Healthy eating habits/Gluten Free Cooking for chefs
Information on this page
This page is intended to give some basic information on gluten including what it is, who it can affect, the effects on the body, some sources of gluten and ideas on preventing cross-contamination. The information is directed at professional and amateur chefs or anyone interested in aspects of gluten .
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a complex molecule made up to two separate proteins – glutenin and gliadin , each make up half of the total gluten molecule.
Gliadin proteins are what makes bread dough’s thick, viscous and harder to work and move around. The longer you work a dough the tougher it will get as this protein will attach to starch and other components in the dough.
The glutenin proteins are the part that holds all the components of the flour together like the starch, fat and from any ingredients placed in such as milk or eggs for example. These proteins are also responsible for giving the dough strength and elastic properties.
Who does this affect and what does it do to the body?
This can affect people suffering from coeliac disease. This disease affects around 1 in 80 males and 1 in 60 females in Australia.
Coeliac disease occurs when the immune system reacts abnormally to gluten which causes damage to the little hair like projections in the small intestine called villi that allow people to absorb nutrients. When the gluten protein comes into contact with these villi they become inflamed and flatten out which can cause intestinal symptoms in some people with coeliac disease, but this is not true for all sufferers. Some people that have coeliac disease but remain undiagnosed can continue to eat gluten with no symptoms at all but will still cause damage to the villi in the small intestine.
In terms of cross contamination all it can take to start this inflammation process is as little as 100th of a bread slice which is about the size of a finger nail or 1/3 of a teaspoon.
Foods that contain Gluten
The usual suspects
Easy to spot grains that contain gluten can include:
- Any products that use these like pastas, breads, cakes, pastries and muffins.
The not so obvious
Then there's other grains that are not recognized as easily that may be encountered in the kitchen, these include:
- Triticale - A hybrid grain with a cross of wheat and rye using properties of both and looking very similar.
- Khorasan wheat - Also known as oriental wheat and grows in the Middle east area around Afghanistan and Iran. This grain has less gluten in it than the others but still contains enough to cause damage.
- Oats - there is some evidence to say that 4/5 people with coeliac disease can tolerate uncontaminated oats without any damage or symptoms to the small intestine. But since there is no test to determine who can tolerate the grain it's recommended that it be excluded from a gluten free diet.
- Couscous - is made up of semolina which are little granules of durum wheat which can be cooked by steaming.
Gluten Free grains
Other grains that can be included in a gluten free diet are quinoa, buckwheat as well as rice products.
Preventing cross contamination
- When using oil to fry food remember to replace the oil after cooking food that contains gluten as there may be crumbs left over, or alternatively fry the gluten free food first.
- Use separate water in a clean pot to boil gluten free pasta and use a separate strainer, or like the oil cook gluten free pasta first then all other pasta.
- Icing sugar mixtures can contain gluten, try replacing these with gluten free alternatives such as CSR icing sugar and Bundaberg Icing products.
- Storing butter,margarine and other condiments separately and clearly labeled containers so others are aware they are for gluten free use.
- Clear labeling of food that has been removed from original packaging in cool rooms and refrigerators.
- Bread boards, knives and other cooking utensils that are used in food preparation need to be cleaned in a water temperature above 75 degrees Celsius.
- Ensuring all appliances that come into contact with all types of bread and bread products such as toasters, sandwich makers and grills are thoroughly cleaned before using, alternatively using a separate toaster or grill that is for gluten free cooking only.
Checklist of knowledge
- Gluten is made up of two smaller proteins that have unique properties.
- People affected most by gluten are people with Coeliac Disease.
- List of foods that have gluten in them and food that do not contain gluten.
- Using clean oil or water when cooking gluten free foods.
- Storing and labeling food clearly.
- Clean all cooking appliances and utensils with water over 75 degrees Celsius.
- Coeliac Australia (2013),"The Gluten Free Diet". Retrieved from Gluten Free on the 22/09/2014
- Coeliac Queensland (2013),"Gluten Free Catering Guide". Retrieved from  on the 22/09/2014
- Kumar, V., Abbas, AK., Fausto, N., Mitchell, R. (2007). Chapter 15- The Oral Cavity and the Gastrointestinal Tract. Robbins Basic Pathology (8th ed.).pg 610-11. Philadelphia, PA, USA: Saunders (Imprint of Elsevier Inc).