It's high time we solve one of the greatest debate of our time: Should ketchup go in the fridge or the pantry? It’s a question that has kept burger-, french fry-, and even egg-lovers up in arms—and this week, Jennifer Lopez weighed in.
In an interview with Tinder, J.Lo swiped left on someone with a bio that said, “If you store ketchup in the refrigerator, it's not going to work out." Yep, it seems like Jenny from the Block keeps her ketchup in the fridge.
While I happen to be with J.Lo on this one, I wouldn’t swipe left because of someone’s ketchup preferences. In the name of journalism, I decided to dig deeper and find out whether ketchup should be kept in the fridge or at room temperature in the pantry—and why.
A search for “ketchup fridge” on Twitter nets some very strong feelings about where ketchup should be kept. To see the debate first-hand:
KETCHUP GOES IN THE FRIDGE— ya girl ✨ (@mariadamiann) July 10, 2018
Can’t trust people who put ketchup in the fridge— ✨ (@thenamesybee_) July 15, 2018
I have trust issues bc some people don’t keep their ketchup in the fridge— Aℓyson Hanssєn (@aly_hanssen) July 15, 2018
However, the debate is primarily one of preference, not science: there is no real reason that you need to put your ketchup in the fridge. Some people prefer the taste of room-temperature ketchup and, if you eat out often, that’s what you might be used to. But other people prefer ketchup that’s as cold as the crisp onion and lettuce on their burger.
Is ketchup safe to eat at room temperature?
Unlike milk or yogurt, it is actually safe to keep ketchup at room temperature. “Long before the world had refrigerators, ketchup was already a staple," says Claudia Sidoti, head chef for the meal kit service, HelloFresh. "Ketchup's level of acidity, in addition to its salt and sugar content means it's usually safe to keep it stored at room temperature.” It's mostly a matter of preference, she adds.
However, if your family doesn't go through a bottle of ketchup in about a month, things get a little more complicated. When you open a bottle of ketchup and leave it unrefrigerated, quality will deteriorate after 30 days, Jeff Nelken, a food safety consultant, told Vice.
Nelken explains that you will have up to six months of shelf life if you put your ketchup in the refrigerator. But he says that if you leave opened ketchup out at room temperature for more than 30 days, it may gain a “funky taste or funky smell.”
Heinz, the king of ketchup, agrees with Nelken: It’s all about quality. They summed up their stance in a succinct Tweet. “Because of its natural acidity, Heinz Ketchup is shelf-stable, but refrigerate after opening to maintain product quality.”
Because of its natural acidity, Heinz® Ketchup is shelf-stable, but refrigerate after opening to maintain product quality.— Heinz Ketchup (@HeinzKetchup_US) October 11, 2017
The final verdict
In short, everyone is right. Your ketchup can stay in the pantry when it’s unopened and even after it's opened for up to a month, but it will last longer and taste fresher if you keep it in the fridge after it’s been opened.