Your Ultimate Guide to Gluten-Free Cooking
In an age when inclusivity and diversity have become keystones of our existence, the kitchen can also become fertile ground to reflect those values. Adapting cooking practices to accommodate food allergies, intolerances, and dietary restrictions is a simple gesture to show care and sensitivity towards different lifestyles.
Excluding a whole group of foods while cooking can sound daunting at first. But preparing gluten-free food doesn’t need to be complicated if you’re dressed in the right kitchen gear and remember the basics. But what really is gluten, and why do some people want to avoid it?
Why Opt for Gluten-Free Cooking?
Gluten is the general name for the proteins which are found in wheat, rye, and barley. As a structural protein, gluten helps foods maintain their shape. There can be several reasons for giving up gluten but the most common causes are celiac disease and gluten intolerance.
The Dangers of Celiac Disease
Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition where the body responds to the ingestion of gluten by mounting an attack on the small intestine. This immune response leads to damage on the villi, the fingerlike projections lining the small intestine which promote the absorption of nutrients.
As a result of long term consumption of gluten, celiac disease patients may experience a reduced capacity to absorb nutrients properly. This has adverse effects and paves the way for other harmful medical conditions in the future. Which is why cooking gluten-free food is essential to avert these chronic health concerns that may arise as by-products of celiac disease.
Many people can even have an intolerance to gluten without suffering from celiac disease. Some symptoms of gluten intolerance may include bloating, diarrhea, skin rashes, constipation, and depressive tendencies. Often, these symptoms can also occur due to other factors so it’s a good idea to seek professional guidance to know what might be causing them.
Gluten-Free Cooking 101
Whether you’re cooking for a loved one with celiac disease, or hosting guests with a gluten intolerance, making food for them doesn’t need to be intimidating or hard. The first step is finding something comfortable to wear that helps you stay cool in the kitchen, no matter how long you’re in there. Then you’re ready to learn the basics of preparing gluten-free meals.
Always Check the Labels
This seems like a no-brainer. But even though you may be avoiding the classes of foods popularly known to contain gluten, such as breads, cereals, and wheat products – it’s easy to accidentally use a product containing hidden gluten. This is why it’s imperative to always check the labels of every condiment and food product while cooking gluten-free meals for the safety of your loved ones and guests.
In case the packaging doesn’t outrightly specify that the product is gluten-free, some common products where gluten may be lurking, might include:
- soy sauce
- spice mixtures and blends
- thickeners in soup
- salad dressings
- tortillas and wraps
- Japanese panko crumbs
- roasted nuts
- commercial oats and oatmeal products
It’s also important to remember that often manufacturers may use machines that might have processed foods containing gluten – which is why you should choose only certified gluten-free ingredients.
While you’re cooking gluten-free meals, avoid any cross-contact with food or utensils that have been contaminated by gluten as even the slightest trace can be transferred from contact with the surface. This is one of the reasons why most labels will contain a disclaimer in case the food product has been processed on machinery that also processes other foods which might contain gluten.
Since many gluten-free recipes require simple assembly, you can take advantage by preparing ingredients and mixes ahead of time. This could include setting aside chopped vegetables for salads or preparing gluten-free dessert mixes ahead of time. For proper meal prep, creating a go-to list of gluten-free basics and snacks will be helpful on your weekly grocery runs.
Prepare a Gluten-Free Cooking Grocery List
Keep a standard grocery list handy which you can tweak from time to time to balance convenience with creativity. Make special note of foods you should stock up on, which include:
- naturally gluten-free foods such as dairy and poultry
- vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, beans, lentils
- vegan protein rich food options include tofu
- gluten-free grains like rice, quinoa, corn, millet and buckwheat
- white and yellow corn tortillas
Invest in Good Kitchenware and Aprons
Even preparing a simple meal can leave you frustrated if you’re using old tools or not wearing the right clothing while spending time in the kitchen. That’s the last thing you’ll want when you’re cooking something that needs to be gluten-free, as it’s important to keep your wits about you and be attentive about ingredients. And let’s face it: a cook is only as good as their tools.
So if you’re taking over cooking, it’s important to find the right clothes and kitchenware that support efficient and practical meal prep to make your life easier. Consider investing in stainless steel utensils for easier cleanups or getting a stain resistant apron to keep your clothes protected.
Change Can Be Easy
At Helt Studio, we believe that aprons are simply capes worn backward. And when change comes, it’s always great to be prepared – your armor can be gluten-free grocery lists, stainless steel cutlery, or a top-notch custom apron. Ultimately, learning the basics of gluten-free cooking is a gradual process, but definitely not an impossible one. If you have any questions, give us a call – our team will be happy to help you find the right fit.