Here’s a quandary to get you thinking on a Thursday. There’s a new battle brewing on social media over whether ketchup, that pulverized mass of tomato solids, belongs in your fridge or your pantry. The debate's precise origins are murky and contested, but it reached a precipice on Tuesday when British grocer Asda began storing ketchup inside its frigid environments to appease those who insisted it belongs there.
Where do you keep your tomato ketchup? Our colleagues at Asda Clapham have joined the debate by stocking them on shelves AND in the fridge.
There’s a key nuance here, of course: at what stage does your ketchup bottle belong where? Before opening, do you keep it in the pantry or the fridge? After opening, where does it go? So many questions! For what it's worth, ketchup manufacturer Heinz recommends, through some instructions printed on its bottles, that you put its product in the fridge after opening.
I’ve spent about thirty seconds considering this, and I can see benefits for both. Consider this: Ketchup is a condiment that’s notoriously bullish about escaping its container. With this in mind, there’s inherent appeal in keeping it at room temperature. Soupy and gloppy, it'll mosey right on out of that bottle keeping its contents captive. That doesn’t happen as easily with ketchup you keep shivering in the cold, does it? If you’d like to honor history, the advent of this condiment came well before fridges were even around, and our species has long subsisted on eating ketchup stored in cupboards.
If we're talking history, though, my habits have tended towards keeping my ketchup in the fridge. This is partly a byproduct of my profound anxiety: Due to ketchup’s acidity, the temperature won’t tinker with its safety for consumption, but I still get nervous that something will happen. But it’s also a matter of taste. Who wants their splodges to turn into soup? Why not keep your ketchup as chilled as a bottle of prosecco, or a nice jar of jam?
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The fridge is an environment that keeps ketchup as it was meant to be, its particles compact rather than runny. Once ketchup hits its intended target—a burger, a frank, a spot beside skinny fried potatoes—its temperature will probably rise anyway. There’s something wildly appealing, even sensual, about these divergent temperatures interacting in a single dish. Call me craven, but I believe that ketchup belongs in the fridge. It just tastes better.
Where do you keep your ketchup? Please weigh in on this historic debate in the comments section.
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.