Beginner’s Guide to Cooking Gluten-Free
It can be expensive to eat out gluten-free or to buy ready-made gluten-free meals.
If you are new to cooking gluten-free, it can be a bit intimidating. So, we have put together a list of basic equipment and utensils for setting up a new gluten-free kitchen. We also note some “nice to have” items, and cooking tips.
I. Basic Kitchen Utensils & Equipment
One 2-cup glass measuring jug: Used for measuring liquids.
Set of measuring cups (metal or plastic): Used for measuring dry ingredients, e.g. sugar, rice.
Set of measuring spoons (metal or plastic): Used for measuring small amounts, e.g. salt, herbs, spices.
Set of kitchen knives: Paring knife (for peeling fruit and vegetables), a medium-sized or chopping knife (for cutting and dicing), and a serrated bread knife (for slicing bread and cakes).
Set of wooden spoons: These are better for stirring than metal spoons because they will not scratch non-stick surfaces. However, these should not come into contact with gluten which may be absorbed.
Whisk: Preferably with a coating to prevent scratching non-stick surfaces. Used for mixing salad dressings, sauces and gravies.
Fish slice or spatula: For flipping and serving burgers, fish, eggs, etc.
2 plastic chopping boards: Keep one for meats and the other for vegetables and fruits.
Wooden bread board: Use only for cutting gluten-free items, such as bread, cakes.
Set of mixing bowls: Useful for making sauces, salad dressings, salads, and whipping cream.
Pots and pans: Those that have a thicker metal base will retain heat better than those that are thinner, won’t tend to warp with heat over time, and will last longer. They tend to be more expensive but are worth the investment.
• One 7-10 inch non-stick skillet or frying pan
• Two 2-3 quart pans for boiling rice, vegetables, etc.
• One 6-quart pot with lid: For cooking pasta or making large batches of stock, sauces, stews, chili.
Casserole dish with lid: For recipes requiring longer cooking times in the oven.
Sieve: For draining cooked vegetables.
Colander: For rinsing/draining fruit, vegetables, cooked pasta.
Grater: For grating cheese, producing zest from citrus fruits.
Lemon juicer: To extract juice from citrus fruits.
Blender or food processor: For blending and pureeing foods, e.g. soups.
Toaster: Toast gluten-free bread on a dedicated gluten-free tray in a toaster oven to prevent potential cross-contamination with regular bread. Alternatively, there are special toaster sleeves or bags that can be used with a conventional toaster.
II. “Nice To Have” Kitchen Items
Apron: Cooking can get messy!
Kitchen scales: Some recipes require weighing out ingredients.
Vegetable peeler: Some people find this utensil easier to use than a paring knife.
Metal tongs: Useful for picking up or turning steaks, chicken pieces, etc. without piercing the meat and releasing the juices.
Potato masher or ricer: Easier to use than a fork for preparing mashed potatoes or other mashed vegetables.
Pie dish: For cooking pies made from scratch.
Non-stick spring-form cake pan: The wall of the pan can be removed, so the cake can be turned out more easily.
Rolling pin: Used to roll out a smooth layer of dough for making cookies or pie crusts.
Cookie sheet: For baking cookies in the oven.
Muffin or cupcake pan: Used to form batter into muffin or cupcake shapes when baked.
Handheld electric mixer: Useful for beating eggs, and making cake frostings and whipped cream.
Stand cake mixer: This equipment can be expensive but very useful if you routinely make cakes, cookies, or breads, and can also be used for preparing larger volumes of cake frostings and whipped cream.
Bread pan or electric breadmaker: There are many good bread recipes or ready-mixes that will save you money compared to store-bought gluten-free bread. Also, gluten-free bread tends to dry out fairly quickly, so you could make your own when you need it.
Roasting pan: For roasting meats and vegetables.
Meat thermometer: Used to test whether meat has been cooked to the recommended temperature.
Ladle: For serving soups and stews in larger volumes.
III. Cooking Tips
- Read the recipe in advance to make sure you have all the ingredients you will need.
- Until you become a more experienced cook, it is better not to omit or substitute ingredients or change the amounts in a recipe. Also, you will be very disappointed if you try to make a straight substitution of gluten-free flour for wheat flour in a typical recipe. You’ll save time and money by using a tried and trusted gluten-free recipe.
- For good hygiene, always wash your hands before preparing food. Rinse fruit, vegetables, and raw meat under cold, running water.
- Before you start cooking, assemble all the utensils/equipment you will need and do any food preparation, e.g. chopping vegetables, measuring out ingredients. For most recipes, timing each step is important to make a dish successful.
- If possible, clear up as you go, e.g. dispose of vegetable peelings, dirty dishes/utensils. It helps to keep your work surface manageable and orderly.
- Even if you can’t dice or chop perfectly like a professional chef, try to make pieces of a specific food type the same size and shape as best you can so that they will all cook to the same extent; e.g., smaller pieces of diced carrot may be overcooked, while larger pieces of diced carrot may be undercooked.
- To prevent non-stick surfaces from being damaged, use wooden or plastic utensils, not metal.
- Thickening sauces and gravies: To avoid a lumpy consistency, bring the mixture to a boil and stir or whisk continuously while you add the thickening agent, (e.g. cornstarch, arrowroot).
- Browning meat before adding to other ingredients allows it to be cooked thoroughly. Also, it is best achieved in a pan without a non-stick surface; the residual particles of browned meat in the bottom of the pan are often used to prepare a stock or gravy or provide extra flavor to the dish.
- For Asian, e.g. Chinese, stir-fry recipes that typically use a special pan called a “wok”, you can use a non-stick frying pan instead.
- Many recipes state “season with salt and pepper to taste”. This is easily done when the dish has finished cooking, but is obviously not recommended if the dish has not been cooked yet and includes raw meat or seafood. In this case, you have to make your best judgment without tasting (to avoid food poisoning) and one eventually learns from experience. If you are new to cooking from scratch, it is probably best to add just one or two pinches of salt and just a small dash of pepper rather than overdo it and spoil the dish. When the dish has been cooked, then it can be tasted and more seasoning added if needed.
- If a recipe notes that a fresh or dried herb can be used, fresh herbs will add a better flavor than dried.
IV. Other Resources on our Site
If you don’t feel you have the confidence to start cooking gluten-free from scratch, find out from your local celiac support group whether gluten-free cooking classes are being offered in your area. Also, a great way to sample new gluten-free products is to attend one of the gluten-free food events that are held in different parts of the country each year.