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Common Sauces: Refrigerate After Opening?

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    If mustard is just mustard, water, and a good dollop of vinegar, it's probably room temperature stable. But if it contains any sugars or the acidity is low, it needs to be in the fridge.

    Some years ago I suffered through several bouts of severe food poisoning. I eventually traced it to recently purchased honey mustard. I make my own mustard, and I'm very particular about the acidity level and it stays refrigerated.


      To me there are two reasons to refrigerate things: Food safety and food quality.

      Soy sauce, mustard, fish sauce, Worcestershire and vinegars are fine at room temp from a safety perspective. More, too. NOW... I'm assuming your kitchen is roughly 70F or so. If it's July, 98F and your house doesnt have AC? Different situation. Be reasonable, of course. Obviously if something is out on the counter for 5 months, it's going to be more of a risk than if it's gone in 2 weeks too.

      From a quality standpoint, I think everything will benefit from refrigeration since cold slows chemical reactions, e.g. oxidation and spoilage. That said, cold also suppresses flavors. If you're adding an ingredient to dish you're cooking that will not matter but if not... consider that impact.

      I think IowaGirl has a good point about acidity and sugars too. Acids and salt inhibits spoilage. Sugar... feeds it.
      Last edited by rickgregory; March 3, 2021, 01:21 PM.


      • Attjack
        Attjack commented
        Editing a comment
        Sugar inhibits spoilage as well.


      • IowaGirl
        IowaGirl commented
        Editing a comment
        The article is valid, but not complete. A small to moderate amount of any sugar in a food product will support microbial growth, not inhibit it. Sugar provides a preservative effect ONLY if the sugar content is sufficiently high enough. For example, old fashioned high-sugar jam or jelly is self preserving, but low sugar jam or jelly is not. This is a common misconception about honey as well. Honey has to be less than 18% water to be self preserving. Dilute it and it will grow mold beautifully.

      According to an article on Kitchn website, there are 5 condiments that do not need to be refrigerated, but with caveats:
      1. Mustard - Shelf life: 2 months

      As long as the mustard doesn’t contain fruits or vegetables, it has enough acid in it as a preservative. Yellow, Dijon, or even whole-grain can be put away in the cabinet for up to two months.

      2. Ketchup - Shelf life: 1 month

      If you use ketchup often, do as restaurants and diners do — just leave it out. Ketchup can be kept unrefrigerated for up to one month, but if you don’t think you’ll finish the bottle in that timeframe, it’s best to keep it in the refrigerator.

      3. Fish Sauce - Shelf life: 2 to 3 years

      Fish sauce already has a long production and fermentation time, and it will sit just fine unrefrigerated. It may continue to ferment a bit and change slightly in flavor, but it is still safe to eat.

      4. Soy Sauce - Shelf life: 1 year

      Just like fish sauce, soy sauce is fermented and does not need to be refrigerated unless you are keeping it for more than one year. Best kept in cool place according to Kikkoman.

      5. Hot Sauce - Shelf life: 3 years

      Like mustard, most commercially bottled hot sauces can sit around for a few years — just make sure it is vinegar-based with no fruits or vegetables. Again, the color may change, but it won’t spoil.

      Fish sauce has differing opinions. TheSpruceEats says to refrigerate. But a Today.com article says it doesn't. Think I will side with TheSpruceEats on this.


      • Attjack
        Attjack commented
        Editing a comment
        I would be surprised if countries that use fish sauce extensively are refrigerating fish sauce. I have a bottle of red boat in my fridge, a bottle of Three Crabs in my cupboard, and a bottle of Flying Lion in the outdoor kitchen.

      If it says refrigerate, I refrigerate - and yes, I read all the labels.


        I grew up in a house where sauces, condiments, salad dressings, etc were all kept in the pantry after being opened. I do keep a few of those items in the fridge now though...


          Condiments have labels?? Who knew?? (time to temp fate lol) I have Mustard and Ketchup from years ago (if its got Vinegar in it I don't worry) sitting in my pantry right now, I have fish sauce in the cabinet almost as old. Along with all my other Asian ingredients. I like my gherkins cold so in the fridge. I'm simple (most people call me stupid) man I like what I do and dont read lables


            I've learned a lot reading this topic. Yeah, much if this seems to be common sense, stuff like ketchup & BBQ sauce won't hurt you if left out overnight or for a day or three, but if left out in the hot sun for 3 days after a picnic I'd toss it, that kinda thing. I find the articles & info, especially from Attjack & IowaGirl quite interesting on sugar.

            I wonder why peanut butter doesn't spoil or mold when left warm. It's full o' sugar & protein... must be there's just enough oil in it?


            • Attjack
              Attjack commented
              Editing a comment

              Low moisture levels and high oil content keep this butter from going bad for quite some time, but don't go ignoring that expiration date just yet. Peanut butter can go rancid in about a year and lose its flavor. While fungi and bacteria won’t ruin your peanut butter, oxygenation eventually will.
              Last edited by Attjack; March 6, 2021, 11:18 AM.


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