What's the best way to get ketchup out of a bottle? A fascinating question, one you may believe is too pedestrian to merit serious, sustained scientific inquiry.
Well, you're wrong. Last month, Dr. Anthony Stickland, a physicist at the University of Melbourne's School of engineering, presented his findings on how to get this smooth, soft solid made of tomato and vinegar out of a glass bottle. By nature, ketchup's concentration of solid particles means that it's got a lot of give, akin to toothpaste or paint. Coaxing it out of a bottle requires reserves of patience and encouragement, and Stickland has outlined a three-step process to make it a bit simpler. Please follow along.
Keep the cap on and “briefly invoke your inner paint shaker,” Stickland instructs. This will distribute the solid particles in the ketchup more generously within the bottle. (Make sure that you keep the bottle’s lid on.)
2. Turn the bottle upside down and thrust it downwards, stopping after a bit.
This will goad the ketchup towards the bottleneck. You're almost free, table sauce genie.
3. Twist open the cap, tilt, aim, and pour that ketchup out.
Remove the cap now—this can actually be very difficult! Once that's done, you may want to begin with tilting the bottle to a 45-degree angle and increasing as you go. Point the bottle opening towards your food. Keep one hand on the bottleneck, the other on the bottle's bottom, encouraging the ketchup with some gentle spanks.The steepness of your angling is obviously dependent on how much ketchup is actually in the bottle; if the bottle is nearing the end of its contents, for example, you may need to tilt it a bit more aggressively and apply a bit more force.
Looks like you’ve made it. A splodge of "catsup" on your burger, just where it belongs. A cute cup of pulverized tomato solids, sitting beside your fries.
If these findings don’t seem especially revelatory, well, I can’t help you. I’m afraid that the matter of how to get ketchup out of a bottle will never not have relevance. Ketchup probably shouldn’t be in a bottle in the first place. It took a literal century for ketchup manufacturer Heinz, for example, to realize that glass bottles weren’t conducive to actually getting ketchup out onto people's plates, choosing instead to opt for flex-squeeze bottles in 1983. Somehow, though, this innovation hasn’t caught on in many pockets of the world, and glass bottles are still around—let's solve that next.
Have your own theories on how to get ketchup out of a glass bottle? Let us know in the comments.
Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.