How to Hold a Gluten-Free Barbecue or Cookout

Even Your Charcoal Can Have Gluten

A cookout or a picnic seems like the least fussy type of party you can have, but if you're planning to make yours gluten-free, you'll still need to do some advance planning. Here's what you need to know to make your gluten-free barbecue, cookout or picnic perfect (and perfectly safe) for anyone who has celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.


Make Your Fire Gluten-Free

charcoal fire
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That may sound crazy — how can fire be anything but gluten-free? Unfortunately, some types and brands of charcoal may contain wheat starch as an ingredient, which would render your flames somewhat risky.

You might get away with it since the amount of actual gluten in the charcoal is likely low, which means the amount of gluten contained in the charcoal ash will be lower still. Nonetheless, I wouldn't get too close to the toxic coals with a marshmallow. Instead of taking the risk, just get charcoal without wheat as an ingredient. There are several safe brands available.


Gluten-Free Hot Dogs

Hot dots on a grill

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Most hot dogs are pretty safe, gluten-wise—in fact, at least one major brand recently removed the gluten ingredient in its popular frankfurters. You shouldn't have any trouble picking up some franks at most stores that will suit your gluten-free diet.

That being said, however, certain brands of hot dogs meet stricter standards than the minimum accepted standard of less than 20 parts per million of gluten in the finished product. If you're more sensitive than average, or you just prefer to minimize your exposure to trace gluten, you may want to consider hot dogs that have been certified gluten-free.


Gluten-Free Hamburgers

Burgers on a grill

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You probably won't have to worry too much about gluten in hamburgers, either...but as with everything involving that poisonous substance, there are a couple of exceptions.

Some pre-made hamburger patties can include bread crumbs or another grain-based product as filler. When you buy pre-formed patties at the grocery store, you should check on this; fortunately, the U.S. Department of Agriculture requires that any grain in hamburger patties be disclosed on the label. You'll also need to watch out for gluten in patties pre-made by friends or relatives.

Gluten-free baked beans make the perfect side.


Gluten-Free Buns

Bacon burger on cutting board

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Once you've got your hamburgers and hot dogs, you need buns to put them in. There are more than half-a-dozen companies making gluten-free hamburger and hot dog buns these days—lots more than there were even a couple of years ago.

Nonetheless, getting your buns in time for your gluten-free barbecue might require planning ahead—not all stores (even well-stocked grocery stores) are likely to carry gluten-free hamburger and hot dog buns, and you may need to order some and have them shipped in. Once you find a brand you like, get enough to last you all summer and freeze them.


Snacks and Munchies

bowls of chips and snacks

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You can't have a picnic without munchies in the form of potato chips, corn chips and even multigrain just can't. Fortunately, the past few years (not to mention the explosion in popularity of the gluten-free diet) have brought the gluten-free community copious snack options, many of which are available at your local grocery store. These lists explain what's available, and which options might contain less trace gluten than others:


Gluten-Free Beer

Beer in a bucket with people grilling in background

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There's a long — and growing — list of gluten-free beers on the market these days. It's possible to find Budweiser's Redbridge beer in many different grocery stores, but if you want to try some others, you've got plenty to choose from. 


Toasted Marshmallows

Marshmallows toasting on sticks

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Toasted marshmallows are the perfect ending for a perfect barbecue, and they're fortunately easy to enjoy gluten-free. We use Kraft brand marshmallows, which are available nationwide in most stores (Kraft probably makes the most popular marshmallow on the market). However, there are other safe brands available.

It's even possible to create gluten-free s'mores just like you used to make back in summer sleepaway camp.

Enjoy your gluten-free barbeque!

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2 Sources
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  1. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Gluten-Free Labeling of Foods. Updated August 12, 2020.

  2. United States Department of Agriculture. Nutrition Labeling Information. Updated October 6, 2017.