Have you noticed how many restaurants are offering gluten free pizza on their menu? And have you noticed that many of these restaurants are not dedicated to preparing gluten free pizzas only?
This can be very risky for a person with coeliac disease or other gluten related disorders due to the high risk of cross contamination.
Although a pizza cannot be guaranteed to be gluten free unless only gluten free foods are prepared in the kitchen, there are steps that can be taken to minimise the risk, even in restaurants that offer both gluten containing and gluten free pizzas on their menu. Some establishments in several countries are already taking measures to ensure the safety of their customers by implementing extraordinary measures to avoid cross contamination.
Here are 10 tips for the preparation of gluten free pizza.
- CHEF CLOTHING The person who will prepare the gluten free pizza must be wearing clothes that are not contaminated with gluten containing flour, or a disposable apron/overall must be worn over the clothes.
- CLEAN HANDS The persons who will be handling the food must wash their hands thoroughly before handling gluten free food items, and must wash them every time gluten free food is handled.
- USE A SEPARATE AND UNCONTAMINATED WORK AREA FOR GLUTEN FREE FOOD PREPARATION. If this is not possible, the work surface must be thoroughly cleaned before gluten free food is prepared.
- EQUIPMENT: the machinery, equipment, accessories and ingredients necessary for the production of gluten-free pizza must be absolutely distinct and separate. Food items must be covered with plastic wrap or closed in a container and utensils must be kept in a separate cupboard to guarantee that they will not be contaminated.
- ONLY USE GLUTEN FREE FLOUR TO ROLL OUT PIZZA DOUGHS Although this can be costly due to the price of gluten free flours, it can greatly decrease the cross contamination risk by keeping the kitchen free from wheat flour.
- A SEPARATE OVEN IS PREFERABLE: pizzas containing gluten should not be cooked in the oven at the same time as gluten free pizzas. Either make sure that the gluten free pizza is placed in the oven separately, or have a dedicated oven for gluten free pizza. This solution means that it is not necessary to interrupt the production of pizzas containing gluten in order to cook the gluten-free one(s), thus also avoiding lengthy waiting times, besides guaranteeing that no contamination takes place during cooking.
- USE BAKING PANS WITH HIGH SIDES: if there is only one oven available, it is necessary to stop cooking pizzas with gluten and the gluten-free pizza must not be placed directly on the base of the oven. The gluten-free pizza must be isolated from flour by cooking it in a baking pan with high sides.
- PREVENT ALL TYPES OF CONTAMINATION: even passing utensils containing flour over gluten free pizzas increases the risk of cross contamination.
- INGREDIENTS FOR PIZZA TOPPING: all ingredients for topping pizzas must be gluten free and must be kept in separate containers. Hands must be washed thoroughly before touching pizza toppings and clean utensils must be used to prevent contamination of the ingredients with floury hands or utensils.
- SERVING THE PIZZA Serve the pizza without slicing it to prevent the risk of using contaminated utensils. Each pizza can be served with a clean cutter for the client to use themselves. Use an identifying marker to show that the pizza is gluten free like a different coloured plate or a flag/sticker to avoid mix ups when the pizza is served.
Finally, it is important to be honest. If any of the above criteria cannot be met, explain to the customer so that he/she can make an informed decision about whether they feel it is safe for them to dine at your establishment or not.
Special thanks goes to S. Bugeja of Alfresco restaurant, B’Bugia, Malta for his feedback regarding gluten free pizza preparation.