Turns Out the Fridge Isn’t the Only Place to Store Open Ketchup Bottles

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If America had a national condiment, more than likely, it’d be ketchup. The sweet-and-tangy, tomato-y concoction holds a special place in the hearts (and kitchens) of a lot of folks—97 percent of American households have a bottle of it at home, according to NPR.  As such, we figured we’re probably not alone in wondering where to store ketchup once it’s open so that it stays fresh for as long as possible.

By default, the fridge’s become the primary place to put sauces. But is it necessary? After all, you’ve likely seen ketchup left out on restaurant tables. Curious, we did a little bit of research on how best to ensure that you get the most out of a bottle of ketchup. It turns out that the answer to where to store ketchup once you’ve used it is surprisingly nuanced.

Should I store ketchup in the refrigerator? 

To get the answer, we went straight to the source, which in this case is Heinz. The 150-year-old condiment maker accounts for half of all U.S. ketchup sales, notes NPR, and every year Heinz says it sells 650 million bottles (and 11 billion packets) of ketchup worldwide.

Clearly this is an FAQ the company gets often because it’s answered it on social media, saying:  “Because of its natural acidity, Heinz Ketchup is shelf-stable,” so it doesn’t need to be refrigerator from a health and safety perspective. But the brand still encourages people to refrigerate open bottles to “maintain product quality.”

How long does ketchup last?

You should always check the “best buy” date on your bottle of ketchup, but in general, unopened ketchup is good for one year, according to the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the  University of Lincoln-Nebraska. And after opening, the USDA suggests that the condiment should be fine for up to six months.

Do different kinds of ketchup have different shelf lives?

While the best practices above apply to any shelf-stable bottle of ketchup—not just Heinz—they do not apply to homemade ketchup, which is likely to go bad faster than the store-bought variety since it’ll lack preservatives. So, keep a weather eye on any changes in color, smell, or taste to know when yours has gone off.

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