Ammonia smell from recipe?

Asked April 24, 2020, 3:17 PM EDT

Hello! I cooked chicken and dumplings for the first time last night -- ingredients were bacon grease, chicken breast, potatoes, carrots, homemade stock, some spices, whole wheat flour, spring onions, baking soda, milk, olive oil. When I added the dumplings, the pot fizzed over with foam. When the meal was cooked, it TASTED delicious but had a strong ammonia smell. We opted not to eat it, even though it used two days' worth of fresh food we've been conserving during the pandemic. However, the next day, the smell seems to have disappeared from the food (which we left in the fridge over night just in case.) Do you know what would have caused the strong ammonia smell (old flour? old baking soda? everything else was very fresh) and also if it would be safe to eat now if the smell is gone? Thank you!

Baltimore County Maryland

1 Response

Hi I'm sorry to hear about your dinner.

I'm not sure if I have an answer but some thoughts. Do you have a cat that may have urinated in the kitchen and eating area, providing the ammonia smell?

From Harold McGee's book, On Food and Cooking the Science & Lore of the Kitchen. It does reference that eggs, fish, and cheese can create an ammonia smell for various reasons. More likely, the baking soda may have reacted with something that gave that ammonia smell. It's possible that the baking soda reacted with some sort of stove cleaner when the pot boiled over, creating the ammonia smell.

Possibly leaving baking soda out of the recipe could provide you a good comparison for next time.

I would contact poison control to see what they suggest about your risk to ammonia poisoning, based on your experience, seeing how I don't have experience in this area.

Thank you for reaching out and I hope you found the information useful.