The Affordable Secret to Getting Rid of Food Smells As You Cook Is Already in Your Pantry

updated Oct 28, 2020
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Pouring olive oil into a stainless steel skillet, a bowl of white vinegar and bottle of vinegar next to the stove
Credit: Sarah Crowley

Nothing quite warms the cockles of a cook’s heart like hearing thankful, anticipatory groans of, “Ohhhhh, that smells so good!” Likewise, nothing puts a damper on a chef’s efforts like fielding, from the stove, questions of, “Er, what’s that smell?” about the very thing you’re preparing. 

The latter can happen when you’re cooking some of the tastiest things, too, like roasted cauliflower or fried fish. It happened to me last night: I was roasting Brussels sprouts and butternut squash for pizza toppings and the kids called out to warn me that something horrible must be burning in the oven. Nope, just regular dinner prep, guys!

I don’t have a window directly in my kitchen (it’s right in the heart of an open floor plan), so getting fresh air circulating isn’t an option. And while I usually cook with my stove’s hood vent on, sometimes even employing those two standbys for wafting out kitchen smells isn’t quite enough. There’s another thing you can do, though: Pull out a bottle of distilled white vinegar. The acetic acid in vinegar neutralizes alkaline odors, which means it can help get rid of cooking smells cheaply and easily.

Some people make a diluted solution of vinegar and keep it in a spray bottle to mist around the room. This covers a lot of area at once for a quicker fix. You can also boil the vinegar to help rid the air of particularly noxious or pervasive odors, or to nix them faster (the steam helps spreads the vinegar around the room). 

But simply pouring vinegar into a bowl, setting it right next to the stove, and keeping it there while you cook all the stinky (but yummy!) things is a passive-yet-effective odor eliminator that gets to work before you even need it to. A tip I’ve learned from experience: Leave the bowl out overnight so it continues to kill any lingering smells. 

This article originally ran on Kitchn. See it there: You Should Keep a Bowl of Vinegar Next to Your Stove — Here’s Why