Strong cooking smells are not limited to curry, baked fish, and well-done steak. Whatever the dish, a lingering smell of cooking isn’t always ideal, especially if you plan to have guests over.
Getting rid of strong cooking smells means combining some obvious solutions such as using a box of baking powder to absorb odors all the way to some not-very-obvious moves like washing your kitchen curtains or blinds where applicable and scrubbing the kitchen door frame.
One of the simplest tricks to manage cooking odor is simply to clean the kitchen immediately after cooking, but not all scents are as easily managed.
Google that phrase in the headline above and you’ll find more than a few accounts of people who hated the lingering smell of one dish or another so much that they “banned” that food from the home. But is it really necessary to go to such extremes even if you are worried about powerful food odors from a lamb biryani or a plate of liver and onions?
No. The first step is to learn how odors work, where they gather, and how to mitigate them specifically. What does all THAT mean? It’s simple. There are a few standard places where food smells can linger. They are:
- Stovetop or oven
- Kitchen splash guards
- Garbage disposal
- Oven vents
- Doors, door frames, and windows
- Fabrics such as kitchen curtains, towels, etc.
Some foods have strong, lingering smells because they release fat soluble oils that seep into kitchen surfaces. This is true of curry and other foods–knowing you are dealing with an oil in such cases helps you better visualize how to counteract it.
The first step toward learning to freshen up your home is cleaning the surfaces. Cooking smells have two components–the actual food particles themselves in their unprocessed (by you) state and the odors released from them when processed by heating, blending, chopping, etc.
Tiny bits of food or food residue on your kitchen surfaces is typically one of the major culprits of lingering food odors.
Kitchen cleanup to neutralize food odors should include a suitable all-surfaces vinegar-based spray. You can make one yourself using equal parts vinegar and water but do not add any other chemical to this mixture for safety purposes. Avoid using undiluted caustics in your garbage disposal as there may be plastic or rubberized flaps that could be compromised by too much undiluted vinegar.
Once the surfaces are cleaned, you can move on to some other ideas if there are still lingering odors.
If you know you’ll be making a particularly strong-smelling dish, it’s best to anticipate having to wash all the fabrics in your kitchen afterward; any curtains, shades or blinds, the dish towels, and especially area rugs will likely have some of those lingering odors. And it’s a good idea to scour your dining room rug, too.
It might be tempting to put out boxes of baking soda to absorb some of the smells, but you may find better results by using those boxes AFTER you are done cooking to absorb the lingering smells rather than the ones generated during the cooking process itself.
Some people purchase containers of activated charcoal to further absorb odors. You can experiment with one or both together. Just don’t combine the two into a single container.
It’s a great idea to leave these out overnight after your cooking is done. It’s also smart to leave a bowl of white vinegar on the stovetop overnight–many people swear by this, but remember that you’ll want to use white vinegar right out of the bottle and do not add any water for best results.
Getting Rid Of Curry Odors
Curry odors and fish odors are two of the most notorious, at least in terms of how to deal with them before you get complaints from roommates or next-door neighbors in your apartment complex.
One of the most basic approaches to dealing with curry odors is to make a sort of DIY potpourri, also known as a simmer pot, using a whole sliced lemon, cinnamon sticks, and about a quart of water.
The idea is to bring this to a simmer for several hours, so you won’t be able to set it and forget it. It’s best to use this approach at the start of your kitchen cleaning process so you won’t forget to check up on the pot from time to time. You’ll definitely need to re-add water to the pot as the process continues.
A similar trick you can try after the above is to make a big pot of coffee, which should overpower one strong smell with another one. Not everyone loves the taste or smell of a good curry, but the smell of coffee isn’t one likely to bring complaints from your roomie.
Here’s a trick you can try that involves a bit of forethought–some Asian recipes calling for fish have a step designed to remove the fishy smell from the dish before it’s even cooked. You take a bowl of uncooked rice, add plenty of water, and pour the water into another container.
Typically this is done to rinse the rice but the rice water is a sort of natural cleaner you can use to prep fish with before cooking to remove the fishy odor.
You’ll want to rinse the rice twice–once to remove any dirt or pesticides, and twice to harvest the rice water. Try half a cup of rice in two or three cups of water. Use a large enough bowl to accommodate your fish, place the filets in the water and rinse completely. This should cut down the fishy smells from the cooking process considerably.
Killing the lingering odor of microwaved fish is a bit trickier as you’ll want to wipe down the internal (the cooking area, not the electronic components hidden away behind the housing) and external surfaces of the microwave using rice water or a vinegar water solution.
Natural and simple cleaning solutions are always best if you aren’t familiar with cleaning compounds like ammonia, bleach, and others. Never mix ingredients like bleach and ammonia, if you don’t use a DIY home cleaning solution like vinegar and water, always follow the directions on the packaging.
Don’t mix your cleaners, and be sure to have windows and doors open to properly ventilate your kitchen. This is good advice even if you are using organic or do-it-yourself cleaning options.
When trying a new DIY cleaning solution it’s always best to use the old painter’s trick and apply the cleaner to a very small area at first to make sure it’s the proper strength and won’t damage your surfaces.
Never use industrial cleaners you haven’t read the directions for, don’t use any cleaner inappropriately (don’t use something made for wooden surfaces on metal, and vice versa where applicable) and it is smart to decide ahead of time how you want to deal with the issue of lingering odor.
And finally, remember that a simple fan and an open window might be your best friend at the start of the process–the more well-ventilated your cooking space is, the easier it may be to manage the odor of cooking from those more complex dishes.
Try out these recipes using now that you know: