How To Get Rid Of Smoke In House After Burning Food

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We’ve all stepped away from cooking eggs or a bag of popcorn only to return and find the kitchen full of stinky smoke and a nasty mess to clean up. If your smoke detector batteries get a workout when you cook, here are some things to consider.

Clearing The Air

Once you’ve determined there is no fire or chance of one igniting, clear the air. Open the windows and start getting fresh air into your space.

Turn on the kitchen exhaust fan and any local bathroom fans just to get the air moving. Once you can safely handle the burnt product, get it bagged up and out of your house.

Freshening The Air

Do not try to cover the smell of burnt food with a standard air freshener; the smell of flowers on top of fire is not pleasant. If possible, neutralize the unpleasant odor with an acid – like vinegar or lemon juice – or treat your space with vanilla extract.

When using vinegar to remove smoke odor, you have a couple of options. You can mix vinegar and water and bring it to a boil in your microwave. If the smell of boiling vinegar is nearly as bad as burnt popcorn to you, mix water and vanilla extract and boil that away.

Be aware that popcorn smoke may well be part of your microwave exhaust for a while, but it will dissipate over time.

Baking soda and water paste can clean away the stains from burnt popcorn and reduce odor.​

To clear the air outside the microwave, you can leave small dishes of vinegar around your kitchen to evaporate. Lemon juice will provide the same relief. Cotton balls soaked in vanilla essential oil can also quickly freshen a room.

Don’t forget the coffee! The smell of coffee is pleasant to many people. Placing small containers of ground coffee around your kitchen can reduce an unpleasant burnt smell.

Use A Little Science To Fight The Odor​

What caused the smoke? If you’re dealing with the smell of burnt eggs, the stink is protein-based, with a load of sulfur because of the yolks. To neutralize this, use acid.

Lemon or orange peel in enough water to cover, mixed with a little cinnamon, can make a great simmering potpourri on your stove top. For best effect and to avoid another fire, try bringing it to a boil and turning the burner off.

The eggs may have also done a number on your cooking pan. Let acid help you out. Coat the bottom of the pan in ketchup and add rock salt as an abrasive as you scrub. It may take some time, but this combination can be really effective without scarring your pan.

If you’re working out how to get rid of burnt popcorn smell, you’re fighting burnt oil, scorched starch, and the paper container.

Once you’ve got the burnt bag out of your house (don’t just put it in the trash; you’ve just relocated the odor when you needed to dispose of it), consider using other oil-based scents to freshen the air.

Coffee beans, vanilla extract and essential oils left to evaporate can help cut down the smoke smell.​

Invest In An Exhaust Fan

You don’t have to be prone to starting kitchen fires to put a good exhaust fan to use. Foods loaded with great flavor often produce unpleasant odors.

Onions, garlic and certain fishy scents can linger in your home for days, but a good exhaust fan can reduce this odor.

If you’ve burnt some oil or had a kitchen spill, working out how to get rid of smoke from cooking is essential.

Fighting The Fire​

We don’t recommend fighting fires. Call your local emergency services (such as 9-1-1) in the event of a fire.

If a small flame appears in your pot or pan, turn off all heat sources and smother the fire with a lid or baking soda. Fire cannot exist without oxygen, so cover the container and leave it covered.

Do not try to move anything until it has cooled. Never add water to smoking or burning grease!

If things are getting out of hand, you may need to use a chemical fire extinguisher, but be aware that these can cause a lot of splatter because of the force of the spray. Once the fire is out, open your house up to get fresh air moving in, and follow the advice listed above.​

Is Burnt Food Bad For You?

So, you’ve burnt your toast, but you’re in a big hurry. Is it safe to eat? General consensus says not really.

While the warnings about the chemical risks of eating charred meats have been around for a while, new evidence shows that starchy vegetables and bread form the chemical acrylamide when burnt.

This chemical is created when the amino acid asparagine is heated to a very high temperature. Burnt bread and fried foods tend to form acrylamide.

Be Vigilant

The easiest way to not have to clean up a smoky mess is not to start one. Microwave popcorn generally takes less than five minutes, but clearing up a scorched and stained microwave can take hours, and the stink can linger in your exhaust mechanism for weeks.

Monitor what you have in the microwave.

Protect your home and yourself from accidents with dedicated, focused cooking time.​

Additionally, if you’re prone to distractions when cooking, make your kitchen a book, tablet or smartphone-free zone.

One boiling pot of potatoes can make a disastrous mess on your stovetop while you’re finishing one more chapter or sending one more text.

Final Thoughts

Cooking is fun, but it can be dangerous if you’re not watchful. Keep baking soda near your stove to smother fires. Invest in a fire extinguisher in the hopes you never need it. Hang out beside the microwave until the popcorn is done. Make another slice of toast. Eat well!​

Written By Tara Williams

Tara is a food writer that has been editing and authoring articles for KitchenSanity since its founding. Her writing offers personal experience from experimentation with food and recipe creation. If you’re looking for simple tips, she will make your journey in the kitchen straightforward with a dash of fun.