Getting Rid of Cooked Fish Smells
The Gift That Keeps on Giving
Cooking fish can be a city cook's dilemma. Many of us love fish, it's really healthy, and it's versatile to cook. Still, with most city kitchens being without fresh air (few of us have windowed kitchens and those ceiling vents are mostly useless), cooking fish can leave some unpleasant memories.
I live with this problem myself but refuse to give up cooking fish. So after experimenting, research, trial and error, and the problem-solving community of the web, here's what I've learned:
- The real culprit is fried or sautéed fish. So when possible, instead poach your fish (in seasoned water or fish or even chicken stock) or else oven-roast or bake it.
- If you can't resist sautéing your fish, remember that the lingering smell is from the oils spattering on your walls and other surfaces. Your kitchen may look clean, but just a few tiny drops of fishy oil can make your kitchen smell like a fried clam shack in Essex, Massachusetts. So after your fish dinner, clean everything remotely near the stove. Really clean it, as with warm soapy water followed by Windex.
- Make sure any fish garbage is separately bagged and taken to the trash or down the compactor chute as soon as possible. Just get it out of your apartment.
- If you have a garbage disposal, send half a lemon down the disposal after you've scraped and washed the fishy dishes.
- Got fishy smells on your hands? Wipe them with a cut lemon (open and close your hand so that the lemon juice gets into its tiny creases) and follow with soapy warm water.
- Some people like scented candles but I think that all they do is create a olfactory combo of hibiscus (or whatever) and fried tilapia. Not nice.
- Finally, if all the quick cleaning and trash management don't work, boil a saucepan of water to which you add some white vinegar and a few cloves, or instead a teaspoon of cinnamon and lemon peels. There's something about the acid in the vinegar or lemon peels that seems to counter whatever oiliness is in the air. Whatever the reason, it seems to work, although expect a little lingering vinegar smell in place of the fish.
A final comment: despite the sometimes stink of cooked fish, fresh fish has no smell. I suppose if we only ate sashimi or ceviche or tuna tartare, we'd never have this city housekeeping challenge. But who wants to never again pan sear a perfect piece of wild salmon? Not me.