How to Make Your Kitchen Smell Amazing Before Dinner Guests Arrive

How to Make Your Kitchen Smell Amazing Before Dinner Guests Arrive photo

There’s no scent as inviting as that of baking cookies or roasting turkey—there’s a reason realtors don’t light candles named “broiled mackerel” or “caramelized onions”. So when you’ve just finished prepping dinner (that mackerel) and your guests are due any minute, it’s time for a fresher scent. Our Test Kitchen knows all about it. Here are their favorite ways to create a welcoming aroma in the kitchen with natural methods, no sprays or artificial air fresheners necessary.

Food director Carla Lalli Music goes for an herby approach: “I love passing a few sprigs of rosemary or thyme over a gas flame before guests arrive to clear out any cooking smells and freshen the place up.” To avoid catching fire, she recommends passing the herbs over a medium heat just until wisps of smoke start appearing, then throwing them in the sink and dousing with water.

In fall, Music recommends putting pinecones in an oven set to low heat (around 250 degrees) for “that natural Pine-Sol vibe.”

A nice smell now, dried herbs later.

Senior food editor Rick Martinez‘s strategy in winter sounds way better than a Holiday-themed Air Wick Aromasphere: He boils cinnamon and whole cloves for a rich perfume that smells like the holidays and is good for humidifying the air if you have dry heat in your house.

In the summer, however, he opts for throwing whatever herbs he’s using on a skillet heated on high for 30 seconds. The house smells lovely, and then he has dried mint or rosemary. Or thyme. Or whatever else is on hand.

A little bit of this baby and some heat, and the very air smells cleaner.

Boiling distilled white vinegar and water is food stylist Sue Li‘s go-to to remove stubborn smells. Plus: “I think it’s French, so that’s why I started doing it. Elegance.”

Like Music, Test Kitchen manager Brad Leone is a fan of burning herbs to freshen the kitchen, or even pieces of cedar wood. Leone usually burns chunks of the wood over a gas flame since he has it on-hand (because he does woodwork), then lets it “burn out like a cig.” For those without cedar chunks hanging around, lighting cedar incense works too, and is probably safer. He also suggests setting a box fan in backwards in your window so it sucks the stale air out of the kitchen.

As always, make sure you know a little about fire safety before using ANY appliance with heat.

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