Gluten: Hidden in Plain Sight

For many, avoiding gluten is a choice.  Potentially improved health, increased energy, better brain function, possible diminishment of dementia,  according to Dr. Perlmutter’s book Grain Brain:  The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs and Sugar – Your Brain’s Silent Killers, are all factors in this choice.

For a large number, avoiding gluten is very necessary.  Our sensitivity or allergic reactions can not be ignored.

As a chef, cooking daily for guests that are trying to avoid gluten, I am astonished at how little this compound is understood.

Let’s begin with some basics.


Wheat:  white flour, bread flour, pastry flour, unbleached flour, whole wheat flour, durham wheat, germ, bran, any non-gluten free bread, including whole wheat breads, standard pasta/noodles, whole wheat pastas/noodles, cous cous, any standard pastry/cakes/cookies/muffins

Barley, Rye, Triticale

Spelt, Farrow, Kamut



Graham flour, ie:  crackers

Any food with “breading” ie:  bread crumbs, cracker meal or panko – note:  I have seen rice flour panko.  ALWAYS read the ingredients carefully

Soy Sauce – yes this is made from wheat.  You can use Tamari, which is actually made from soy.

Hidden Gluten Sources

Many processed meats, ie:  sausage, wieners, bologna type cold-cuts.

Oats, unless they are labeled as Gluten Free

Bouillons and soup bases

Many prepared soups, sauces

Many boxed or frozen rice dishes

Anything professionally deep fried in a fryer that has had other items that contain gluten, ie:  battered/breaded foods.  CAUTION:  Be especially cautious with breakfast foods.  Bacon has no gluten, but if the restaurant kitchen drops it in the deep fryer to crisp it before plating, it now is contaminated.

Most braised dishes, ie:  pot roast.  Proper procedure, when braising, is to dredge the meat in flour, then brown before adding liquid.  This seals in the juices, to make a better roast.  It is possible to do this with gluten free flours, but most restaurants will not be using that.

Delicate Fish dishes on restaurant menus.  Fish, like Sole, are best served with a coating.  Unless the restaurant specializes in gluten free dishes and has the proper flours, you should not order these type of dishes.  Choose something that is grilled or oven roasted.

Gluten Free Pasta – Some pretty good one are now on the market.  Some restaurants offer them.  If you are serious about avoiding gluten altogether, ask if the kitchen has a separate pan to cook this pasta in.  If they cook it in the same water, as the regular pasta, it will be contaminated.

If ordering a gluten free pasta, what sauce does it have?  Large Italian operations, offering choices like al fredo, may be making it in large quantity, so using flour to maintain the consistency.  You need to ask.

At the Grocery Store

Always have your reading glasses with you.  You need to read every label, regardless whether you would think it could have gluten or not.  You will be very very surprised at what you find.

Also, a label may say an item is gluten free, or be an item that should not have any gluten, but if you read the very fine print, you will find the statement:

This product made in a facility that also processes…  If you have serious allergies and sensitivities, these words are very important to you.

This is meant to be a basic guide to help you avoid most things with gluten.  If I have missed something, please contact me and I will rectify the list.  I hope this information helps.

Being informed means being safe and healthy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *