Myth: Heat Kills Gluten

Myth: Heat Kills Gluten

Ever been to a chip shop and been told that the heat kills the gluten? Yes us to, it's stupid, and as far as fryers are concerned, not true, it certainly isn't safe for Coeliacs.
All too often restaurants, chip shops and chefs say "oh don't worry it has been deep fried so the gluten will have been killed". Frankly, this is nothing but bull poop, a great big sloppy pile of it.

To understand exactly what happens to gluten in a fryer, first we should recap on exactly what gluten is. Gluten is a general term for the proteins found in certain cereals; these two proteins are gliadin and glutenin. These proteins act as a glue (which is what gluten means) to hold food together, it makes bread soft and cakes spongey, however even before it hits the food we eat it nourishes the plants the cereals grow on so it is very important from the onset.

From this we know gluten cannot be killed, it isn't technically a living thing so we can't take a knife or a flame thrower to it and murder it, the gluten will still be very much "alive", so if you get one of the foolish chef's that use the term "oh the fryer kills the gluten" be sure to point out firstly that gluten isn't living.

Now the great theory that heat can destroy gluten molecules....this is FALSE.

Say you have gone into your local chip shop and they offered to make you gluten free battered cod but used the same fryer or went in a restaurant and your gluten free chips were cooked with the regular onion rings, when you get told this and query how much they actually understand about Gluten Free or Coeliac what you don't want to hear is the great The Fryer Destroys it theory.

So when your partners gluten filled cod has been put in the fryer to cook what happens? Well it cooks obviously. As it's doing that gluten is doing it's job, it is holding together the batter letting it end up nice and crispy, if that gluten was being destroyed the batter what would pretty much falling everywhere and not staying on the fish, think of making a collage and not sticking the paper down, it stays in one place until its forced to change (e.g cook in a fryer),but as soon as it's moved it all falls to pieces. Similar theory, no gluten, no glue. Put a pizza in the oven you won't get your nice crust (not in one piece at least). Bake bread without gluten...I'm sure most of us know how difficult it is to produce gluten free bread, with gluten it rises (and evidently isn't destroyed while baking),without gluten it's a pain in the bum trying to get it to rise effectively.

A pizza is cooked at 260°C in an oven, chip shop fryers are usually heated to 175°C, if gluten isn't destroyed in a nice fluffy pizza crust at a hotter temperature than a chip fryer, then gluten is most certainly not destroyed in a fryer.

Once your gluten filled fish is cooked it is removed, whatever you fry it will lose bits, be it batter, chips, onion rings, bits will end up floating round the fryer, with those you will get microscopic molecules of gluten. Put your gluten free battered fish in there now and lovely gluten bits are likely to stick to it as it fries since the heat won't destroy you have a cross contamination problem, it only takes one molecule of gluten to effect a Coeliac, you are now potentially at risk of becoming ill.

Now I can hear you asking "but barley and alcohol can be made gluten free"...yes this is true, but that is due to the process they are put through not the heat par se, during distillation alcohol is separated from everything as a vapour, so unless gluten molecules can travel in a vapour then there is no way gluten can be in the alcohol. The same goes for vinegar.

So remember heat does not "kill" gluten, anything fried in a fryer used for gluten items are at high risk of contamination, make sure you go a chip shop that does gluten free nights when the oil is changed in the fryer or have dedicated fryers and make sure to query restaurants about their fryers when having chips or anything fried. The only thing that can prevent contamination is good cleaning!

Your Comments

It amazes me that any food purveyor would state that as a reason they can serve gluten free food. Surely any chef worth their salt should know what is in bread, any bread and how it works? If I got that response from an establishment I wouldn't know whether to laugh or cry as they clearly don't have the staff! As a lifelong celiac I now have a semi encylopeadic knowledge of food, but I would expect chefs to have been taught that at catering college! It beggars belief!

Anna - 1st March 2016

This article is entirely False. The premise that a 260C oven heats the products in it up to 260 C is just plain wrong. The high heat produces a texture in the crust and cooks quickly but if the product got that hot it would be burned through and through. The water in the product regulates the temperature. It prevents it from exceeding 212F until it is all baked out and you wouldn't like that pizza very well. See; Rob J. Hamer, Finlay MacRitchie, Peter L. Weegels, , 2009. CHAPTER 6: Structure and Functional Properties of Gluten. (153 - 178) and see
R. BALE, H. G. MULLER, International Journal of Food Science & Technology, 1970. Application of the statistical theory of rubber elasticity to the effect of heat on wheat gluten. 5 (3),(295 - 300)

Raul - 3rd May 2019
Alison @ Coeliac Sanctuary replied to this comment on 4th May 2019

I didn't say the food would be edible or that it would heat to the same temp as the oven/fryer. I said even gluten in an oven of that temperature isn't destroyed, yes it would be charred to a crisp but the gluten is still there even if it's changed in consistency.

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