How Not To Smell Like Your Kitchen When You're Cooking

With a little care and pre-planning, you can walk away from even the biggest cook scent-free.

woman pulls casserole out of the oven
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The heady scent of onions cooking down in butter , chopped garlic sizzling in olive oil, and skin-on salmon seared in a cast-iron pan: It’s all quite appetite-stoking at the time, but when, hours later, you find yourself smelling like the pan of bacon you cooked for breakfast, it’s less than appetizing.

Fortunately, there are ways to ensure you don’t end up stinking like your kitchen long after you’ve left the room. Read on for our top tips.

Utilize Your Appliance's Exhaust System

The most high-tech kitchen ranges include powerful exhaust fans meant to help suck up the smells coming off your stovetop. In reality, however, most of us are working with a basic exhaust fan that can only do so much to carry away any unwanted, lingering smells.

Still, do turn on whatever exhaust option you have, and know that you may have to resort to a few other tactics to reduce or eliminate kitchen odors on your hands, in your clothing, and in your hair.

Get Close to Citrus

Often, it’s your hands that struggle the most to rid themselves of pesky kitchen smells like raw garlic or red onion. If you prefer not to peel, mince, or chop with gloved hands, simply rub one half of a cut lemon across your fingertips or any other part of your hand that’s redolent of the allium culprits. After the citrus bath, wash your hands well with soap and water, and admire your lemon-scented palms and fingers.

Dress for the Occasion

It’s best to avoid dry-clean only attire while cooking—unless you don’t mind high dry-cleaning bills for clothing that’s not soiled, just stinky. Whenever possible, opt for washable clothing, including items that can withstand the occasional stains from sauce splashes or food spills.

No matter what you wear to cook, always wear an apron. An apron comes in handy when you need to wipe your hands or grab a kitchen tool (aprons with pockets are our favorite), and it is also great for putting a layer between your clothing and cooking aromas.

To avoid food smells clinging to your hair, put on a shower cap or chef’s hat before you start cooking. If you’re worried about messing up your hair, consider a few spritzes of dry shampoo to help keep things smelling fresh and clean.

Make Room in Your Freezer

An alternative to washing clothing that’s not actually dirty (just a little smelly) is to utilize your dryer and some nice-smelling dryer sheets, but for clothing that requires air-drying—looking at you designer denim, stretchy yoga pants, and hand-wash sweaters—you can try the freezer method.

Put (otherwise) clean jeans that smell like the chicken you just roasted in a reusable bag and leave the bag in the freezer overnight. By the next morning, your chilled clothing may be too cold to put on straight away, but at least it’ll be free from any lingering food smells.

Combat the Smell

This super simple method takes advantage of what every cook should have in the fridge: citrus fruits. Peel a lemon or orange (or chop whole fruits) and simmer in water before you start sauteing those onions. If you’re out of lemons, you can boil about a cup of water and a half cup of white vinegar and allow the steamy mixture to absorb strong kitchen smells.

If you’re feeling slightly more ambitious, try making your own potpourri . Add whatever items you have on hand—lemon peels, cinnamon sticks, cloves, fresh rosemary or oregano—to a pot of water, and allow the mixture to simmer gently as you get on with cooking dinner.

Turn to Technology

You can pick up a decent odor eliminator for as little as $30 ( Hamilton Beach TrueAir Plug-Mount Odor Eliminator ) or as much as $90 ( LEVOIT Air Purifier ). These small gadgets can help keep your kitchen—and you—odor-free.

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