Carol Fenster’s Tips for Safe Gluten-Free Grilling

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Summertime means cooking on the grill, but watch out for gluten in the rubs, marinades, and sauces used on grilled meats says gluten-free cooking expert Carol Fenster. She offers tips for choosing safe versions—plus her boldly flavorful recipe for Pork Tenderloin in Citrus-Chipotle Marinade.

Pork Tenderloin with Citrus-Chipotle Marinade

For safety and freshness, I prefer to make my own rubs, marinades, and sauces so I know what’s in them. - Fenster

Experienced grillers know the secret to flavorful grilling comes from rubs, marinades, and sauces, but store-bought and restaurant versions may contain gluten (a protein in wheat and barley that is toxic for millions of people). Instead, rubs, marinades, and sauces are very easy and economical to make at home, says Carol Fenster, who blogs at CarolFensterCooks.

“The nice thing about grilling,” says Fenster, author of 11 gluten-free cookbooks, including Gluten-Free 101: The Essential Beginner’s Guide to Easy Gluten-Free Cooking,” is that it is casual and lends itself to easy entertaining—even for gluten-free beginners. Rubs, marinades, and sauces effortlessly transform steaks, pork, chicken, or fish into flavorful entrees. And, grilling at home avoids the pitfalls of hidden gluten in restaurants and store-bought, ready-to-eat dishes.


  • Rubs are a combination of dry spices, herbs, and sugars that are rubbed on the meat before cooking. They work well on ribs, chicken, and steaks.
  • Marinades are liquid and often acidic, with added herbs and spices for flavor. Meat is immersed in the marinade for a specific period of time to tenderize it and absorb flavor. Marinades can be used for steaks, chicken, pork, and fish but marinate chicken and fish for only 30 minutes because acid can make them mushy. Discard the marinade after cooking or boil it for 3 minutes to make a light sauce for the cooked meat.
  • Sauces are often tomato or vinegar-based and dabbed or brushed on the meat during the final minutes of grilling. They may also serve as a dip or sauce to serve with the meat after it’s cooked. They can be used for all kinds of meat; sturdier cuts like beef and ribs can handle thick, heavy sauces while lighter sauces are best for chicken or fish.

When buying store-bought rubs, marinades, and sauces, read the label carefully. By law, the ingredient list must state “wheat” if it is used as an ingredient. How is wheat used? Rubs might contain wheat flour to prevent clumping. Marinades can contain soy sauce for salt and flavor but regular soy sauce contains wheat (although there are gluten-free soy sauces on the market). Sauces may contain soy sauce for salt and flavor—or wheat flour for thickening so the sauce sticks to the meat during cooking. If barley malt (a flavoring agent) is used, the ingredient list must clearly state the word “barley.”

“For safety and freshness, I prefer to make my own rubs, marinades, and sauces so I know what’s in them,” says Fenster. She favors a boldly flavorful, yet simple citrus-chipotle marinade for grilling because it is versatile, works well with beef, pork, and chicken and all of the ingredients are naturally gluten-free.

The recipe comes from her online mini e-cookbook, GfreeCuisine, a weekly subscription-based service that offers gluten-free recipes and generates a personalized grocery list based on the recipes selected that week. Fenster serves this entrée with an all-American menu of baked beans, coleslaw, and corn on the cob—all naturally gluten-free.    

Pork Tenderloin in Citrus-Chipotle Marinade
Reprinted with permission from GfreeCuisine

½ teaspoon McCormick chipotle chile powder
2 whole garlic cloves, minced
½ cup orange juice
3 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 small pork tenderloins

In a glass bowl with lid or resealable plastic bag, whisk the ingredients together until smooth. Add the pork, cover or seal tightly, and marinate pork for 2 to 4 hours, turning the meat once to make sure it is immersed in marinade.

To cook, fire up the grill, remove the pork from the marinade, and cook until done, searing it on all sides for best flavor. Either discard the marinade or boil it for 5 minutes, then serve as a sauce drizzled over the cooked pork.

Serves 4. Recipe can be doubled or tripled for larger groups.

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