7 Rules For Gluten-Free Grilling

Enjoy your next BBQ without worrying about gluten contamination.

June 23, 2014

It's not summer without a barbeque with a few close friends. But if gluten is more like your enemy, then the grill can be a troubling place. Whether you've gone gluten free or your guests have, our gluten experts will have you lighting up the barbee all summer, no sweat!

Rule #1: Watch the Grill
Most people probably don't have a budget for a second, designated grill, so keep your eyes peeled for contamination."If you want to make sure your food won't be contaminated by other foods being cooked on the same grill rack, place your portions on tinfoil or, better yet, in foil packets," advises Arthur Agatston, MD, author of The South Beach Diet Gluten Solution. "Ask the cook to use separate utensils for turning and serving your food," he also suggests.


If you have celiac disease, cleaning the grill is a must. "My husband, our resident grill master and a fastidious cleaner, cleans every grill we cook on," says Erin Scott, author of Yummy Supper. "If we're invited to a friend's house for a BBQ, Paul politely explains the serious health risk of a contaminated grill and gets to work." But don't trust the grill brush, Scott explains. "Instead of using a grill brush that may have crumbs embedded in the bristles, he takes the grill surface/plates off and washes them thoroughly with soap and water. Usually our hosts are quite pleased that having us over means having a clean grill as a bonus."

And both Scott and Dr. Agatston agree: whenever possible, cook the gluten-free food first to prevent contamination.

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Rule #2: Sauce Isn't Always Safe
It's easy to remember to read the label on the bag of chips sitting on the picnic table, but what about the sauce your friend used to marinade the steaks? "Prepared marinades and BBQ sauces for poultry and beef are among the worst offenders, since many contain malt or wheat gluten as a binder," explains Dr. Agatston.

Scott also warns against marinades. "Soy sauce, or any marinade that has soy sauce as part of the mix, is the ultimate sneaky source of gluten," she says. "Of course there is delicious GF soy sauce (usually called GF tamari) that can be used in place of standard soy sauce, which has wheat as an additive."


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Rule #3: Make a Safer Sauce
"I'd suggest using store-bought marinades with caution. Too often they are heavily processed and filled with odd, unpronounceable additives," says Scott. Her simple solution: "Why not try making your own? If you whip up a sauce from scratch, you know it will be delish and safe for everyone to eat." She recommends experimenting with olive oil, garlic, citrus juices, gluten-free tamari, ginger, honey, wine, and fresh herbs. "If you've got your heart set on buying a premade sauce, I'd look for a "gluten-free" label just to be safe."

Rule #4: Snack Smart
"Watch out for the chips and dips," says Dr. Agatston. "If you're concerned about double dippers and cross-contamination from the non-gluten-free options that may also be served on the same table, then separate your portion before the party gets rolling. Ask to see the packaging for the chips and dips to be really secure."

Rule #5: Beware of the Booze
Don't get so focused on the food that you forget to check the cooler. "Beer (even light beer) has gluten," says Dr. Agatston. "And even some brands of gluten-free beer that are made with malted wheat or barley (and not from sorghum) might not be safe for those with celiac disease." He recommends wine or hard cider instead.

Another place to watch out for brews: Your meat. "Make sure that meats haven't been marinated in beer, unless it's a gluten-free brew," reminds Scott.


Rule #6: Banish the Buns
"Unless you are sure that the burger and hot dog buns, or other breads, are absolutely gluten free, enjoy your grilled food on a lettuce leaf or on a grilled Portobello mushroom," suggests Dr. Agatston.

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Rule #7: Don't Forget About Fillers
It doesn't matter if your patty is vegetarian or Angus; you're making a mistake if you forget to check for fillers. Scott says that the biggest culprits are veggie burgers, turkey burgers, hot dogs, and sausages.  And never be afraid to ask. "If the host has prepared his or her own burgers, ask if anything has been added," reminds Dr. Agatston. "Even a little Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce could cause problems in celiacs or those with heightened gluten sensitivity."

If you're worried about fillers in your meat, try this recipe for grilled romaine lettuce instead. And to keep grilling safer for everyone, check out this trick to reduce carcinogens in meat by 99 percent!