How Can I Prevent Fumes When Cooking Chiles?

updated May 1, 2019
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Q: I’m suffocated by chiles! What I mean is that I love to cook spicy food, and add chiles to everything (mostly stir-fries, but also omelettes, pasta sauce, and really anything). The problem is, my apartment does not have a range hood.

Short of moving, I can’t see a solution to the fact that every time I add chiles to a dish, even at the very end, they produce terrible noxious fumes. It’s not smoke exactly, but the second the chiles hit the pan, they produce an invisible “chile air.” I’m writing this as I cough and sneeze with a stir-fry cooling on the stove!

Does anyone have a solution for how to prepare chiles so that they don’t smoke? Pickle them? Bake them and add them to a cooked dish? Make a chile sauce to add to a cooked dish? In which case, any recipes to recommend?

In case it’s relevant, I live in Germany so my chile selection is limited. I can’t get chiles in my regular supermarket, but I can find Thai birds-eye chiles and occasionally habaneros at the Asian supermarket. The birds-eye chiles are my go-to, but maybe there’s a less smoky chile that I could order online?

Sent by Samantha

Editor: This shouldn’t be the case with the pasta sauces and omelets you mention, but the high temperature and hot oil used to cook stir-fries will cause chile fumes. You really won’t be able to combat that effect except with an open window, fan, or kitchen hood. If the capsaicin clouds are too much, consider getting your chile kick from fresh or pickled peppers. Other options include adding them off the heat or using them when you’re roasting, stewing, or braising — a covered pot or pan helps, but won’t stop the chile fumes from seeping out all together.

Kitchn readers, how do you handle the fumes from cooking chiles?