The Right Way to Store These 9 Condiments

To fridge or not to fridge?

Woman looking inside her refrigerator. Photo: Tetra Images via Getty Images

The refrigerate or not-to refrigerate feud surrounding ketchup continues to embroil the Internet. On one side are the people who claim only a monster would store their delicious red sauce in the cold, and on the other are the pantry patrons. It seems, for the moment at least, that never the two shall meet, and unfortunately, science remains equally divided on the matter.

With the ketchup controversy raging on, TIME was kind enough to break down what we do know. Read on for the best way to store the less controversial condiments, from butter to soy sauce.

In the pantry:

Butter: Even though butter is technically a dairy product, the FDA makes an exception for butter. Why? Butter has considerably less lactose than its milk and cream relatives. Because of this, butter is not a Temperature Control for Safety (TCS) food, which means it can be eaten and stored safely at room temperature.

Olive oil: This go-to cooking ingredient lasts the exact same amount of time whether you keep it in your cupboard or in your refrigerator. (For the record, it's good for about 12 months.) Keep it in a cool, dark place; it tastes better at room temperature anyway.

Hot sauce: This pantry staple can stay put. There's little risk in not refrigerating hot sauce even after it's opened, thanks to two key ingredients, vinegar and salt, which act as preservatives for up to eight weeks after it's opened. But if you want to extend its shelf life, you can keep hot sauce in the refrigerator for up to six months.

Honey: Not only is this sweet syrup totally safe to eat straight from the pantry, but you could be making it difficult to use if you put it in the refrigerator. As honey cools, it also thickens, and it quickly becomes all-but-impossible to squirt out until it returns to room temperature once more.

Peanut butter: With the exception of natural peanut butters, this nutty spread can be safely kept in your cupboard for up to three months after it's opened. But beware: because peanut butter has few preservatives, it can easily degrade. One easy way to keep it in good shape is to use a clean utensil every time you scoop from the jar.

In the fridge

Mayonnaise: You may buy mayonnaise off a non-refrigerated shelf, but the second you open it, you must keep it in the refrigerator. In fact, the USDA recommends opened mayo be tossed in the trash if its temperature reaches 50 degrees or higher for more than eight hours.

Soy sauce: If you're reading Kikkoman's on-the-bottle instructions, it's best to move this salty product to your refrigerator once it's opened. There, it can remain in its cool condition for a good two years—even though we know you'll use it faster than that.

Salad dressing: It may be obvious to store ranch dressing in your refrigerator, but oily dressings like Italian and vinaigrettes should be kept cold after opening too. That's because their key ingredients—things such as shallots and citrus juice—will go rancid without refrigeration.

Dijon mustard: You (probably) paid a pretty penny for the special spicy punch of Dijon mustard—and if you don't put it in the refrigerator, you could ruin its flavor profile. So while Dijon mustard won't necessarily spoil at room temperature, you'll get the most out of it by keeping it in the fridge after it's open.

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