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Condiments That Do and Do Not Need Refrigeration

It seems that many people are confused about whatneeds and does not need refrigeration- in the condiments dept. Here's my go at it:

Condiments that DO NOT need refrigeration are those that are primarily made up of:

SUGAR(jams,jellies, honey, maple syrup, caro syrup, molasses etc)
or SALT: soysauce, oyster sauce,fish sauce etc.
or ACID: vinegars, mustard,hot sauce, steak sauce, worc sce.,ketchup
or ALCOHOL, except Wine: madeira,marsala, port, sherry, liquers,etc
all OILs( but those that are nut or seed based can more easily go rancid in hot weather, so best to keep refrigtd)

Condiments/sauces that MUST BE refrigated are those that are NOT primarily made up of the above ingredients AND that contain either:
VEGETABLES( i.e. vinaigrettes with garlic or shallots or onion or fresh herbs)
or FRUIT (Ponzu sauce, salad dressings w/ citrus juice or other fruit, bottled citrus juices etc)
or DAIRY (i.e.mayo or creamy salad dressings, tadziki sauce etc)
NUT OILS (refrig staves off rancidity)

I'm sure i've left out some things, but i hope this can be a helpful basic guide.

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  1. "mustard, hot sauce, steak sauce, worc sce.,ketchup"

    I keep all of the above in the fridge, but I think that ketchup is the only one that requires it. The tomatoes in ketchup can start to ferment and make it taste "off". In warm weather, it can actually explode when you open it.

    3 Replies
    1. re: C70

      I used to keep ketchup in the fridge. For the past few years, I keep large opened (and re-closed) containers of ketchup in the pantry, sometimes for several weeks or more. No problems, fermentation, or off taste.

      1. re: absurdnerdbird

        How about greater than 6 months without change in color, texture or taste. Bottom line is everyone has to do what they think is right and safe.

      2. re: C70

        Ah no. Ketchup is cooked tomato's. No refrigeration necessary. Who likes cold ketchup on hot food anyway?

      3. sugar is not a preservative
        sugar is tasty fuel for yeast and mold to eat!

        check the many reports of fuzzy maple syrup on the condimentia threads here
        if you have any doubts

        1 Reply
        1. re: pitu

          Sugar *can* be a preservative, but one in large amounts. For example, jam needs to be about 67 percent sugar by weight in order to keep properly, and doesn't need to be pressure processed. If I remember correctly the physical mechanism is the same as for salt, but not as efficient as sugar is a more complex molecule (I don't have my McGee handy at the moment).

          You can get mold on the surface of opened jam, where there is more condensed water, though.

          So sugar based condiments can be stored at room temperature if the sugar concentration is high enough. I keep honey, maple syrup and molasses at room temperature, although you have to keep an eye on the maple syrup, and strain and boil if it gets mold on the top. And I have to carefully keep the outside of the bottle or I get ants.

          In general, I will refrigerate anything you stick a spoon in (vs a squeeze bottle) regardless of category, because using the spoon increases the chances of contaminating organisms being introduced. So the jar of mustard goes in the fridge, but the squeeze bottle doesn't.

          We also leave out the Tabasco sauce and Worcestershire/Tonkatsu sauce.

        2. There are a lot of crossover items within your lists. E.g. ketchup contains fruit, as do jams and jellies. Both will be happy to ferment and spoil if not refrigerated. There are mold and yeast spores in the air that everything is exposed to once opened.

          From the French's Food Service website:

          Q: Does FRENCH'S® Mustard need to be refrigerated?
          A: The FRENCH'S® Dijon Mustard can lose heat and distinct flavor, if left unrefrigerated, so we encourage refrigeration. For all other mustards, refrigerating will help maintain its flavor; however, if you prefer your mustard to be room temperature, it is not necessary. There are no ingredients in mustard that spoil. "Refrigerate After Opening" is not required for food safety. It is recommended to maintain optimal product flavor.

          I would guess that this logic might apply to many of the other items mentioned, i.e. that refrigeration is not REQUIRED to retard spoilage, but it might prolong its useful life. Better safe than sorry, though. Food poisoning is no fun. As my sister-in-law, a Food Science grad from UW always said, "Life begins at 40." She was referring to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. It was a saying from a Microbiology class, I think. She was adamant about immediately wrapping and refrigerating leftovers, etc.

          1. I have had good Grade B maple syrup get moldy. Mine is now refrigerated. I have 5 good mustards in my fridge. Each jar is labled refrigerate after opening. My catsup is also labled refrigerate after opening. My expensive bottle of Saba can go to mold so it stays in my fridge. My 2 bottles of Minus 8 vinegar are refrigerated, they are too expensive to take any chances with.

            1. Vinegar and alcohol stop the fermentation process. Port wine is sweet because alcohol is introduced half way through through the fermentation process. Any item with vinegar is safe to leave outside the fridge. Vinegar is so powerful that it's the primary reason people don't get salmonella with hollandaise sauce. It not only preserves the substance it's in, but destroys harmful byproducts. Minus 8 vinegar? Get that out of the fridge and keep it in the cupboard. I sip that stuff.

              3 Replies
              1. re: WestchesterFoodie

                Just a little side note on the vinegar: If it has been pasteurized it should be no problem. However if it has not been pasteurized, i.e. it contains a live culture or Mother of Vinegar, then unless there is no airspace in the bottle it should be refrigerated, or eventually the vinegar will simply turn to water.

                1. re: cgfan

                  Huh? How does vinegar turn to water? Most vinegars with mothers are being fermented from an alcohol containing, water-based liquid into vinegar (an acetic acid, water-based liquid).

                  1. re: mateo21

                    The acetic acid will eventually convert into CO2 and water so long as oxygen is present.