By Rachel Begun, MS, RD
June…it’s the time when brides and grooms-to-be say, “I do,” graduates throw their caps into the air, and battered oven mitts give way to gleaming grills and grilling tongs.
Everyone loves a barbecue—whether it’s Texas dry-rubbed steak, North Carolina vinegar-bathed pulled pork, or simply grilled fish and veggies. With these simple steps, you can throw a backyard barbecue everyone can enjoy for Father’s Day, a graduation party, or a casual get-together.
Step 1: Plan a Gluten-Free Menu
This is much easier than it sounds, and it forces you to think outside the bun. Skip the usual hamburgers and hotdogs for something different, like a surf-and-turf of skirt steak and grilled shrimp. Talk to your gluten-free guests before planning the menu to ask them what common barbecue items contain gluten. Get their recommendations for delicious gluten-free barbecue sauces (packaged and/or recipes), salad dressings, and condiments as well as tips for purchasing gluten-free ingredients.
Step 2: Get a Little Help from Your (Gluten-Free) Friends
Ask your gluten-free guests if they’d like to prepare a dish or two, particularly ones that might normally be at risk for containing gluten. They’ll be thrilled you asked and will feel safe knowing they have at least a couple of dishes they can rely on.
Step 3: Clean the Grill…Thoroughly
This is a must whether or not you have gluten-free guests, but particularly important for removing any residual gluten particles from the grill. A clean grill prevents residual flavors from tainting your current menu and fire flare-ups, allowing for more even cooking. It’s easiest to clean the grill soon after cooking. Turn up the grill to a high heat, close the lid, and wait until almost all the residue has burned off. Remove any remaining bits and residue with a steel brush, and then wipe down the slats with olive oil and a rag until they are clean and smooth.
Step 4: Do a Double Take
If your home isn’t normally gluten-free, there may be concern by your guests that cooking and cutting surfaces are not safe. This is not an affront to the cleanliness of your kitchen; it is a valid concern. If you have a second set of knives, serving utensils, and cutting boards to spare, clean them thoroughly and set them aside solely for preparing items for your gluten-free guests. Clean and wipe down the counter space prior to preparation.
Step 5: Bring Out the Reynolds
Just in case a sauce or dressing does contain gluten, be sure to have aluminum foil on hand. Place items for your gluten-free guests in aluminum foil so they don’t come into contact with any gluten that may have accidentally made its way onto the grill.
Step 6: Allow Your Gluten-Free Guests to Eat First
Barbecue food is often served family-style with shared platters for all to serve themselves. The sharing and trading of utensils between dishes can lead to cross-contamination and is worrisome for gluten-free guests. Allow them to serve themselves first before cross-contamination can occur. This will ease their concerns and allow them to enjoy the meal you have prepared.
Step 7: Repeat All Summer Long…
If you are a frequent barbecue host, odds are you will serve a gluten-free guest at some point over the summer. Following these tips will make for memorable get-togethers that all your guests will enjoy…especially the gluten-free.
The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness offers Vitacost.com website visitors weekly recipes and blogs about living the gluten-free lifestyle. For more information about celiac disease and gluten-free living, visit www.celiaccentral.org.