How to get ketchup from a bot­tle with­out the wait, wa­tery goo and splat­ter

The Hamilton Spectator - - GO - CHRISTO­PHER MELE

Some foods have stirred im­por­tant ques­tions: Where’s the beef? Got milk? How many licks does it take to get to the Toot­sie Roll cen­tre of a Toot­sie Pop?

And: What is the most ef­fec­tive way to get ketchup from a glass bot­tle?

Thanks to an Aus­tralian re­searcher, Anthony Stick­land, there are good an­swers to that last ques­tion.

Stick­land, a se­nior lec­turer at the department of chem­i­cal and biomolec­u­lar en­gi­neer­ing at the Univer­sity of Mel­bourne in Aus­tralia, has come up with step-by-step in­struc­tions that should help your ketchup go with the flow. But first, some sci­ence. Com­mon liq­uids, such as wa­ter, al­co­hol and oil, re­spond to force lin­early. That is, if you ap­ply twice the amount of force, they move twice as fast, a the­ory put forth by Sir Isaac New­ton.

But “non-New­to­nian” liq­uids like blood, may­on­naise, paint and peanut but­ter do not re­spond that way.

Their thick­ness changes de­pend­ing on how hard, fast or long you ap­ply force, ac­cord­ing to a TED-Ed video.

From a physics per­spec­tive, “ketchup is one of the more com­pli­cated mix­tures out there,” the video says, adding that it can­not seem to make up its mind whether it is a solid or a liq­uid.

Ketchup will gen­er­ally be­have as a solid. But if a cer­tain amount of force is used, it will

abruptly be­come thin­ner, caus­ing it to splat­ter all over your ham­burger. (Cue sad trom­bone.)

Ac­cord­ing to the NPD Group, a con­sumer re­search firm, 93 per cent of U.S. house­holds keep ketchup on hand.

That’s a lot of bot­tles in need of proper han­dling.

En­ter Stick­land, who cus­tom­ar­ily works with waste­water treat­ment sludge in the field of rhe­ol­ogy, the study of soft solids.

Here are the three steps he rec­om­mends:

1. Shake the bot­tle (with the cap on)

“You need to over­come the yield stress to mix it, so it needs a de­cent oomph,” he said in a univer­sity state­ment. “Briefly in­voke your in­ner paint shaker.”

Solid par­ti­cles in the ketchup may have seg­re­gated or set­tled, so the goal of shak­ing the bot­tle is to re-ho­mog­e­nize the par­ti­cles evenly. This should help pre­vent a wa­tery mix, which may have gath­ered at the top, from pour­ing out.

2. Turn the bot­tle up­side down You can dis­lodge the ketchup with a “strong whack” — this can be done mul­ti­ple times, but once should be enough — or thrust the bot­tle down­ward at high speeds.

“Swiftly stop­ping the bot­tle should slump the sauce into the neck,” he said, re­fer­ring to “tomato sauce,” the Aus­tralian term for what we call ketchup.

3. Re­move the cap, tilt and pour

This is where things can get a lit­tle tricky. First, re­move the cap.

“The brave can do it up­side down, but I would nor­mally turn it up­right, but care­fully so as not to send the sauce back into the body of the bot­tle,” said Stick­land, who in an email noted that he drew on his knowl­edge of rhe­ol­ogy and had not done any ex­per­i­ments to solve this condi­ment co­nun­drum.

Tilt the bot­tle un­til the ketchup flows. If it doesn’t, grad­u­ally in­crease the force with a shake or a tap.

“The amount of force de­pends on how much is left in the bot­tle,” he noted. “A full bot­tle will have the weight of the sauce push­ing down when­ever the bot­tle is tilted, whereas a nearly empty bot­tle will need some help.”

Hold the bot­tle at an an­gle of around 45 de­grees with one hand around the neck while de­liv­er­ing firm taps on the bot­tom with the other hand.

What about pok­ing a knife into the bot­tle?

“Stick­ing a knife in will stir it lo­cally” and de­crease the vis­cos­ity at the open­ing of the bot­tle, Stick­land said in an email. “So, a knife will get some of the sauce in the open­ing to flow, which may be enough.”

Heinz pro­moted its slow-mov­ing ketchup to the tune of Carly Si­mon’s “An­tic­i­pa­tion” in a 1970s com­mer­cial.

To re­lease the ketchup faster from a glass bot­tle, the com­pany rec­om­mends ap­ply­ing a “firm tap to the sweet spot on the neck of the bot­tle” at the site of the “57” la­bel. That is one way to ap­ply force to get the ketchup mov­ing, Stick­land wrote, adding, “How­ever, I think this is just mar­ket­ing.”

New­ton’s laws of mo­tion al­ways hold, he said, so any way to in­duce ac­cel­er­a­tion through tilt­ing, whack­ing or shak­ing should work.

Or, you could take one other piece of his ad­vice: “I al­ways go for the squeeze bot­tle.”


Most of us have ketchup on hand and some­times it is chal­leng­ing to pour it with­out get­ting that wa­tery splat­ter.

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