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Gluten-Free School Science Fair Experiments: Part 6

Can you cook the gluten out of a food?

As the school year quickly approaches, it is once again time to think about science fairs! A gluten-related science fair project is a great opportunity for a gluten-free child to learn about the world around them, and to share their complex reality with curious classmates.

A student could design endless experiments to highlight the risk and pitfalls of gluten-free eating. One common misunderstanding amongst restaurants — for example pizzerias that offer a theoretically ‘gluten-free’ pie — is that a hot oven will burn off any gluten that might be contaminating the space. We’ve developed a school science fair project suitable for students of all ages that uses GlutenTox Home to demonstrate the risks of improperly cleaned cookware and bakeware.

Be sure to read through our Tips carefully before beginning your project!

Your Hypothesis

Exposing gluten to heat does not eliminate risk for celiac and gluten-intolerant individuals. Additional precautions, for example separate bakeware and/or cooking spaces, are necessary for the preparation of gluten-free foods in a shared kitchen.

What you’ll need:

  • Burnt cookies
    You can’t burn the gluten out of food!
    Gluten-containing raw sugar cookie dough (homemade or from the grocery store)
  • Gluten-free raw sugar cookie dough (homemade or from the grocery store)
  • A GlutenTox Home kit (5-test kit)
  • Two new baking trays (disposable is fine)
  • Disposable plates, utensils, and gloves
  • An oven (and possibly a helpful adult)
  • A timer

Note! We suggest using sugar cookie dough to reduce the number of variables in the experiment. Spices, chocolate chips, sprinkles or other cookie additions may impact test results.

Before you begin your experiment, be sure to write down your own step-by-step plan. This will ensure that you don’t run out of GlutenTox tests and that you’ve carefully considered which variables to test.

Method

The following steps are a suggestion, so feel free to modify the experiment in whatever way you’d like. Be sure to take plenty of pictures each step of the way!

Step 1
Set aside one cookie’s worth of raw, gluten-containing cookie dough. Place it on a clearly labeled plate.

Step 2
Using clean utensils and gloves, place at least 3 gluten-containing cookies on a new cookie sheet. Bake according to recipe or package directions.

Step 3
Take one cookie out at the correct time. Set it to the side on a plate labeled with cooking time and temperature.

Step 4
Optional: increase the temperature in the oven by 50-100° F.
Return the other cookies to the oven for another 10-15 minutes, then remove and place on a labeled plate.

Step 5
Ensure that there are some crumbs visible on the cookie sheet. You may even wish to crumble a burnt cookie back onto the sheet.

Open the gluten-free cookie dough and bake at least one cookie on the used cookie sheet. Take care to ensure that there are crumbs on the sheet where you are placing the dough. Bake according to recipe or package directions.

Note! If you raised the oven temperature in step 4, be sure to lower it to the correct temperature.

Step 6
Using your second, unused baking sheet, bake at least one gluten-free cookie according to directions. Take precautions to avoid contaminating the cookie: clean hands or gloves, new utensils, etc.

Testing Step
Decide whether you want to test to 5ppm or 20pm. Test the raw dough you set aside in step one, and all four cookies according to GlutenTox Home directions. Be careful to keep cookies separate; avoid mixing samples by thoroughly washing hands between tests and/or using disposable gloves. Use your labeled plates to ensure that there is no confusion about which test corresponds to which cookie.

What should you see?
If your hypothesis was correct, the gluten-containing cookies will always test Positive. This goes for the raw dough, the correctly baked cookie, and the burnt cookie. Additionally, a few burned crumbs stuck to the bottom of a gluten-free cookie will contain enough gluten to create a positive test as well. The gluten-free cookie prepared with adequate precautions (including a clean tray) will test negative for gluten.

This indicates that a high oven temperature is not sufficient to eliminate the risk of gluten cross-contact.

Tips for successful testing!

  • We suggest you test for gluten at the lowest threshold of 5ppm. Most importantly, be consistent with all your tests.
  • Prepare your samples carefully and organize all your materials before you begin!
  • It’s important to analyze the test strips promptly at 10 minutes. After that, results can appear to shift: faint positives can fade or appear, and strong positives will fade a bit over time.
  • Taking a picture of the test strips at the ten minute mark is a great way to document your findings.
  • If you want to repeat the experiment, you’ll need to plan for purchasing additional tests.

We always love learning about other ideas for gluten-free science fair projects; please feel free to contact us any time to discuss your student’s plans for his or her own gluten-free experiments. We may be able to troubleshoot or provide suggestions on how to structure the experiment for maximum gluten-free learning

If your child has already completed his or her project, we’d love to see it! Email us details if you’d like your child to be considered for a spot as a featured guest blogger on our site.

So You Know: The difference between cross-contact and cross-contamination.

Oftentimes, there is inadvertent confusion between the concepts of cross-contact and cross-contamination. Although the general population may use them interchangeably, within the food service industry cross-contamination refers only to pathogen (think listeria or salmonella). Cross-contact is when an allergen is inadvertently transferred to a food that should not contain that allergen.

Cross-contamination is a common factor in the cause of foodborne illness, and proper cooking of the contaminated food in most cases will reduce or eliminate the chances of illness. For allergen cross-contact, cooking does not reduce or eliminate the risk. A person with a food allergy will have a reaction to the food whether it has been cooked or not.

GlutenTox Home

Ready to start testing for gluten at home?

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