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Where should you store your tomato sauce?

Even CHOICE experts can't agree on whether it's better in the fridge or the cupboard.

tomato sauce pouring from the bottle where do you store your tomato sauce
Last updated: 31 October 2019

Need to know

  • 70% of CHOICE staff keep their tomato sauce in the fridge
  • CHOICE experts disagree on where to store your sauce
  • More than three-quarters of CHOICE staff choose squeezy bottles over glass bottles for their tomato sauce

Whether it's zig-zagged across a sausage sanga or squirted on a meat pie, tomato sauce is the perfect accompaniment to many a great Australian culinary staple. 

But once you've finished dousing your food in its sweet-savoury goodness, where should you put it – in the fridge, or the cupboard? We investigated this vital question to help you get a fair shake of the sauce bottle.

What the experts say

We asked two CHOICE experts for their opinion on the best place to keep tomato sauce, and they came back with quite different answers.

Fiona Mair, our kitchen expert, is all about the fridge (despite being raised in a cupboard-storing family).

"I grew up with the tomato sauce in the cupboard. But I now keep it in the fridge once opened, especially if I don't use it often," she says.

"In my opinion it's less runny in the fridge. If the weather is hot the sauce becomes runny when stored in the cupboard."

Tomato sauce is high enough in sugar and salt (preserving agents) that it's shelf stable, even when opened, provided you don't introduce contaminants.

Ashley Iredale, CHOICE fridge expert

But Ashley Iredale, our fridge expert, disagrees (and has a conspiracy theory to share).

"There's a rumour that the 'refrigerate after opening' is more about marketing than food safety – if it's in the door of your fridge it's in your face all the time, but in the cupboard it's hidden away," he says.

"Tomato sauce is high enough in sugar and salt (preserving agents) that it's shelf stable, even when opened, provided you don't introduce contaminants."

Don't forget to clean the nozzle or top of the bottle after use as the exposed sauce can grow bacteria

Fiona Mair, CHOICE kitchen expert

Contaminants are one thing our experts do agree on.

"Don't forget to clean the nozzle or top of the bottle after use as the exposed sauce can grow bacteria and contaminate the sauce," says Fiona.

CHOICE staff vote

We asked CHOICE tomato sauce lovers where they keep their favourite condiment, and the majority of respondents were firmly in the fridge camp. All up, 71.64% of respondents said that tomato sauce definitely goes in the fridge, while 22.39% said it belongs in the cupboard. (And 4.48% said they don't use the stuff.)

Team Fridge

Those in Team Fridge had put quite some thought into their decision:

  • "When we were growing up, my brother believed that an additional function of tomato sauce was to cool down too-hot food for safe consumption. So the fridge was obviously the place to keep it."
  • It looks like we have a lot of rule-followers here at CHOICE: we received many responses along the lines of, "It says to refrigerate after opening on the bottle".
  • The cooler temp in the fridge should theoretically slow down bacteria growth… plus, it's what the label says!

  • Food safety tends to be the most common concern among fridge-storers: "Common sense (and having worked in a microscopy research facility) tells me that microorganisms on food grow faster in warmer environments," wrote one staff member. 
  • Another said: "Grew up with sauce in the pantry no problems, but the cooler temp in the fridge should theoretically slow down bacteria growth… plus, it's what the label says!"

Team Cupboard

Only two Team Cupboard members shared their reasoning for not storing their sauce in the fridge, but like those from Team Fridge, their decisions were clearly made after considerable thought.

It's just sugar and salt and vinegar; surely that can't go bad

"I don't want the temperature to interfere with the flavour of my pie. Unless the pie is too hot and the sauce can cool it down. It's just sugar and salt and vinegar; surely that can't go bad," said the first respondent.

The second shared just one reason, and it's a good one: "Cold sauce is a crime."

Squeeze or shake?

We also polled CHOICE staff on what kind of vessel they prefer for their tomato sauce, and once again there was a clear winner: more than three-quarters of people said they prefer the humble plastic squeezy bottle rather than glass. 

The germophobes were well represented in the squeezy bottle camp, with one respondent saying, "The smaller opening and not sticking tools into a jar hopefully keeps the above-mentioned microorganisms to a minimum."

But others had purely hedonistic reasons for going squeezy: "Easier to get that last drop of tomatoey goodness."

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