Why Don’t Restaurants Refrigerate Ketchup? (Fast Answer)


ketchup, mustard, and paper on a restaurant table.

In most cases, when you are in your or someone else’s home, the opened bottle of ketchup is always found inside the refrigerator. However, when you walk inside a restaurant, you can see one bottle of opened ketchup at each table. What’s up with that?

In this article, I will teach you why ketchup isn’t refrigerated in restaurants, should it be in the fridge, and other information about the subject. So, why don’t restaurants refrigerate ketchup?

Restaurants don’t refrigerate ketchup because they are using shelf-stable ketchup. However, it’s recommended by most ketchup brands such as Heinz that it should be refrigerated after opening. Still, in restaurants, the bottles finish so quickly that it’s perfectly safe to eat them from the table.

This, of course, is assuming that the restaurant staff monitors the bottles and won’t let one sit on a table for months on end. We all have seen those drastic videos when a ketchup bottle explodes on one’s face. This is because it’s old and that’s not something you wish for a nice night out.

That said, let’s take a closer look at what actually happens to ketchup if it’s not refrigerated.

What Happens If Ketchup Is Not Refrigerated?

First of all, nothing will happen to ketchup if it’s not refrigerated for an hour after opening it. However, what if you would leave a bottle on a table for weeks or months?

If ketchup isn’t refrigerated after opening, it will start slowly deteriorating. An opened ketchup bottle will last one month at room temperature, whereas 6 to 12 months in the fridge.

When I first learned that ketchup can last up to one month at room temperature even after opening, I was shocked! The time is surprisingly long, yet it will start to deteriorate, slowly. In the fridge, the time ketchup last is six to over ten times longer, so if you’re a rare ketchup eater but still eat it, I’d suggest keeping it in the fridge.

In addition, the ketchup will be chilly which is more enjoyable than a room temperature ketchup, at least if you ask me.

Before moving on, it’s important to understand what are the factors that result in the deterioration of ketchup? In essence, three things contribute to the shelf life of ketchup;

  • Storage temperature: The biggest factor in how fast ketchup goes bad is the storage temperature. If you store ketchup at room temperature which is 68 to 74°F (20-23°C), it will spoil quicker. However, storing ketchup in a refrigerator set at or below 40° F (4° C) will keep it good for a long time.
  • pH level: Generally, the pH level of ketchup is 3.9, however, it can fluctuate over or under depending on the product itself. As a rule of thumb, the lower the pH level is, the more acidic it is, and the longer it will last. Acidic foods are considered anything below 4.6 pH, meaning, that ketchup is considered acidic and less likely to develop a quick microorganism growth.
  • Sodium benzoate: Depending on the specific brand and bottle of ketchup, it may or may not contain sodium benzoate. If it doesn’t it will likely last longer at room temperature and refrigeration because it’s an antimicrobial agent that makes food last longer.

That being said, if you store highly acidic ketchup which contains sodium benzoate in a refrigerator, it will last considerably longer than low acidic ketchup without sodium benzoate stored at room temperature.

How Do You Know If Ketchup Is Bad?

At this point, you might wonder how to spot ketchup gone bad. It isn’t easy just by looking at it, but there are methods and do tells to know for sure.

The best way to know if ketchup is bad is to smell and look at it. If the ketchup smells odd or has a bad odor, it’s likely spoiled. An unusual appearance and mold are also indicators of bad ketchup. If you don’t see mold, you can also taste the ketchup to see if it’s bad.

Personally, I’m a fan of looking and smelling the ketchup because ketchup gone bad doesen’t taste good, believe me. However, if you are unsure and have already smelled and looked at it, you can taste it safely if it doesen’t contain any mold.

Ketchup went bad tastes different and has a sour or yeast-like taste. In fact, bad ketchup tastes the same as smells which are also sour or yeast-like.

If you see that your ketchup has gone bad, I’d highly suggest letting a new one. A good thing about ketchup is that it isn’t expensive. I highly recommend my personal favorite: Hot & Spicy Heinz Tomato Ketchup. I do love ketchup with a slight kick to it!

What Condiments Don’t Need to Be Refrigerated?

Moving on from the subject of ketchup and the fact that it doesen’t necessarily need to be refrigerated. There are many more condiments and sauces than ketchup, so it’s valuable to understand which ones you don’t need to refrigerate?

Here are a few most popular ones;

  • Hot sauce: 6 months
  • Mustard: 1-2 months
  • Soy sauce: 6 months
  • Fish sauce: 6 months
  • Honey: Indefinitely

As you can see, most of the condiments above have long shelf lives but one of them certainly draws attention, honey.

If honey is stored properly in a way that bacteria can’t begin to grow on it, then honey can’t expire. Honey has an extremely low moisture content, which makes it very difficult for bacteria to survive on it. Therefore, honey simply won’t spoil. The acidic contents of honey and the fact that it contains bee enzymes that produce hydrogen peroxide make honey even more eternal.

The common factor in all the sauces and condiments above is that they doesen’t contain dairy, are acidic, have high sodium content, or have a low moisture content. These reasons promote a long shelf life, unlike mayonnaise which is a comfortable place to live for bacteria.

In conclusion, if you see a ketchup bottle on a table in a restaurant, don’t be alarmed as the professionals are aware of it and its safe usage.

Here You’ll Find My Favorite Kitchen Equipment.

Thanks for reading this article! I hope that it brought you real value that you can benefit from in your personal life! Here is my top kitchen equipment that I seriously couldn’t live without, and I think they could ease your life as well as they do mine.

  • Knife set: As a chef, I can’t stand dull, poor-quality knives without any design. My absolute favorite kitchen knife set is the Gangshan 3-Piece Knife Set. It comes with a handcrafted 8″ chef’s knife and a 3.5″ paring knife. What I love even more than these flawless knives is the walnut knife block which is incredible and unique.
  • Skillet: In addition to knives and my unwillingness to bargain with its quality is the cookware. My favorite skillet is Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Skillet. This particular skillet is 9″ in size, it is heavy, it gets very hot, which is what is required to get a good sear, and it is just beautiful, as are all Le Creuset products. Le Creuset doesn’t need an introduction as a brand, as it is one of the world’s rated brands.
  • Food processor: I remember when I hadn’t a food processor at home. It wasn’t easy! But now, when I use my Ninja BN601 Food Processor, I can make anything super fast, which saves me many hours per week. This food processor has 1000 watts of power and four options, including chopping, slicing, dough, and purees. I also like the middle-sized 9cup (2.1l) bowl as it is big enough yet not too big to look unfitting in my kitchen.
  • Tweezers: Dalstrong Professional Cooking Tweezers are like tongs but much more elegant, thin, and easy to use. They are great for virtually anything, but flipping, turning, and grabbing with them is easy and makes cooking much more fun! These Dalstrgon tongs are titanium coated and very durable. Also, I like the black color instead of the everyday steel.

Interested in how this website was made or how to make your own? Start Here


Omar Abdalla

I’m the owner of JRS. While I love writing about food, I also enjoy peaceful and relaxed cookouts at home.

Recent Posts