Do You Have To Refrigerate Ketchup? The Truth Will Surprise You!

img of ketchup sauce storage tips

The debate over the best place to store ketchup is all over the Internet, and we have the answer you need right here.

Ketchup companies have weighed in on the issue and they are all for Team Refrigerator.

But the Team Pantry’s biggest counterclaim is: If it’s meant to be refrigerated, then why do restaurants don’t refrigerate theirs?

Well, we’re here to straighten things out.

So do you have to refrigerate ketchup?

Quick Answer:
You can store unopened ketchup in the pantry. Once opened, it’s best that you refrigerate it to make it last longer.  

Regarding the team refrigerator and team pantry’s claims, we’ll address them all in this article so keep on reading!

Do You Have to Refrigerate Ketchup?

The answer is summed up in Heinz’s official stance on the subject.

According to one of the leading ketchup manufacturers, their tomato ketchup is shelf-stable. However, the condiment’s stability can be affected by its storage conditions once it’s opened. (*)

Because of this, the company recommends that the sauce be refrigerated after opening to retain its peak quality and freshness.

While it’s true that ketchup still has a lot of preservatives, the recipe that most manufacturers use nowadays contains a lower amount of sodium benzoate and salt. Refrigerating ketchup will compensate for the lower amount of preservatives that it contains.

But Why Do Restaurants Leave the Ketchup at Their Tables?

Now, this is the real question, isn’t it? If Heinz is advising us to refrigerate our ketchup bottles, then why do restaurants just keep theirs at the table all day long?

There are three reasons why. Here they are:

They Use Up Ketchup Pretty Quickly.

Most restaurants don’t bother refrigerating ketchup because they go through their ketchup bottles so fast. With the amount of sauce their customers consume every day, it won’t get the chance to get oxidized or become unstable.

They Throw Out Unused Ketchup At The End Of The Day.

Now, here’s a shocking revelation.

According to Elm Restaurant’s Chef Luke Venner, they portion the amount of ketchup they put into their dispenser bottles every day. After that, they return the bigger container back into the refrigerator.

And for safety purposes, they discard the unused portions in the bottle at the end of business hours.

Most Restaurants Have Favorable Storage Conditions.

Let’s also not forget that most restaurants are airconditioned. The cooling system maintains a colder and friendlier temperature inside the establishment where the bottles are placed.

The lower temperature will prevent the ketchup from oxidizing and slow down its degradation process so that you can enjoy its good quality for longer.

Why Do You Need to Refrigerate Opened Ketchup?

As we’ve said, you can store unopened bottles of ketchup in the pantry. But when it comes to opened ketchup, it’s best stored in the refrigerator.

Here’s why:

Once opened, the ketchup is exposed to bacteria, air, and changes in temperature. All these harsh elements can cause the sauce’s quality to gradually deteriorate.

For example, exposure to air triggers the oxidation process which may cause the sauce to become rancid and taste bad.

On the other hand, bacterial growth or contamination will cause the sauce’s color, appearance, and odor to change. At times, it can even shorten its shelf life to the point that it will become unsafe for consumption.

Lastly, temperature fluctuations can significantly affect the sauce’s texture. The sauce can either become too thick or may have separated layers.

If you don’t want to refrigerate your ketchup, here’s the biggest question that you have: is it safe to store ketchup in your pantry?

What Happens If Ketchup Is Not Refrigerated?

Yes, it’s safe to store ketchup at room temperature since it’s still a shelf-stable condiment. Its main ingredients—tomatoes and vinegar—are highly acidic and can preserve the condiment’s quality even at room temperature.

The only downside is you may notice a few changes in the sauce’s texture, color, and smell within just a few months. With that said, make sure that you consume the entire bottle before it starts to show any signs of spoilage.

This applies only to store-bought high-quality ketchup. If you have homemade or ketchup that doesn’t contain high amounts of preservatives, it’s best that you store it in your fridge.

What are the Factors that Affect Ketchup’s Shelf Life?

Understanding the different factors that can affect the ketchup’s shelf life can help you determine what’s the best way or place to store the condiment.  

With that said, here are the various factors that you need to pay attention to:

Manufacturing Process

Typically, store-bought condiments last a lot longer than homemade ones since they contain higher amounts of preservatives.

Kind of Ingredients

The most important ingredient you should look for is the type of vinegar that the ketchup contains. Generally, the more acidic the vinegar, the more shelf-stable the sauce is.

Not only that, the kind of ingredient matters too. Sauces made with organic ingredients have a shorter shelf life than the ones made with regular ingredients.

Amount of Ingredients

You may also want to take a look at the amount of salt and sugar the sauce contains.

As a rule of thumb—the higher the salt and sugar content the sauce has, the more shelf-stable it is.

Learn more: Does Ketchup go bad?

How to Store Ketchup to Extend Its Shelf Life?

If you wish to make sure that your ketchup will last longer than expected, here are some storage tips that you should keep in mind:

  • Store unopened bottles in a cool, dark, and dry place.
  • Store it at temperatures between 50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Keep it in an airtight and opaque container to protect it from both light and air.
  • If you’re keeping it in a squeeze bottle, store it upright to prevent air from entering it.
  • Wipe the bottle’s lid or dispensing mechanism after every use to prevent bacterial contamination.
  • Once opened, store the bottle inside the refrigerator.

The Bottom Line

So do you have to refrigerate ketchup? For this one, we should trust the expert (Heinz), and according to them, refrigerating ketchup is the way to go.

But if you don’t like the idea of smothering your hot dishes with cold ketchup, then you may want to follow the guidelines below.

You should refrigerate ketchup if you:

  • won’t finish it quickly.
  • don’t mind consuming cold ketchup.
  • wish to extend your ketchup’s shelf life for longer.

On the other hand, you should store ketchup in the pantry if you:

  • don’t like cold ketchup.
  • can finish it quickly.

If you do decide to not refrigerate ketchup, stay on the side and make sure that you inspect the sauce for any signs of spoilage before using it.

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