The absence of a range hood is the scourge of many a rental kitchen. With nothing to catch grease splatters and vent smoke, steam, and cooking smells out of the kitchen, renters often end up fighting sticky, filmy cabinets and an apartment that still smells like fish two days after cooking.
So what's a renter to do? Here are 10 tips that can help when your kitchen doesn't have any ventilation, including advice from readers who've been there.
Under-cabinet recirculating fans are often ineffective.
Some rental kitchens have non-venting recirculating fans installed under cabinets, which should capture grease and help with cooking smells. But many people (me included) find them ineffective and bordering on useless.
Feel the same way? Here's what you can do to help mitigate the effects of your range-less kitchen, with specific advice culled from our readers:
1. Use a window fan.
If you're fortunate enough to have a window in your kitchen (or at least nearby), install a small window fan and run it on "exhaust" every time you cook. This will pull the air out, and while it may not do much for grease, it will help eliminate cooking odors. "Works like a charm," one of our readers said.
In our rental, the microwave is an under-cabinet model, mounted over the stove. It has a surface light and a fan, but is pretty worthless and doesn't vent outside. When we cook something that may smoke or has an odor that might linger in the apartment (like frying) we open the kitchen window and put a fan at the other end of the kitchen, to send all the air right out the window. Our kitchen and dining room is a long galley, so that actually works pretty well. - key
I installed a sheer cotton curtain on my kitchen door frame with a tension rod, and put a window fan at the very top of my kitchen window. When I cook anything I know will stink up the place, I draw the curtain closed and put the fan on exhaust - works like a charm! All the air blows outside. - breakdown
It's not going to help with grease, but a small fan in that conveniently-placed window will do wonders for odors. Slim window fans can be had for fairly small money. - detremit
2. Use a portable HEPA air filter.
If you don't have a window, another option is to bring in a portable HEPA filter to capture smells, particularly for things like searing meat or cooking fish.
We don't have a hood but I use a portable HEPA filter in the kitchen when I sear steaks. Really, browning meat seems to be the only thing that really makes me want a hood. - cholderby
In a rental with non-functional venting hood, I bought a small air cleaner that simply plugged into the wall (think nightlight, not lamp) and stayed there. I did eat through filters quickly, but if my ex cooked meat and had the fan going, I could not smell it after I was six feet away. - truepeacenik
3. Use a fan in another room, like the bathroom.
Any moving fan with some proximity to the kitchen is a help to you here. My bathroom is down the hall from our kitchen, but I still turn on the bathroom fan when I'm cooking something particularly odorous or smoky. It really does help cut down on lingering smells.
4. Get a grease splatter guard.
A splatter screen or guard is a device that fits over a frying pan to capture grease splatters. They sell for around $10, which makes it a must-have at that price. You can really reduce the amount of gunk that ends up on your cabinets by never letting it get out in the first place! Emma reviewed this odor-absorbing splatter screen and was super impressed with how well it worked.
Splatter guards are your friend! $5 and they really do work. - detremit
5. Wipe down your kitchen cabinets frequently.
This is the unavoidable part of not having a range hood: You're just going to have to clean your cabinets more often than most. Make it a part of your daily or weekly kitchen cleaning routine. We recommend wiping down cabinets and the area surrounding the stovetop with a grease-fighting dishsoap like Dawn, although some readers have had success with Lysol wipes and a vinegar solution.
I wipe the stove, counters, surrounding walls and cabinets down with a Lysol wipe after every meal. It's the last step of doing the dishes. I never have a build up or residue on anything. - ianwelles
I cook all the time (a lot of sautéing and stir-frying, tons of boiling and simmering)... Frequent wipe downs with vinegar spray take care of any accumulated residue on the nearby walls. I've just made it part of the routine in cleaning off the stove top after cooking. - binkydoll
I wipe [the greasy/dirty film buildup on the cabinets] down with a damp cloth at least monthly, and sometimes more often if I've cooked a lot in a given month. If I've had a weekend marathon of all-day cooking for several days, I will do the wipe-down after I've finished with all the cooking and doing my final cleanup, because it's easier to remove the layers of dirt/grime when it's fresh. -HappyNanaMO
6. If you paint your kitchen, use a satin or semi-gloss finish, or choose scrubbable paint.
If you plan to paint your kitchen, make sure to get a scrubbable paint, or use a satin or semi-gloss finish, which is the best paint finish for kitchens. This will make cleaning the walls much easier.
We don't have a hood but try to keep the kitchen as uncluttered as possible for easy cleaning. When we repainted a while ago we chose a very glossy paint so it would be easy to wipe clean (also for the ceiling). - Emma Margareta1
7. Wash fan filters regularly.
If you do have a recirculating fan, even if you think it's not doing much, make sure to clean the filters regularly. If they're dirty, that means they must be doing something.
Follow our tutorial → How To Clean a Greasy Range Hood Filter
8. Consider getting a CO meter if you have a gas stove.
Proper kitchen ventilation isn't just important for smells; it's also a safety concern if you're cooking on a gas stove, which releases carbon monoxide. Cracking a window or using a window fan can help, but you may also want to consider buying a carbon monoxide meter, especially if you don't have a window. If the reading shows higher-than-recommended CO levels, it's time to bring in some fans.
9. Fight bad cooking smells with good cooking smells.
One way to combat lingering, unpleasant cooking smells is to replace them with good cooking smells! Simmer a few spices on the stove (or as one reader does, in her slow cooker) and your home will still smell, yes, but smell much better!
If I've cooked something that is odorous (and not in a good way, like cabbage or seafood), I'll throw a concoction of spices in the Crockpot and run it for an hour or so (cinnamon/cloves/nutmeg/orange peels or rosemary/vanilla/lemon peels), and the house smells wonderful. One of these days I plan to buy an electric air freshener, but I haven't sprung for that yet, and this solution seems to work fine for odors, for now. - HappyNanaMO
10. Find alternate ways of cooking.
This one may be the hardest to implement — if you want to fry bacon, then you want to fry bacon! — but the best way to deal with a range-less kitchen is to cook in ways that don't require it, or at least to employ some smart workarounds.
Here's how one reader, a self-described "OCD clean freak and germaphobe" who manages to keep her kitchen spotless despite not having a vent, does it:
For most of my cooking, rather than worry about redirecting steam or grease, I try to prevent it as much as possible. For dishes that require boiling/heated water, I first heat the water in a large electric tea kettle and then pour it into the pot. I always keep a lid on the pots, and I use a grease splatter lid for frying, even if it's just a quick frying of eggs for breakfast. Every little bit helps!
For dishes that do better without a tight cover, I use a large glass dome cover that is larger than the pot and thus typically rests on the handles, leaving a bit of room between the pot and the cover and not producing a tight seal. That way, the pot "thinks" it's uncovered, but the steam doesn't go all over the kitchen.
I use a Crockpot whenever practical to help reduce the steam, and I also try to cook the greasier/smellier or long-term steamier foods using an electric burner on the deck (especially in the summer, which helps reduce heat in the kitchen). Whenever I do that, I always set multiple timers/alarms on my phone to remind me to check on the pot, because being outside does not reduce fire/burn hazards if the pot is forgotten! - HappyNanaMO
"It CAN be done," she notes — inspiration for us all!
Do you cook without the pleasure of a range hood? How do you deal with grease splatters and smells? What are your tips and tricks?
(Image credits: Pablo Enriquez; Esteban Cortez; Leela Cyd; Emily Han)