Can you tell the difference between meats just by smell?

This is a question about food, but it’s not really a cuisine question, and I’m seeking information that’s mostly going to be opinions that are no doubt going to run into speculation, so I put it here, and not the Cafe, but the mods can move it.

In the thread about traditional Christmas dinner, someone commented that their BIL can’t stand the smell of lamb cooking, because it reminds him of deployment.

It occurred to me for the first time that most people can identify different meats by their smell when they are cooking.

I can’t. All meat smells pretty much the same to me, including poultry, and it smells really similar to human farts. I’m not trying to be funny. That’s what it smells like to me. Meats taste different to me, but not that different, and they’re all fairly disgusting. I can’t really even tell turkey from chicken by taste. I didn’t try Tofurky for the longest time, because I didn’t like turkey, and thought “Why would I want something that tastes like it?” but Tofurky tastes much, much better than turkey, to me. I love Tofurky.

I’ve been a vegetarian almost since I got out of my mother’s house, because I don’t like meat. That’s really what it comes down to. It’s not so much about environmentalism, or animals, as it is about disliking meat.

With other kinds of food, I can tell the difference between very similar thing-- I can tell apple cider vinegar from red wine vinegar by smell, and I can tell Coke from Pepsi from RC cola by taste. I can tell different species of apple by taste, peaches from nectarines by smell. I can tell different cheeses apart by smell. So it’s not that my sense of smell is generally weak; I just seem to have a blind spot for meat.

Unless it’s unusual to be as discriminating as the BIL described in the other thread.

So how many people can tell different meats apart just by smell?

Absolutely. And I used to hate the smell of lamb cooking, too, because my mom made it so badly. It wasn’t until I was weeeeeeell into adulthood, and I had lamb chops cooked properly, that I learned to love lamb.

Chicken and turkey taste very differently (and smell differently too). If you haven’t eaten meat since late childhood, you’ve probably lost the smell sense. Smell and taste are almost inextricably tied.

Yes, they are quite distinctive I think. Even chicken vs. turkey.

No; I couldn’t tell the difference as a child either. And I’ve always disliked meat.

So, it’s just a meat thing, then. Good thing you don’t like it!

I can easily distinguish beef, pork, lamb, chicken, and turkey.

We have very long-term memory for smells - which is why a brief whiff of something can bring back a memory from childhood. I’m not surprised that you couldn’t distinguish the smells as a child, because it’s so unlikely you would have forgotten them if you once knew the smells.

I can tell chicken from turkey, beef smells the same to me regardless of type. Ham smells very distinct, and I don’t know that I eat pork enough to tell that smell from others. Lamb and other meats are something that I wouldn’t know by smell.

Rivkah, does the smell of bacon stand out to you from other meats?

Absolutely - they’re all distinctive. Though in some cases the distinction might be faint, it’s definitely there. If it is something I’ve eaten only rarely, like rabbit (maybe a half dozen times in my life), the smell will usually jog a memory of eating it before.

I wonder if you have something a little unusual in your genetic code (I almost said “off”, but I don’t want it to sound perjorative). I had a very good friend who couldn’t stand the smell of cooking meat - she found it nauseating. But she still enjoyed eating it once it was done. She just had to leave the kitchen when someone was cooking. Ended up mostly vegetarian at home but still loved the very occasional steak in a restaurant.

Yes. And at least 5 characters.

I’m not sure I’ve smelled it enough to be sure. I’ve mostly smelled it, I think, in restaurants, where I wasn’t always sure if it’s what I was smelling, because there were so many smells. I tasted it at a friend’s house once, and thought it was one of the worst things ever. It didn’t even taste like something fit for consumption. I don’t remember what it smelled like when it was cooking, because I didn’t know at the time that there’d be bacon at the table.

I wonder whether there’s a connection between being unable to tell the scents apart and not liking meat?

Different meats smell different to me. None of them smell like farts. And FWIW I do like meat.

Yes, both raw and cooked. I’m vegepreferian.

I’m sure there is. That’s why I posted this.

FWIW, though, I’ve been told that in general, I’m a “supertaster.” I can taste that chemical that tastes really bitter, which many people cannot taste at all. It means that I don’t like black coffee or unsweetened tea (albeit, I don’t like Southern “sweet tea”; about half that much sugar, please). I need my broccoli cooked, even though I like most veggies raw.

Cilantro tastes terrible to me, but not like soap, necessarily. It just overwhelms everything else in the food. Same with anything hot. I hate hot peppers. I have to ask for everything to be made very mild-- and sometimes I have to explain to people “Don’t just put in half of every spice and seasoning. Put in the normal amounts of everything, except the one or two things that are hot, cayenne pepper, or jalapenos, or whatever BURNS YOUR MOUTH, leave that out entirely.”

It could be related to that, I don’t know.

Most vegetarians I meat either get all mushy about animals, or militant about their environmentalism.

My mother always told me, when I was a kid, that it was necessary to eat meat for the protein-- never hinted that we could get protein from anything else. So I ate it, like medicine I had to take.

Then, when I was in school in Moscow, she mentioned that one of the teachers was a vegetarian, and I asked what that was. She said he never ate meat. Everything went in and out of focus, like the camera changed lenses, like a moment in a movie that you’re being clued in is significant. I said "How does he get enough protein. My mother said that he ate eggs and cheese and beans and rice. Then I heard the heavenly music, and I just knew that someday, when I was an adult, I’d be a vegetarian.

Beef cooking is a very distinct and very desirable aroma to me. There’s some lizard brain thing that kicks in for me when I smell it, and I WANT SOME. BBQ (aka pork shoulder in these parts) is the same.

Bacon is like that too. Very distinct and very desirable.

Beef liver, on the other hand, is opposite. It’s very distinctive, but I find the smell very off-putting. I only ever made it for my dogs.

Chicken vs. turkey vs. duck vs. goose is much more subtle for me, more of a ‘some poultry is roasting’ type thing.

I’m neutral about lamb - we don’t have it often enough for me to have really developed a sense for it one way or the other.

On the vegetable side, I can’t stand the smell of cooked broccoli - smells like wet sweat socks to me. Fresh is fine. I love the peppery scent of good arugula and microgreens.

I can tell vegetables apart when they’re cooking, and can tell boiled from roasted, from steamed. I can tell a stew from a soup. I can pick spices out of a smell, and definitely out of a spoonful of something. I can pick out individual seasonings and spices so well, I can recreate things I’ve had in restaurants, as well as make low-fat, low-sugar versions that are just as good, and without adding a lot of salt.

I’m actually a really good cook.

Prior to slaughter I can correctly identify feces from cows, horses, pigs, sheep, poultry.

ETA: by aroma

I’d say for most people it is pretty similar with meat. Grilled meat smells differently that roasted meat, probably due to differing amounts of carmelization. Certainly both are very different from smoked meats :slight_smile: .

One thing I do have a little difficulty telling apart by smell (but not by taste) is fresh white-fleshed fish. Cooking halibut smells quite similar to cooking swordfish to me. Not quite identical, but pretty close.

Re: vegetables - I love roasted brussel sprouts, but the boiled version my mother used to cook smelled absolutely vile. Way worse even than other cruciferous vegetables. More sulfur-containing chemicals in them than the others? I have no idea, but it put me off them for something like 30-odd years.

Oh Og yes. Boiled/steamed sprouts smell like the farts they are going to be later. Roasted is totally the way to go.

I prepare them the way my mother did, which is a little involved, but is delicious, and involves no bad smells. I blanche them, set them aside for ten minutes, then steam them on low, covered but vented, for 15, then sautee them in either seasoned butter or olive oil. They never give me gas.

Let me put my psychoanalyst/therapist pantsuit on for a moment and have you come back to what it is you do with vegetarians…