Last updated on August 17th, 2022 at 09:04 am

How to remove burnt smell from food | 10 ways that will save your dish

Pot with burnt food on bottom
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We’ve all made the mistake of walking away from food on the stove only to return to the pot and find that you have burned the contents of the pot.

Some savvy home cooks may try to salvage what’s left. The problem is that you may have an unpleasant burnt smell still coming from the food.

Here is a table where you can quickly check how to remove burnt smell from your favorite food:

How to remove the burnt smell from
MeatPlace bread over the burnt part of the meat. The bread will absorb the taste.
BeansAdd a few drops of vinegar
MilkAdd bayleaf, cardamom, and cloves
GravyAdd potato
RiceAdd a slice of bread to the top
CurryAdd a potato
Lentils (dal)Add a bit of dairy
PotatoesRemove and add new potatoes
VegetablesAdd sugar/honey

To eliminate the burning smell from food, remove the food from the pot it was burning in. If possible, remove any parts of the food that was burnt. Adding milk, yogurt, and coconut milk may help mask the smell. Additionally, acidic ingredients like tomato work well. Or, add a potato to the pot to soak up the smell.

What happens when food is burnt?

When food is burning, a chemical known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) is produced. In large doses, these are in fact quite toxic but humans have developed a high level of sensitivity to these chemicals.

Is the burnt food smell toxic?

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), the chemical produced when food is burnt, have low levels of toxicity for humans.

However, prolonged exposure to this chemical has been scientifically identified as being harmful to humans and even causing certain types of cancer. This is especially the case in occupational exposure where cases of lung,skin, and bladder cancer have been documented.

The fumes from burning food will most likely not cause any serious damage.

10 Ways to save a dish from a burn smell

Removing the burn smell does not require advanced techniques and you are not required to be a Michelin-chef in order to achieve this.

1 Remove the food from the heat source and pot

Start by removing the food from the heat source as quickly as possible and opening any doors and windows to allow ventilation into the home and kitchen.

Quickly remove any parts of the food that has not been burned in the cooking process. When cooking on a stove top, the bottom of the pot will most likely contain the most burn. Keep in mind that most of the burned smell in the food comes from the pot it was cooked in. This is a quick and simple fix.

Try to scoop out the ingredients at the top and put them in a clean pot. Then start the process again. This should help to eliminate a lot of the burnt smell. It may, however, not remove all of it.

Never stir the pot.

2. Onions

Onions are great at removing the burnt smell from food.

After removing the food from the heat source, transfer it to another pot of oven-safe dish. Place an onion into the stew and watch as the onion absorbs all of that nasty burning smell from your food.

Peel and cut it into four pieces, putting the pieces in four different positions, making sure that the pieces are evenly spread apart. This method is ideal for stews. You can also use this method on rice. Cover the top and set aside for 10 – 15 minutes.

Remove the onion pieces and discard the pieces. They will look cooked, indicating that the onions have now absorbed all of the smell.

3. Remove the burn parts

If food in the oven develops burn marks on the surface, you may still be able to salvage the food. Of course, this will depend on how badly it was burned.

Take chicken, for example. Roasting the chicken in the oven helps the chicken achieve the Maillard ReactionIf the top layer of the skin is badly burned, simply remove the skin, place foil over the chicken and continue cooking. Sure, it won’t be the same, but at least the entire dish won’t be lost.

If you burn toast, simply use a knife and scrape off the worst part of the toast that has been burned. You may still have a slightly burned taste, but it won’t be as unpalatable as eating black toast.

4. Use a potato

Potatoes are crafty little things.

Provided that the food doesn’t already contain potatoes, you can use this crafty vegetable to soak up the bad odor from the burned food after moving the food to a new pot.

Cut a potato into four quarters if it is very large. Or, simply keep the potatoes whole. Then, place potato pieces or whole potatoes into the food pot and watch as it absorbs all of the burning smell from the food. You will need to simmer the food to allow the potatoes to do their job.

When you are done, remove the potatoes and discard them. You do not have to eat the potatoes.

5. Play around with ingredients

Depending on the contents of the dish, you should be able to add certain ingredients that may help to reduce the odor. But this solution may not work on all dishes. Some ingredients are countered by another ingredient. For example, sugar neutralizes an overly salty or spicy dish. Similarly, sugar may be added to salvage a dish from a burning smell.

Some dishes may call for dairy, some may call for acidic ingredients, and others may call for sugar. It will depend on the type of dish you are cooking.

6. Add cream or milk to the dish

In some dishes, you may be able to add milk, yogurt, or even coconut milk to eliminate most of the burning odor from food. This works especially well in dishes that are creamy, such as pasta dishes, sauces, or some desserts.

7. Add acidic ingredients

Some acidic ingredients are great at masking a smell and may help to salvage your dish.

Additionally, vinegar or tomatoes may do the trick as well. But this will depend on the dish. If you would like to remove a burning smell from beans, vinegar may be your best option. The vinegar will not only absorb the smell but also mask it. In addition, adding a few drops of vinegar may save your lentils as well.

8. Add cinnamon

In the case of spicy foods like curries, or any other type of spicy food, adding a little bit of cinnamon may help to reduce the aroma of burned food.

9. Add a sauce

If you are grilling meat on the BBQ and you accidently burn the meat, you could opt to scrape off the worst of the burn marks and mask the smell by covering the meat in a sauce. BBQ sauce is a great option for this. It goes very well with all types of meat.

10. Add wine

White or red wine are great components that may be able to save many meat dishes. Many meat dishes and stews can be saved by adding some wine to the dish to mask the smokey smell.



I am a kind of person that would sneak a taste out of grandma’s pot when I was barely tall enough to reach it. I grew up in kitchens full of love and liveliness and have spent my whole live learning, experimenting and succeeding in the art of cooking. At Pro Family Chef, every day is an opportunity for a new meal and a brand new flavor. I created this website to connect people that love to cook, with the products designed to make their cooking easier, hassle-free and rewarding every time.

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