All right, so you’re looking to live gluten-free.  What in particular do you need to keep stocked that goes above and beyond what you’d normally find in a well-stocked kitchen?  Any special tools? any special ingredients?  Unfortunately, the answer is “yes; lots.”  When I was getting started in the GF world back in 2009 I just sort of grabbed every sort of GF flour there was and tried some, and bought at least 15 GF cookbooks off Amazon and started reading.  It was a good tactic, and I can’t entirely say not worth doing yourself if you’ve recently had to go GF, but I can’t entirely say there wasn’t a lot of wasted time in there, either!  So here’s my shakedown of the stuff and ingredients it’s really worth stocking to make food that doesn’t just taste “normal,” but tastes really good!

Gadgets

Before I was diagnosed with celiac disease, the most complicated or interesting kitchen equipment I used was a strainer or a hand mixer; getting wax paper to make no-bake cookies with Jocelyn was an adventure into the new and unknown!  I had a lot of inherited gadgets I never used that came in handy once I started learning to cook, but there were a lot more things I never dreamed I’d need.  So, here’s an accounting of unusual or interesting equipment in my kitchen, as well as notes on the more usual equipment when there’s something different or interesting going on.  (I’ll have Amazon links for most of these up soon.)

  • Cooking spray. Make sure this is GF! — some cooking sprays have flour added to them, so you can grease and flour a pan at the same time.  It’s not hard to get a safe variety though.
  • Jars and bottles. You can store sauces in tupperware, but be careful, as plastic can’t always handle hot liquids and may warp.  I just wash and keep glass bottles that come with vinegars and such, and reuse them for storing homemade sauces.
  • Measuring cups and spoons. I highly recommend investing in a set or two of Pourfect measuring spoons:  You get a 2 T measure (1/8 cup), 1 T measure, 1 1/2 tsp measure, 1 tsp measure, 3/4 tsp measure, 1/2 tsp measure, 1/3 tsp measure (very useful when reducing recipes!), 1/4 tsp measure, 1/8 tsp measure, 1/16 tsp measure, 1/32 tsp measure, and 1/64 tsp measure (invaluable when reducing recipes!). I’m usually only cooking for one or two people at a time, and not everything makes for good leftovers, so I swear by these measuring spoons.
  • Parchment paper. Very nice when you’re putting messy things in the oven.
  • Pasta maker. I have a Norpro pasta maker I got at Ross for $20; it has a cutting attachment that does fettucini and vermicelli.  Store-brought GF pasta is heartbreakingly expensive, and usually tastes like chalk (or worse), so I recommend getting a pasta maker and making your own.  You may also want an extruder and a drying rack, and I heartily recommend KitchenAid for both.
  • Snapware! I store all my GF flours, GF flour mixes, and various other powdery substances in Snapware all in one place.  It’s a bit of money to invest in enough jars, but it’s really, really worth it:  No going back and forth to the pantry or a cabinet for twelve ingredients every time I want to cook, not to mention trying to get easily puffed-up starches out of crinkly, uncooperative plastic bags that are carefully clipped shut.  Using Snapware jars probably cuts the amount of time I spend mixing ingredients in half — and when you cook a lot, that’s a lot of time saved.
  • Toaster. And not one that’s ever had gluten in it. Just throw the old one out and get a new one.
  • Wax paper. This one just isn’t optional; it makes handling softer GF doughs possible.

Ingredients

One of the more baffling things about learning to cook gluten-free is how many strange ingredients you run across.  Sugar, salt, yeast, okay.  Powdered dry milk, coconut flour, potato starch, really . . . ?  Xanthan gum?  “Gluten substitute”?  What in the world are those? and how much do I need them? and where do I find them?  Hence, here’s a list of the more unusual ingredients in my kitchen, and often some details about what they’re like and where to find them. More “normal” ingredients are listed here if they’re difficult to find GF or there’s pitfalls you need to avoid.  (I’ll have Amazon links up for a lot of these in a while.)

As always, check the ingredients on everything you buy, every single time you buy it, no matter how many times you’ve bought it before.  You never know when they’ll go and add barley proteins to your favorite butterscotch chips or something.  Not that that’s ever happened to me.  :-)

  • Baking powder. Aluminum-free, if you can get it; in recipes that use more baking powder than most things in the world of glutinous things, enough baking powder will leave a bad taste if it has aluminum in it.
  • Corn starch. This is a handy-dandy ingredient for GF flour mixes; if you can find it in a safe store brand, it’s also dirt cheap, which is a nice change of pace!
  • Egg replacer. You won’t use it a lot, but every now and again it’s useful for making mixes.  This is just dry powder you can combine with water to substitute for eggs.  I get Ener-G’s egg replacer, but I don’t see why any brand wouldn’t do.
  • Oats and oat flour. Wait, really?  Oat flour?  Isn’t that unsafe?  It depends.  Some celiacs can tolerate oats and oat flour; others can’t.  I, personally, only buy organic oats and organic oat flour, and have never reacted to it.  I get organic quick oats and organic oat flour from Whole Foods (which is a pain sometimes, since I live a few hours from the closest one!); I also get Arrowhead Mills Organic Oat Flour.  Arrowhead Mills won’t promise it’s GF; all I can say is that I personally have never had a problem with it, and I react violently to the slightest contamination.  I use oat flour fairly often, but I also work diligently to come up with alternative versions of my recipes that don’t use oats or oat flour where possible.
  • OrgraN’s Gluten Substitute. This stuff has its catches:  (1)  It’s hard to find; there’s a local place I can get it, otherwise it’s straight to Amazon.  (2)  It’s expensive.  One box is cheaper than one bag of xanthan gum, sure, but you have to use so much more gluten substitute per batch of dough that it costs more per individual use.  (3)  It tastes bad.  I’m told I’m a “super-taster,” and experience certainly seems to bear that out; this stuff tastes nasty if you’re not careful, but only one in every so many people notices the taste.  That said, though?  It’s a dream.   I use it for tortillas and pasta and pie crusts, anything you roll out, and it is a delight.  The dough rolls incredibly thin, the result is very light and flexible, and it’s good, tender food that’s easy to eat and has the right texture and consistency.
  • Guar gum. Like xanthan gum, guar gum’s a sort of food superglue, but it’s not as strong and leaves things more workable.  I don’t generally use it on its own, but in combination with xanthan gum, especially in recipes where I would normally use gluten substitute, but need to avoid the bitter taste.
  • Imitation butter extract. Like imitation vanilla extract, except for butter.  I use this for doughs I need to be at least a little pastry-like; you can’t really use butter outright because it’ll weigh down the dough (it’s oh so hard to get gluten-free doughs to rise if you’re not careful), but a teaspoon or two of this stuff will help with flavor and texture without adding weight.  It’s good stuff.
  • Pectin. I use this mostly in dressings and such, so I don’t keep a lot on hand.
  • Potato flour. Not the same as potato starch/potato starch flour!  Potato flour is a powerful thickening flour that has a strong flavor.  I don’t use it often, and when I do I don’t use much of it at once, but it’s great to have around.  It goes in my pasta mix.  You generally want to keep it in the freezer so it stays fresh.
  • Potato starch. A must.  Really, a must.  This goes in almost every GF flour mix I make, it’s so useful in making dough that handles temperature and moisture well and behaves properly.  It can be tricky to find though; try Whole Foods, or order it from Amazon.  Bob’s Red Mill potato starch is GF.  (Potato starch is also known as potato starch flour.  Potato flour is something different, though; see above!)
  • Powdered dry milk. A great trick for getting bread with too hard a crust to soften is to add some powdered dry milk.  You don’t have to get the expensive, finely-ground stuff, either, but if you get the cheap granular stuff you need to grind it further or you’ll get soggy bread.
  • Rice. Be careful that your rice is GF; enriched rice generally should be regarded with suspicion.  I use brown rice, jasmine rice, and basmati rice.  A little rice will stretch your meals a long way on a budget.
  • Sorghum flour. I don’t use sorghum flour a lot; I find the taste a bit too strong, and so only use a little at a time.  Mostly I find it useful as part of a substitution for oat flour.
  • Soy sauce. Important for sauces.  Be very sure you get GF soy sauce, though!  (La Choy is usually fine, but always check the ingredients every time you get it; you know the drill.)
  • Spices. I keep parsley, basil, marjoram, thyme, oregano, Italian seasoning, black pepper, white pepper, red pepper, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, paprika, garlic salt, celery salt, allspice, cloves, lemon peel, and even orange peel.
  • Sweet rice flour. I hate most rice flours–too grainy!–but sweet rice flour is a well-behaved, flavor-neutral flour that isn’t starchy or dense.  It goes in a few of my GF flour mixes.
  • Tapioca starch. I don’t use this as often as potato starch, but it’s still pretty useful.  This goes in a couple of my GF flour mixes.
  • Xanthan gum. You need this.  You need it a lot.  It’s expensive, but don’t let sticker shock get in your way; you need very little of it per recipe, and it makes the world go round.  (For example:  2 tsp of xanthan gum lets me make 9 or 10 one-person pizza crusts.)  I think of xanthan gum as superglue for food, a valuable and necessary function in a world without gluten.  You can find it at Whole Foods, or on Amazon.
  • Yeast. Yes, you can make GF breads that rise.  (I’ve even made a few doughs that actually, honestly double in size or more.)  But you can’t do it without yeast!  Instant or quick-rise are fine; baker’s yeast contains gluten, though, so steer clear.