Top Tips for Barbecuing Gluten-Free

Author and popular blogger at The Happy Coeliac, Samantha Stein explains how to avoid cross-contamination, stay safe, and enjoy your food!

Gluten-Free Barbecue Skewers

In my ideal world, everyone would eat gluten-free and we would never have to worry about getting ill through cross-contamination. Because of this, I love to host my own events where I can control every aspect of the food that goes on the grill, and give suspicious side eyes to any oblivious guests who bring gluten containing foods to the party.

It is definitely possible to host an entirely gluten-free barbecue with no complaints from gluten-eaters; in fact, that is what inspired me to write my latest book, Gluten-Free Bites:

Backyard BBQs (available from However, there will be plenty of occasions where you won’t have much, if any, control over the menu. This can be a bit nerve wracking if you are a coeliac or very sensitive to gluten, but by following some simple guidelines, you can ensure that you stay safe and don’t accidentally get glutened!

When hosting barbecues yourself

It is extremely important that any tools/surfaces that have been exposed to gluten in the past are thoroughly cleaned. This is especially important for the grill itself, as heat doesn’t destroy gluten. You’ll need to get ready with a wire brush, some BBQ cleaner and plenty of elbow grease. If you can’t get it clean enough, place a couple of layers of aluminium foil on the grill to make a ‘gluten-free section’. Make sure it is securely fastened so that it doesn’t get caught in the wind. Anyone who cooks at the BBQ should be aware of this section.

Alternatively, if your BBQ has two cooking racks, consider designating the upper rack for gluten-free food only, so that food cannot drip or fall through and contaminate the food below. Just be sure that this is an actual cooking rack and not a rack to keep food warm once cooked! If the latter, I would suggest using aluminium foil as mentioned before.

If everything going on the actual grill is gluten-free (and you’ve checked all the sausages, burgers and anything with a marinade), consider keeping any gluten-containing foods like burger buns on a separate table to the rest of the food. Breadcrumbs are insidious, and a source of great anxiety to coeliacs. A gust of wind could mean our plate is covered in crumbs.

Be careful about your use of tongs and utensils. If possible, use two sets of utensils, and be sure to only use the gluten-free set for the gluten-free food.

This applies to:

  • Cutlery and tongs
  • Racks/grills
  • Basters and brushes
  • Anything that touches marinades or sauces
  • Serving trays and containers
  • Cutting boards and surfaces.
  • Condiments (consider a squeeze bottle style instead of something you need to spoon out).
  • And don’t forget about your hands!

When attending barbecues hosted by others:

I get pretty nervous when other people are in charge, but I have found that if I help supervise ‘my’ section, they are also a lot more at ease. Communicating with your host is key – make sure they understand what you can and can’t eat and explain about cross contamination. Sometimes you have to be your own coeliac awareness ambassador!

If you think it’s going to be risky, either because it’s a larger event or because the host doesn’t really understand your needs, consider your options. Bringing along a small disposable BBQ is probably the easiest and cheapest way to ensure your safety.

If you really love to barbecue, there are many smaller travel-size BBQs that might be a better investment in the long run, as well as better for the environment than disposable barbecues which can only be used once.

Sometimes it’s not always possible to communicate with the host beforehand, so there’s no shame in bringing a cool box with some food you have prepared earlier.

Quick and easy gluten-free BBQ ideas:

Kebabs – you can pretty much kebab anything if you stick to these three principles:

  • Pre-soak your wooden skewers
  • Cut everything up into equal sizes
  • Don’t crowd the skewers with too much food

Why not try the following kebab combos?

  • Steak, bell peppers and red onion
  • Salmon and lemon wedges
  • Gammon and pineapple
  • King prawn, lime and coconut pieces
  • Mushrooms and halloumi cheese
  • Butternut squash and baby potatoes with rosemary

There are many different side dishes you could try, including:

  • Potato salad
  • Quinoa with roasted vegetables
  • Mexican tortillas (the 100% corn variety) – to house your grilled meat and salad!
  • Spicy rice
  • Grilled fruit with ice cream is a great way to end your meal, and this works especially well with peaches, pineapple rings or bananas

Gluten-Free Bites

Samantha Stein blogs at The Happy Coeliac and her latest book ‘Gluten-free Bites: Backyard BBQs’ is available now.