I have spoken to a lot of pizza restaurants touting gluten free pizza lately. You may have seen my post about the Top Ten Crazy Things Restaurants Have Said To Me. I write a gluten free blog and I am building a database of restaurants that outlines the safe gluten handling practices by Bay Area restaurants. Cross contamination is a huge issue in restaurants.
A lot of restaurants are trying to accommodate gluten free diners the right way, but a lot of restaurants are NOT doing it the right way. I am tired of getting sick when I eat out at a restaurant that either has a gluten free menu, or indicates gluten free items on their menu.
And now the bad news.
I am here to tell you that there is probably no such thing as a 100% gluten free pizza unless you either buy it from a place with a dedicated gluten free kitchen, or make it at home. It is just too difficult for a pizza restaurant to prevent cross contamination. Flour is in the air.
Can you find a pizza that is close, under the new 20 ppb rule? Yes. There are some restaurants who are really trying to get it right to prevent cross contamination. The main problem is in the oven. According to the experts, gluten does not burn off in a pizza oven. Flour floats around the oven potentially cross contaminating gluten free pizzas while they cook.
Gluten free people have a varying degree of sensitivity to gluten. Some people can’t tolerate any gluten, and others can handle trace amounts. You need to know where you fall on this spectrum and determine if a pizza restaurant is taking the right precautions to prevent you from getting sick.
Here are the big questions you need to ask the manager when you go out for a gluten free pizza at your local restaurant.
- Do you purchase gluten free crusts from a dedicated gluten free distributor, or do you make them in house? If they are purchased, are they stored bagged, away from regular pizza crusts? If they are made in house, how do you store the dough?
- Do you prepare your gluten free pizzas in a separate area of the kitchen, away from where they make regular pizzas? If not, is the area cleaned, and or a liner put down to prevent cross contamination?
- Does your cook change his gloves and apron before working on a gluten free pizza order?
- Do you use a sterilized separate pan to cook the gluten free pizza on? Many restaurants use mesh sheets. These don’t work very well to prevent cross contamination because regular flour can go up through the holes and into the gluten free pizza. If they don’t use a pan under your pizza, it will get cross contaminated just laying on the oven shelf.
- Do you use a separate cutter and paddle for gluten free pizzas?
- When the pizza comes out of the oven, does it go on the hot line to await being delivered? If so, is the gluten free pizza boxed to prevent it from coming into contact with gluten?
Stay safe and know the right questions to ask in order to prevent getting “glutened.”