Slideshow: SE Staff Picks: What's Your Favorite Food Smell?

Chocolate chip cookies
Chocolate chip cookies
The glorious perfume of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, best when sniffed directly from the oven. I used to bake them with my mom growing up, and sneaking a spoonful or three of the batter was as equal a part of our ritual as the inevitable flour facial. Jessica Leibowitz

It has to be cookies baking in the oven, preferably of the chocolate chip variety. That sugary buttery smell literally stops me dead in my tracks. It's the equivalent of wrapping yourself in a warm, fuzzy, happy blanket. There's just no contest! Christine Tsai

Onions sauteeing
Onions sauteeing
The greatest food smell in the world is the smell of onions sauteeing in olive oil or butter. It's the smell of the promise of delicious things to come, the start of countless dishes in many cuisines. It's the smell of the slow breakdown of sugars and proteins and their recombination into hundreds of other flavorful compounds that add complexity, sweetness, and savoriness to your dishes. It's a smell that reminds me of the first time I stepped into a professional kitchen and knew that I was exactly where I belonged—how could I not want to work in a place that smells this good all the time? Kenji Lopez-Alt
Apple Pie or Plum Tart
Apple Pie or Plum Tart
Apple pie in the oven is hard to beat. You get the holy trinity of butter, sugar, and flour combining in the crust, and apples and cinnamon and sugar in the filling. Come to think of it, my wife's plum tart, made from a Joan Nathan recipe, has the same elements with the plums substituting for the apples. So if I had to pick a winner, I'd probably go with the plum tart. Either would fill up anyone's kitchen with an amazing smell. Ed Levine

[Inga Nielsen / Shutterstock]

Pumpkin pie or fresh applesauce
Pumpkin pie or fresh applesauce
I'm torn between pumpkin pie (my mother's version has a ton of spices and a little rum in it) and the scent of applesauce bubbling on the stove, preferably after a long day picking apples. Maida Heatter's simple recipe is a winner, and a split vanilla bean is essential. —Maggie Hoffman
Gingerbread
Gingerbread
My first response would be freshly baked baguettes. I can practically get a contact high from entering a bakery in the morning- but the smell of gingerbread has a special place in my heart. It's warm and spicy, with hints of molasses, allspice, and cloves. Gingerbread says Christmastime and family. One whiff makes me feel cheery and cozy, its gingery goodness simply begging me to drop everything and snuggle down in front of a fire. Carrie Vasios
Italian specialty store
Italian specialty store
That mixture of cheese, meats, and semolina bread smells like my childhood. Every single holiday and special event we got a massive antipasto platter with fresh mozz, salami, sopressata, roasted red peppers, olives, stromboli and other Italian goodies from a place called A&S Pork Store on Long Island. When I was really little it was too pungent for me. It grossed me out. I would always hold my breath while waiting for my dad to place the order. As I got older, I grew to love it. I'd even walk around the store deeply breathing it in, anticipating the meal to come. It's a bit of an acquired smell, kind of gamy and funky, but to me there's nothing better. Leandra Palermo

[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Cornbread baking in a bacon grease coated skillet
Cornbread baking in a bacon grease coated skillet
So this is sorta double-dipping because it includes bacon and baking bread (well, of sorts), but that is why exactly why cornbread baking, and it's gotta be crisping up in a bacon grease coated cast-iron skillet, is one of the best food smells around. Plus, it's so easy to throw together at the last minute (particularly when the pantry is otherwise bread-less) that the gratification comes so easily. It's probably for that reason that it has been a smell that has filled the house more evenings than any other. Try this recipe. Meredith Smith
Pastry Baking
Pastry Baking
Well-made French pastries are probably my favorite foodstuff on the planet, but even less than perfect croissants smell insanely good when baking. There is absolutely no better way to start a morning than to open the door to a bakery and be greeted by a rush of warm, buttery, toasty air. —Carey Jones

[Photo: Robyn Lee]