Recommend a butane stove for regular indoor use
June 5, 2013 12:57 PM   Subscribe

I live in a shared house with 6 people and a rotating crew of guests. I'm celiac and I get really sick even with minute exposure to gluten. Since I was diagnosed, my roommates and I have cordoned off an area of the kitchen for my use. I also have my own set of pans, which I keep in a lidded plastic bin. But I'm still not feeling 100% better. Because we have so many guests who might not see my "gluten-free" signage, and because my roommates sometimes bake with wheat flour (which can stay in the air 24 hours or so after baking), I feel like the best solution is to set up an affordable personal kitchen in my bedroom.

Any equipment recommendations? The main item will be a tabletop range with at least 2 burners. Thoughts on electric burners or butane ones? I'd really prefer to get gas -- but how much butane would I run through if I was cooking regularly, what brand/model is the best to buy on a moderate budget, where do I buy it from, and how do I make sure it's safe? Some of the camping stoves have their own stand, which would be nice, but I'm not sure how practical or safe they are for indoor use. I'm also looking for ideas for a slow cooker, since I think that might be helpful, and also an island or other countertop/organizational system. And feel free to recommend any other gadgets that might make my gluten-free cooking life more quick and easy. Thanks.
posted by kekenned to Grab Bag (25 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Can the physician who diagnosed you not refer you to somebody who can help you navigate making these sorts of changes in your life? If you are worried about flour particles 24h after baking, your problem is not just your house; that means where you can go in the world is very restricted. One would hope that your specialist would be able to help you with appropriate identification and management of risks?
posted by kmennie at 1:02 PM on June 5, 2013 [5 favorites]

have you thought about an induction cooktop? that would likely be the safest for bedroom use, although it might cost a bit more. also, bread machine and slow cooker have served me well in my gf kitchen, both from zojirushi.
posted by iamscott at 1:04 PM on June 5, 2013 [5 favorites]

It was a bit of an adjustment to learn to cook on a non-gas stove, but so long as your wiring can handle the load, I'd think it'd be more reliable than having to remember to get gas. Also, remember proper vending, no matter what method you use, and keep a clutter free cooking environment (if you can spare the room, a rolling kitchen table thing that you can also use to store your pans and a small crockpot et cetera.
posted by tilde at 1:06 PM on June 5, 2013

Some of the camping stoves have their own stand, which would be nice, but I'm not sure how practical or safe they are for indoor use.

You will absolutely die from carbon monoxide poisoning, or at least take the risk of doing so. It happens not-infrequently to people who try to cook inside tents.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:09 PM on June 5, 2013 [15 favorites]

Depending on where you live, there may be laws about whether or not you can have a gas can inside your house. In the long run it would be easier to use electric, I think.

Another possibility is to have your own small fridge in your bedroom and, using online gluten-free forum resources, try to find someone in your area who maintains a gluten-free cooking environment and work out a kitchen-share deal with them. That way you only have to store and reheat food in your own home.
posted by elizardbits at 1:11 PM on June 5, 2013

You can do a lot with a rice cooker. Just ask Roger Ebert.
posted by ottereroticist at 1:14 PM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

You will absolutely die from carbon monoxide poisoning...

Cooking with propane indoors is fine as long as you have adequate ventilation. Here's more info on butane vs. propane.
posted by ottereroticist at 1:17 PM on June 5, 2013

This is why hot plates were invented. Please don't have a combustible fuel source in your bedroom.
posted by Think_Long at 1:22 PM on June 5, 2013 [4 favorites]

Rice cooker, slow cooker, electric pressure cooker (there are
Some devices that purport to do all 3), and induction cooktop. I bet you can do a LOT with that.
posted by supercres at 1:29 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

An electric skillet/griddle may be a safer option as well.
posted by holgate at 1:38 PM on June 5, 2013

Just to jump on the bandwagon: please don't try this with butane or propane or (although it hasn't come up in here.... yet...) a charcoal grill: sure, you could do it with 'adequate ventilation', but do you really want to keep your windows wide open all year round? (And your roommates might object to all the AC or heat going straight outside!)

All-electric is the way to go: either electric hot plates with your regular pots, or electric cooking devices --- the aforementioned rice cooker, slow cooker, electric skillet, electric tea kettle, etc.
posted by easily confused at 1:54 PM on June 5, 2013

Architect here. You should not have any form of gas in your bedroom. Every single year, people die from leakages or wrong use. Induction is great, and as many above have said, so is a rice-cooker. When I was at university, a lot of Asian students who couldn't eat the food in the food hall lived from what they made out of their semi-illegal rice-cookers.

However, I also agree with mkennie. Perhaps what you need here is medical advice and coaching, not design suggestions. I have suffered from severe allergies, including airborne allergies, and I've never experienced that cooking in a shared kitchen was an issue. I have experienced that the level of hygiene in a shared kitchen was a challenge, and if this is the case, I think you should address it in your home, because food-safety is for everyone. No one should live with a filthy kitchen. Even in third world cities, kitchens are clean and orderly.

Were I lived, after several fights, we chose a fixed schedule, and although it was obvious that some people were better at cleaning than others, our kitchen ended up clean and bright. And since we combined the cleaning schedule with an eating schedule, we had great common meals, respectful of everyone's religions and allergies, in the deal. I learnt a lot, even as I was one of the initiators.
posted by mumimor at 2:03 PM on June 5, 2013

Response by poster: It looks like I could put together a pretty functional kitchen with some subset of an electric rice cooker, slow cooker, skillet, tea kettle, breadmaker, etc., and visit a gluten-free friend's house for more extensive cooking projects. I hadn't heard of an induction cooktop before, but that looks useful, too -- though I'm not sure my cheap stainless steel pans are magnetic enough.

Thanks for all your quick and helpful advice. This looks like a workable plan to me -- though I'd be happy to hear any more clever ideas people might have.
posted by kekenned at 2:03 PM on June 5, 2013

If you do go the electric route, make sure the outlets in your room are rated for heating. Yes, according to code, they should be, but we wouldn't need to have an electrical code if everybody did everything the way they should.
posted by scruss at 2:08 PM on June 5, 2013

Maybe it is the easiest to buy a full unit. Ikea has several models, and so do many other manufacturers. I think you'll find when you add all the expenses up, a full unit is cheaper, and better
posted by mumimor at 2:16 PM on June 5, 2013

Also with the electric route, you should make sure anything that produces steam (ie a rice cooker, electric kettle, etc) is far enough away from your walls to prevent moisture damage. You also need to keep it simple enough to hide it from your landlord who I guarantee would not be happy about this arrangement.
posted by Think_Long at 2:22 PM on June 5, 2013

Slow cookers are great, and very inexpensive. You don't need a fancy one. Just 5-7 quart, with some kind of timer. My go-to slow cooker recipe website is run by someone who is GF.
posted by radioamy at 2:52 PM on June 5, 2013

I have celiac too. It sounds like other people here have answered your question about cooking in your room, but I also wonder how long it's been since you've been diagnosed? It can take a long time to feel 100% better and there are so many places to get gluten from it can be crazy-making. Feel free to MeMail me if you want to brainstorm/have questions. Or just need some sympathy.

Shoot, you already have my sympathy. Cooking celiac-level gluten-free in a house with six roommates? UGH.
posted by purple_bird at 3:29 PM on June 5, 2013

I've had celiac disease for ~20 years, and for most of the first decade I was kind of in denial about the whole thing, and as a result I think, I ended up developing sensitivities to a whole raft of foods, including nearly all plant-based cooking oils.

So don't be surprised if completely eliminating gluten doesn't resolve all your issues.

And with that possibility in mind, I advise pursuing this project piecemeal, beginning by buying a used not-nonstick electric wok from a thrift store (about $7 around here and readily available)-- and a window exhaust fan, because you won't believe how fast your bedroom gets moldy if you cook in there without an exhaust fan.
posted by jamjam at 4:08 PM on June 5, 2013

Before you go to the expense of buying all of those things for your room, try out a more limited menu for a bit with one or two of the cheaper ones and see if it helps.

A slow cooker would be a good start, you can cook rice and even bread in it, although it is not as convenient as a rice cooker or breadmaker.

If you aren't sure you've eliminated all gluten do that first, a friend of mine found that many spices and other items contained gluten that was not listed on the label.

If you are extremely sensitive you may eventually need to have only gluten free roommates.

Also, DO NOT set up a camping stove in your bedroom, they are not designed for indoor use. If you can get a metal island or table for your electric cooktop that would be best, try thrift stores.
posted by yohko at 5:01 PM on June 5, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks! I'm thinking of just starting with a slow cooker -- it seems like an economical way of seeing what might help. Also they seem like an awesome way to cook food without much effort. Easy to get carried away when making changes like this, but I think you're right -- it makes sense to take it slow and not blow a bunch of money to start. Seems easy enough to set up a station in a corner of my room with a cutting board, slow cooker, and the food processor that I already own -- I should be able to make a whole bunch of food and not worry about people accidentally contaminating my cast-iron pans or whatever.
posted by kekenned at 6:04 PM on June 5, 2013

After the slow cooker, maybe make the next one either a hot plate (to use with your current pans) or an electric skillet --- one that has a little depth, say two or three inch high sides (rather than an electric griddle, which usually has 1/2 or so high sides).

Also, make sure you have some sort of fire-resistant surface: something that you could safely sit a hot pan on.
posted by easily confused at 2:14 AM on June 6, 2013

Another option is to pay to have someone come in and clean the shared kitchen weekly. For flour in the air, ask someone to mist water in the kitchen and/or run the oven vent fan. And, for your room, get a fire extinguisher.
posted by theora55 at 8:53 AM on June 6, 2013

Mother of a very sensitive celiac here. Have you replaced everything porous in your kitchen? Cutting boards, plastic leftover containers and the like? My son was being glutened by those after we had eliminated every other gluten source in our kitchen.

And as everyone has said - no gas in your bedroom - a good way to end up dead!

Do you have your own condiments that no one else uses? Those can get cross contaminated easily - mayo, mustard, jam, pb etc.
posted by leslies at 1:44 PM on June 6, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for your help, everybody! I have implemented a couple things that are helping a lot.

(1) I got a big slow cooker for vegetables and whole chickens, etc.
(2) I bought a small kitchen cart and moved most my separate stuff (cutting board, food processor, stainless pans, knives) in my room, where I do food prep even if I'm using a burner in the kitchen to actually cook stuff.
(3) Eating more portable food that doesn't require much preparation -- nuts, raisins, fruit, seeds, canned salmon, GF lunchmeat, raw greens, hummus. This is great for lunch, too, since it packs easily and I haven't really gotten into buying gluten-free bread and making sandwiches.
(4) Making smoothies for breakfast in my food processor.
(4) A separate GF sink in the basement. I don't have to use it all the time, but when my roommates are baking, I can wash dishes there.
(5) My doc has me taking GlutenEase prophylactically for the moment (as well as using it to figure out if some of my issues are related to other foods, or if it's just contamination). I'll be able to move out of my house in September to a little backyard cottage place nearby where I'll have my own kitchen. Until then, it's nice to know that a tiny bit of contamination isn't going to knock me out for a week.

I've been a lot less sick lately, and it's wonderful. Thanks everybody for your help, and good luck to anybody else who's dealing with this kind of thing!
posted by kekenned at 1:50 PM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

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