Ask LH: Where Should You Store Tomato Sauce?

Ask LH: Where Should You Store Tomato Sauce?
Image: Lifehacker Australia

It is the age-old question that has riddled the world since its creation. It has started intense comment wars on social media. It may have even torn families and friends apart.  Should you keep tomato sauce in the fridge or the pantry?

A statement I know will make me receive an onslaught of hate but needs to be made for transparency: I put my tomato sauce in the pantry. Yes, that may be disgusting and may make you feel sick but it’s just my truth. Feel free to call me whatever you want but that’s just how my family has always done it.

Although I am very aware that putting tomato sauce in the pantry is considered to be sacrilegious, it’s still a shock to the system when people say they put it in the fridge. Most shocking is the conviction in which they say it, almost as if it’s an absolute certainty.

I recently had a heated debate with friends about where sauce belongs and was shocked to know that I was alone in my saucy habits.

So it only makes sense that this week’s Ask LH is dedicated to a topic that truly divides a nation. Today we are asking: where should you store tomato sauce?

Where should tomato sauce go?

To fridge or not to fridge? That is the question. It’s also clearly one that runs so deep in our nation that Heinz themselves issued an official statement on where their iconic sauce should be stored.

Because of its natural acidity, Heinz® Ketchup is shelf-stable. However, its stability after opening can be affected by storage conditions. We recommend that this product, like any processed food, be refrigerated after opening. Refrigeration will maintain the best product quality after opening.

Some might read that as a definitive instruction to keeping tomato sauce in the fridge, but I took that as a mere suggestion. Sure, the quality might degrade over time but isn’t that our prerogative to decide?

There doesn’t seem to be too much damage that happens to the sauce if it is left in the pantry after opening. So can it really be that bad to leave it in the pantry? Some people believe it might get a little watery if it’s in the pantry. It definitely isn’t the same scale of spoilage as meat turning green.

Tomato Sauce in pantry
Image: Sony Pictures

What do the experts say?

Most of the time CHOICE Australia will test out products to ensure their safety for the public. But it appears the great sauce debate also rattles one of the most respected consumer review organisations in the country. To make things more complicated, not even Choice could give a definitive answer.

According to CHOICE’s kitchen expert, Fiona Mair, tomato sauce is better in the fridge because it makes it less runny. Factors like hot weather can mess with the quality of the sauce if it’s kept in the pantry.

Contrary to her statement, however, is one by CHOICE’s fridge expert, Ashley Iredale. He goes as far as to say the ‘refrigerate after opening’ is a conspiracy theory cooked up by marketing teams. Why? Because if the sauce is kept in the door of your fridge then it is always in your face, but it’s hidden away in the pantry.

I didn’t think we would be uncovering sauce conspiracy theories today but here we are.

Iredale’s somewhat plausible theory is rooted in his belief that tomato sauce has enough sugar and salt preservatives in it to make it shelf-stable, which is technically what Heinz said.

In sum, we are left with no answers, just many opinions.

What they both agreed upon, however, was that you should always clean the nozzle of the bottle after you’ve used it. The exposed sauce can grow some nasty bacteria and contaminate the sauce. Don’t worry, I’ll give you a minute to run to your fridge (or pantry) and clean that nozzle – none of us wanted contaminated sauce.

Is it common to leave tomato sauce in the fridge?

If you’re a sauce-in-the-pantry kind of person, then you probably either have to constantly defend your lifestyle choices or keep your secrets hidden in fear of being exposed by your fridge-obsessed friends.

If you want some comfort in your saucy opinions, CHOICE Australia has your back. Although I’m sorry to say pantry sauce keepers, you are still in the minority.

70% of CHOICE Australia’s staff agree that tomato sauce should be kept in the fridge. But that means a surprising 30% disagree and keep it in the pantry. A much higher number than expected.

In other sauce news that I thought was a given, three-quarters preferred a squeezy bottle to house their sauce than a glass bottle. There is no other option than the squeezy bottle. It has everything you want. The squeeze brings an experience a glass bottle can’t and stops too much sauce from cascading onto your food. Also, it’s a great way to flex your muscles. Don’t even get me started on the drama that shaking the bottle brings. You just can’t get that with a glass bottle.

What about other sauces?

As far as other sauces go, I guess wherever you keep your tomato sauce is the same place you’ll keep your barbeque sauce. To me, mustard seems like it should go in the fridge. Don’t ask me why, I don’t have an answer for you.

Mayo is not up for debate. Keep that in the fridge. Warm mayo seems like a nightmare.

It may seem a little hypocritical refusing to care about the degradation of sauce given the many Ask LH posts urging you to follow the expiry dates on products. Obviously, don’t consume sauce if it is past its use-by date, refrigerated or not.

I’m more concerned with how you put your sauce on your chips. Are you a drown your chips in a tomato sauce bath kind of person? Or more of a sophisticated side dip person? These are the real questions worth tearing a family apart.

Overall, I will accept that keeping tomato sauce in the pantry is a minority habit. But will I change my ways just because of others’ opinions? No. Will the world ever know peace if people keep leaving sauce in the pantry? Probably not.

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