We have two types of sauce we put on our sausages. Tomato Sauce (Australian - ketchup equivalent) and Barbecue Sauce (Australian - mix of ketchup and Worcestershire sauce). The Tomato sauce indicates it needs refrigeration but the Barbecue sauce (made by the same company) does not say this.

My question is Why does Tomato Sauce (ketchup) require refrigeration but Barbecue sauce (like Worcestershire sauce) does not?

  • 2
    There's a case to be made that ketchup doesn't need refrigerating, given that it's full of sugar and vinegar, and that the directive to refrigerate is a marketing ploy to make sure that the bottle is always 'in your face', generally at eye level in the fridge, which you probably open a lot more than your cupboards. Personally I keep my ketchup in a common or garden cupboard and neither I or the ketchup suffer any ill effects, but I like to live dangerously like that. Commented Jan 3, 2014 at 9:06
  • 2
    Is this true of all brands? As some have noted, even ketchup is inconsistent between bottles, and it's plausible that there's no real reason behind this. It's also easier to just say "refrigerate after opening" than to attempt to prove it's stable at room temperature.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Jan 3, 2014 at 17:34
  • 1
    Worcestershire sauce is hardly considered Barbecue sauce.
    – SnakeDoc
    Commented Oct 25, 2016 at 16:01

4 Answers 4


You don't actually have to refrigerate ketchup. Once it's opened it's good for a month or so with no appreciable change. After that the flavour and colour starts to degrade, but it's still safe to eat.

Worcestershire sauce is fermented for more than a year before it's bottled, so it will change at a much slower rate than an acidic, but unfermented sauce like ketchup. Still, it's only good for a few years after it's opened.


There is no definitive way to answer this without knowing the specific formulations of the products in question, which is almost certainly proprietary to the producing company.

It is likely that the so-called barbecue sauce is in fact more than tomato sauce mixed with Worcestershire; it may be more acidic than the the tomato sauce, giving it greater stability at room temperature.


The added acidicy that Worcestershire sauce and Barbecue sauce both have ensures that they don't go bad nearly as soon as tomato juice does.

Worcestershire sauce is actually the result of an attempt to pickle a few ingredients gone awry.

Further, on a side note (the tomato juice reminded me of this) a great technique that Jeffrey Morgenthaler uses to ensure that his bar can serve bloody mary's easily and efficiently is to mix all of the acidic ingredients together and make a mix that can be stored for about 2 weeks at a time and mix in the other ingredients as the bloody mary is made.



The answer is simple - tomato ketchup does not need to be refrigerated provided it is in a glass bottle - it's only the ones in plastic which advise they need to be kept in the fridge after opening. Quite why that is I've never bothered to check, must be something to do with the material of the container. I've never seen Worcester sauce in anything other than a glass bottle, but I assume, were it in plastic, it might also need refrigerating.

  • Maybe because the glass bottles tend to be near airtight when properly closed, while the plastic squeeze bottles are far from that... Commented Oct 25, 2016 at 16:02
  • @rackandboneman - news on that - in the last year, 'refrigerate after opening' has appeared on glass bottled ketchup as well!
    – bamboo
    Commented Oct 25, 2016 at 16:23
  • Seen that happen on condiments where they decided to leave out benzoates or other strong preservatives :) Commented Oct 25, 2016 at 16:54
  • maybe that's why, don't have an old bottle to compare ingredients
    – bamboo
    Commented Oct 25, 2016 at 18:00

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