If you enjoy a good gluten-free brunch like me, you need to read this article. That’s because as much as you love brunch, it may not love you back. In fact, gluten-free brunch restaurants are notorious for getting gluten-free wrong.
Now mind you, some are doing it right (or at least trying to do it right) but there is still a lot of room for improvement. I applaud restaurants for trying, although it’s crucial for my health, and the health of other people who can’t eat gluten, that they get it right.
Potential Gluten-Free Brunch Pitfalls
When a cook is making your gluten-free pancakes, he is often using the same exact griddle he uses to cook the wheat pancakes and sometimes even the same spatula to flip the pancakes. While the batter may be gluten-free, the actual pancake is cross contaminated with all sorts of gluten bits from the shared griddle. Ask your waiter if there is a dedicated pan for cooking gluten-free pancakes. If there is, you can proceed with caution, if not, skip the pancakes. It’s. So. Not. Worth. It.
Could the cook accidentally use the gluten ladle to scoop out gluten-free batter. It’s possible – and sometimes downright likely in a busy kitchen!
If a gluten-free brunch restaurant offers you gluten-free toast, your radar should go way up. Is the toast toasted in the same toaster oven as the wheat bread? Or do they have a dedicated toaster? Again, if your gluten-free toast is toasted in a regular toaster, it’s not gluten-free anymore.
The Waffle Iron:
Be very weary of gluten-free waffles. The cook might put gluten-free batter in the waffle iron, but it’s unlikely a brunch restaurant has a dedicated gluten-free waffle iron. Even a cleaned waffle iron has gluten bits all stuck up in its crevices. Don’t risk it.
Do they use the same standing mixer to mix the gluten-free batter as used for the regular batter? If so, it’s likely gluteny flour bits are inadvertently mixed into the gluten-free batter mix. All gluten-free batters should be mixed by hand with clean utensils and hands.
The Crispy Hashbrowns:
Hashbrowns are safe if they are baked or fried in clean oil in a clean pan. The risk comes when they are cooked in a deep fryer – especially if that deep fryer also fries up chicken nuggets and corn dogs too.
The Extra Fluffy Omelette:
If your omelet is looking extra fluffy, it might have some pancake batter in it. IHOP adds pancake batter to its omelettes to make them extra fluffy and irrisitable. Make sure you get plain eggs with no added gluten. This is a screenshot from the IHOP website:
The Brunch Buffet:
Buffets are notorious for cross contamination. People are using the exact same serving pieces to pick up their french toast and their eggs – so the eggs are therefore contaminated with gluten! If you much go to a brunch buffet, ask the staff if you can take your portion from a brand new serving dish and serving spoon, or ask them to make you something safe in the back. Buffets are just not worth the risk.
Questions to Ask Your Server:
- Do you have a dedicated (fill in the blank) toaster, waffle iron, pan for cooking pancakes, etc.
- How do you know my dish is gluten-free when it comes out of the kitchen?
- What flour / recipe do you use to make your gluten-free pancakes, waffles, etc.?
- Is your gluten-free batter mixed by hand or in your same mixer?
- Do you have a separate prep area for gluten-free foods?
- Is your staff trained to handle gluten-free requests?
- Do your omelettes contain anything except eggs, cheese and vegetables?
In the end, don’t let gluten ruin your gluten-free brunch (and the rest of your day!). Take these extra precautions, ask the right questions, and look for clues to ensure you have a safe, and truly gluten-free, meal. As a failsafe, you can always test your food with your trusty Nima Sensor to know for sure if gluten is lurking in those so-called gluten-free brunch favorites.
Watch my Facebook Live as I used my Nima Sensor to test brunch with my gluten-free gal pal, Shayna.