide I made on how to host a gluten-free party.
If I were invited out to someone else’s home for a party, I’d first call the host and ask about what they were planning on serving. I’m not shy about it and ask for specifics like “What kind of salad will you have and what are you going to put in it?”. I would then let them know what I’ll bring – ie. a pack of my own gluten-free sausages (or meat of some sort) as well as guacamole, hummus, salsa, tortilla chips and fresh cut veggies. Some of these items can easily be bought pre-made if I don’t have time to make them myself.
I also suggest grilling some veggies such as squash and zucchini which I’d cut up at home (because I know my cutting board isn’t contaminated) and bring with me. Should I feel like having a drink, I’d also bring my choice of alcohol too. You can’t assume that they will have what you’ll be able to drink on hand.
Once I arrive, I serve myself first before anyone has had the chance to dig into my goods and supervise my own stuff on the grill (cooking it on a piece of foil that I would have brought with me). This entire process seemed a bit strange to folks at first, but now no one bats an eye about it and usuallyis curious to know what I brought with me since it’s always good.
Now go enjoy your summer safely and let me know if you have any questions or if I forgot anything!
Leave your suggestions and comments below about grilling gluten-free or stories you’d love to share with others!