11 Clever Ways to Make Your Kitchen Smell Amazing

And how to keep all those not-so-nice odors at bay.

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July 11, 2022
By: Caylin Harris

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There’s nothing better than delicious scents drifting out of your kitchen. The sizzle of savory garlic or the mixture of vanilla and cinnamon wafting from a warm pie out of the oven. But sometimes you’ve got to deal with less-than-ideal aromas. Don’t let a stinky trash can or mysterious fridge odors harsh your cooking zen ever again. Here are a few ways to keep your kitchen smelling as good as your cooking.

Skip the scented candles.

It might seem counterintuitive, but keep scented candles out of the kitchen. "No matter how much you want your kitchen to smell good, skip lighting scented candles while you’re cooking," says Jenna Helwig, author of Bare Minimum Dinners. "Being able to smell what we’re cooking is both a pleasure (hello sizzling garlic!) and key for making delicious food (hm, the garlic smells like it’s about to burn; better turn off the heat!)."

If you do want to introduce scents, make them herbaceous.

Event creative and producer Lea Stafford of Lea Stafford Events, likes to turn on an electric diffuser to clear out unwanted odors. "I am a fan of the Saje products; my go to natural oil blends are rosemary and sage," she says. "By using these herbaceous scents, you introduce a non-combative aroma that slices through other odors and still has a rightful place in the kitchen."

Buy It: Saje, $98.00

Refresh a smelly garbage disposal.

If your disposal is smelling a little funky, chances are you’ve got food particles dried and stuck inside. A quick way to freshen the disposal is to add some ice and lemon rinds and run the blades. It helps to remove the stuck on gunk from inside. The flaps covering the disposal can also get gross fast. While the disposal is off, take a small scrub brush or toothbrush with some cleaner to the underside of the flaps to make sure any old food is cleaned off.

Ditch the baking soda.

Sure, baking soda is the old tried-and-true standby for eliminating odors inside your fridge. But activated charcoal actually handles weird smells better — if you’re worried about the cost, these sachets use a low-grade charcoal and last for up to two years. The odor-killing properties get recharged when placed in the sun. Also, prevent smells in the first place by regularly cleaning your fridge; most unpleasant odors come from bacteria from spoiled or spilled food. You don’t want that hanging around!

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Banish burnt smells with coffee.

We’ve all had a disastrous kitchen mishap — maybe a marinade burnt onto the surface of a pan or you let something go a little too long under the broiler. The sour, smokey smell is even more awkward when you have guests. A quick way to cut through it is to brew some coffee; the smell helps to neutralize other odors. And bonus, you’ve already got the coffee ready to be served with dessert.

Cook fish thoughtfully.

When it comes to cooking fish, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. "Skip cooking fish on the stove-top and roast it instead. Just place filets on a parchment-lined baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and season," says Helwig. "Or pressure cook it in the Instant Pot. Bonus: it’s practically impossible to end up with dry fish if you use the Instant Pot! Either way, roasting or pressure cooking, you’ll avoid an overpowering fishy smell in the kitchen."

Wash the dishwasher.

Yes, the inside of the dishwasher needs to be cleaned too — aim for once every few weeks. Check that there are no lingering food particles in the bottom, clean out the mesh food trap, and scrub any gunk off the sides and the seals using warm soapy water and a medium bristle scrub brush. A dishwasher cleaner, like Affresh, cleans out any remaining debris inside.

Buy It: Amazon, $8.99

Use dinner to create a welcoming aroma.

It never hurts to have some delicious food perfuming the kitchen when guests arrive. "One of my favorite things to have cooking is a small pot of some sort of brothy soup. It provides an intoxicating, nostalgic aroma and puts a smile on nearly anyone's face," says Christopher Bender, co-owner of Stoneacre Brasserie and Stoneacre Garden. "Brothy soups are very difficult to burn, which is also a plus. Keeping them at a slow simmer does all the work; depending on how long they are simmering, more broth or water can be added if the liquid starts to reduce. Additionally, a smallish portion of soup is a great way to liven the palate on the early side of a meal."

Keep herbs on hand.

Of course, herbs are delicious in cooking, but you can also think of them as a scented bouquet for your kitchen! Try keeping a pot of hearty herbs, like rosemary, or a bunch of basil on the counter. "You can keep a bunch of basil in a vase of water on the counter for several days; just change the water periodically," says Helwig. "Herbs literally perfume the air in a natural way. And, of course, you can pluck the herbs when you need them for a dish."

Put on a simmer pot.

You can’t go wrong with a clean citrusy scent. A simple way to add the aroma to your kitchen is to DIY a simmer pot. "I add three to four cups of water to a medium pot, drop a few cinnamon sticks, two sliced lemons, and three sprigs of rosemary in. Once this boils, reduce it to a simmer for hours (adding water, if needed)," says Stafford. "Again, a perfectly placed scent to cut through any unwanted odors." If you want to switch it up, swap the lemons for oranges and cinnamon for cloves (or use both).

Make sure the trash has a good lid.

Not all trash cans are created equal: certain versions trap odor better, keeping it out of your kitchen. The simplehuman brand makes some of the best versions on the market. Their standard rectangular trash can offers smart fixes like a fingerprint resistant stainless steel and a soft-close lid. But the real key to the design is a tight-fitting lid that traps in smells.

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