The Mistake You Want To Avoid When Storing Soy Sauce

Soy sauce is a must-have for many Asian-inspired meals, as well as a great way to add an umami-packed flavor burst to any dish. But if you're like many people, you may be getting it wrong when it comes to storing this versatile condiment.

You may be surprised to learn that soy sauce doesn't need to be kept in your fridge, unlike many other condiments. Generally speaking, unopened, unrefrigerated soy sauce can last as long as three years at room temperature, while an opened bottle will typically remain at its best for about a year.

However, it's still important to store your room-temperature soy sauce in the correct way. Keep it in a place away from any direct heat and light, like a kitchen cupboard or pantry. Eliminating these factors helps prevent the volatile compounds that create soy sauce's desirable flavors and smells from breaking down and changing. However, those who'd like to slow this process even further, like for high-end but seldom used soy sauces, are free to refrigerate their bottles without harming them. This can significantly extend the life of the opened bottle beyond a year.

The secret to room temperature storage

A few things contribute to this somewhat unique storage ability. First, cooks should remember how traditional soy sauce is made. It's a fermented product composed of soybean paste, salt water, and a mold known as koji, typically alongside grains used to boost fermentation. This mixture brews for weeks without refrigeration, rendered safe by the high salt levels that prevent all but the desired type of microbial activity from occurring.

The end result retains this saltiness, along with lactic acid and a lowered pH, and a small amount of alcohol that further inhibits bacteria or other unpleasant intruders that could make you sick. Therefore, it can be safely stored at room temperature. So no matter which of the 16 popular soy sauce brands you prefer, home cooks can save a little space in their fridge.