10 Things to Do If You Don’t Have a Range Hood or Vent

The absence of a range hood is the scourge of many a rental kitchen. (Or even newly renovated homes with a sleek, minimalist design.) With nothing to catch grease splatters and vent smoke, steam, and cooking smells, renters often end up fighting sticky, filmy cabinets and a kitchen that still smells like fish two days after cooking.

So what’s a home cook 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.

While some rental kitchens may have non-venting recirculating fans installed under cabinets to trap grease and manage cooking odors, many find these solutions ineffective, if not entirely useless.

1. Use a window fan

If you share this sentiment, here are some steps you can take to alleviate the drawbacks of a kitchen lacking proper ventilation, drawing from the experiences and advice of our readers:

If your kitchen boasts a window, or is situated near one, consider installing a small window fan and setting it to “exhaust” mode whenever you cook. While it may not tackle grease, it can effectively combat cooking odors, as attested by one of our readers.

Here are some additional insights from our readers:

In our rental, the microwave is an under-cabinet model positioned above the stove. Despite featuring a surface light and fan, it fails to vent outside. To address cooking odors, particularly from frying, we open the kitchen window and place a fan at the opposite end of the kitchen. This setup effectively channels air outside, especially given our kitchen’s elongated galley layout.

I installed a sheer cotton curtain on the kitchen door frame using a tension rod and positioned a window fan at the top of the kitchen window. Whenever I cook dishes likely to produce strong odors, I draw the curtain closed and activate the fan on exhaust mode. This arrangement efficiently expels odorous air outside.

While it may not tackle grease, a small fan placed in a conveniently located window can work wonders for odors. Slim window fans are available at reasonable prices.

2. Use a portable HEPA air filter

If a window isn’t available, another solution is to introduce a portable HEPA filter to mitigate odors, especially when cooking items like seared meat or fish.

Some readers shared their experiences:

“We lack a hood, but I rely on a portable HEPA filter in the kitchen when searing steaks. Honestly, it’s the only time I really wish we had a hood.”

“In a rental with a non-functional venting hood, I purchased a small air cleaner that simply plugged into the wall, akin to a nightlight. It remained in place and effectively minimized odors. Although I went through filters quickly, the device, coupled with the fan, effectively reduced cooking smells, even when I was several feet away.”

3. Use a fan in another room, like the bathroom

Any functioning fan located near the kitchen can be beneficial. Despite my bathroom being down the hall from our kitchen, I still switch on the bathroom fan when cooking something particularly odorous or smoky. It truly helps minimize lingering smells.

4. Get a grease splatter guard

A splatter screen or guard is a tool designed to fit over a frying pan and trap grease splatters. With a typical price of around $10, it’s a highly recommended investment. By preventing grease from escaping, you can significantly decrease the amount of residue that accumulates on your cabinets. We recently tested an odor-absorbing splatter screen and were extremely impressed with its effectiveness.

5. Wipe down your kitchen cabinets frequently

This is an inevitable aspect of not having a range hood: You’ll need to clean your cabinets more frequently than usual. Incorporate it into your daily or weekly kitchen cleaning routine. We suggest wiping down cabinets and the area surrounding the stovetop with a grease-fighting dish soap like Dawn, although some readers have found success with Lysol wipes and a vinegar solution.

“I wipe down the stove, counters, surrounding walls, and cabinets with a Lysol wipe after every meal. It’s the final step of doing the dishes. I never experience any buildup or residue on anything.”

“I cook all the time—lots of sautéing, stir-frying, boiling, and simmering. Regular wipe downs with vinegar spray handle any accumulated residue on the nearby walls. It’s become part of the routine to clean off the stove top after cooking.”

“I wipe down the greasy/dirty film buildup on the cabinets with a damp cloth at least once a month, sometimes more often if I’ve cooked a lot in a given month. After a weekend marathon of all-day cooking for several days, I do the wipe-down after finishing all the cooking and final cleanup, as it’s easier to remove layers of dirt/grime when it’s fresh.”

6. If you paint your kitchen, use a satin or semi-gloss finish, or choose scrubbable paint

If you’re planning a paint job in your kitchen, ensure you choose a paint that is easy to clean. Satin or semi-gloss finishes are ideal for kitchens as they are more resistant to stains and can be easily wiped down.

“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).”

7. Consider getting a CO meter if you have a gas stove

Proper ventilation in the kitchen is crucial not only for managing odors but also for safety, particularly if you have a gas stove, which emits carbon monoxide. While cracking a window or using a window fan can help, it’s wise to also consider purchasing a carbon monoxide meter, especially if your kitchen lacks adequate ventilation. If the meter indicates higher-than-recommended CO levels, it’s essential to bring in additional fans for proper ventilation.

8. Fight bad cooking smells with good cooking smells

One effective method to counteract lingering odors from cooking is to replace them with more inviting scents. Simmering citrus wedges or various spices on the stove, or utilizing a slow cooker as one reader suggests, can significantly improve the overall aroma of your home.

“If I’ve prepared something particularly odorous (and not in a good way, like cabbage or seafood), I’ll concoct a blend of spices in the Crockpot and let it simmer for an hour or so (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, orange peels, or rosemary, vanilla, lemon peels), and the house smells delightful. I’ve considered purchasing an electric air freshener, but I haven’t made that investment yet, and this solution seems to effectively manage odors for the time being.”

9. Find alternate ways of cooking

This might pose the greatest challenge to implement—after all, who doesn’t love the sizzle of frying bacon? However, the most effective approach to managing a kitchen without a range hood is to adapt your cooking methods to minimize the need for one, or to employ clever workarounds.

Here’s how one reader, self-described as an “OCD clean freak and germaphobe,” maintains a spotless kitchen despite the absence of a vent:

“For the majority of my cooking, I prioritize prevention over redirection of steam or grease. When preparing dishes that involve boiling or heating water, I opt to preheat water in a large electric tea kettle before transferring it to the pot. I always keep pots covered with a lid and use a grease splatter guard when frying, even for quick tasks like frying eggs for breakfast. Every small step contributes!

For dishes that benefit from being cooked without a tight cover, I utilize a large glass dome cover that sits loosely on the handles, allowing a gap between the pot and the cover to prevent steam from spreading throughout the kitchen. To further reduce steam, I turn to a Crockpot whenever feasible. Additionally, I try to cook greasier or smellier foods, or those generating prolonged steam, using an electric burner on the deck—particularly in the summer to minimize heat in the kitchen. When cooking outside, I set multiple alarms on my phone to ensure I don’t forget about the pot, as being outdoors doesn’t eliminate the risk of fire or burns if the pot is neglected.”

10. Wash fan filters regularly

If you possess a recirculating fan, even if you believe it’s not particularly effective, it’s crucial to regularly clean the filters. If the filters are dirty, it indicates they are indeed capturing some particles.

Douglas Enger

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