Does Tabasco Need To Be Refrigerated (And Does It Go Bad)?

Tabasco sauce is a very popular hot sauce that can be used to improve all sorts of meals. The condiment originated in the US state of Louisiana, but uses tabasco peppers that are nowadays mainly grown in Mexico.

Tabasco is a brand name that is sold across the world, and the unique spicy blend makes it instantly recognizable to anyone who’s tasted it. 

You may be wondering how to store Tabasco sauce properly once you’ve purchased some, as you want to keep it in good condition for as long as possible and get a lot of use out of it.

Condiments are always tricky – do they belong in the fridge or not? It generally depends on the ingredients used in each case, and whether they’re likely to go bad. This article explains whether you should refrigerate your Tabasco sauce or keep it in the pantry. 

Unopened Bottles

Tabasco sauce comes in glass bottles of varying sizes, with the most popular size being 2 oz. There is a plastic lid on each bottle, as well as a foil seal to further separate the contents from the air outside of them.

Glass bottles are used because the inventor, Edmund McIlhenny, decided to commandeer cologne bottles with cork tops that were already available at the time.

The current packaging no longer has the cork, but the glass element has been retained – it is a durable material that is impermeable and won’t react with the sauce in any way.

Some sauces need to be put in the fridge as soon as you open them, because their ingredients are likely to spoil quicker otherwise.

Once opened, air will be able to get inside the sauce, which can create a perfect environment for microorganisms to grow – the combination of oxygen and moisture rapidly speeds up bacterial growth.

If you then add heat to the equation (or even room temperature), the process becomes even more efficient, so it is important to keep the sauce chilled and control at least one variable.

This is not the case with Tabasco sauce, due to the specific processes involved in its production, which we will explore further down the page.

If you really want to refrigerate your Tabasco sauce, there’s definitely no need to do so before you’ve opened the bottle. This will only take up room in your fridge and won’t improve the flavor when you do decide to open it.

Ingredients And Manufacturing

Original Tabasco sauce is made up of only tabasco peppers, vinegar, and salt. These three simple ingredients have stood the test of time, and are used today just as they were at the very beginning.

There are other flavors of hot sauce produced by Tabasco, but they all contain some variety of hot pepper. The company’s offerings include Sriracha sauce, Habanero pepper sauce, Chipotle sauce, and Green Jalapeno sauce.

Fresh peppers are hand-picked at their ripest, and the seeds of the best plants dried ready for planting the following year. However, once picked, the peppers enter a lengthy aging process, whereby they are mashed and stored in oak barrels for as long as three years!

This allows them to ferment, which has two main benefits: increasing the amount of capsaicin to achieve a fuller flavor, and breaking down the chemical structure of the peppers to preserve them.

Many foods are preserved in this way, and it extends a product’s shelf life dramatically. The acidity in the aged peppers, salt and vinegar, works together to kill off any unwelcome bacteria that might wriggle their way in.

As we know, vinegar is often used as a preservative, which is why so much produce is available pickled – this makes it last for much longer than it would do fresh.

Foods can also be stored in brine (a saltwater solution), which makes them undergo a process of anaerobic fermentation. Having three different types of preservatives present really emphasizes how unnecessary additional precautionary measures like refrigeration actually are.

Personal Preference

Although it is not needed to ensure the safety or longevity of the sauce, some people prefer to keep their Tabasco chilled anyway. This may be because they find it tastes better that way – the juxtaposition of the hot flavor and cold temperature creates a pleasing effect that you don’t get at room temperature.

Of course, it will probably warm up anyway once mixed with your hot meal, but it will still maintain some of that coolness as you start to tuck in. 

On the other hand, refrigerating your sauce can also affect the overall temperature of your meal, especially if you like to use a lot. When you’ve cooked up a delicious batch of tacos, for example, then smothered them in Tabasco sauce, you might find yourself disappointed that your dinner is now lukewarm instead of perfectly hot.

This is less likely to happen on a large plate full of food, but more likely with smaller snacks where there is a higher ratio of sauce to food.

It is not always easy or possible to finish a whole bottle of sauce within the recommended time frame. While Tabasco sauce bottles are quite small anyway, the flavor is so intense that you only need a small amount to make a big difference to your meal.

If you are worried about keeping the sauce for longer than you should, storing it in the fridge can give you peace of mind. It also helps the sauce to retain its flavor, as some sauces can lose their definition over time.

Conclusion

Simply put, Tabasco sauce does not need to be refrigerated to keep it safe and usable – you can store it in the pantry or a cupboard for months on end without it going bad.

However, you may wish to store your Tabasco sauce in the fridge anyway, if you prefer your condiments to be cold. This can also help lock in the flavor, heat and color of the sauce, when these might otherwise begin to dull over long periods of time. 

Be aware of how the temperature of your sauce can affect your meal, depending on exactly what you are using it with, as you may not have considered this before.

What we’re really saying is that it is up to you whether or not you choose to refrigerate your Tabasco – it is not dangerous not to do so, but refrigeration can have other advantages that aren’t to do with your safety.

Jess Smith

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