Patt Morrison for May 25, 2012

Just in time for Memorial Day BBQs, MIT engineers develop new 'super-slippery' ketchup bottle

Building a Better Ketchup Bottle

Michael Juliano/KPCC

Champion, centrifugal, two-finger tap, smack, knife - they're all methods of getting ketchup out of a bottle that might become obsolete thanks to new research. Patt Morrison takes a look at ketchup and its variety of frustrating techniques.

Tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, and assorted seasonings and spices. Ketchup is made up of simple ingredients, but it’s a backbone to American cuisine.

The history of ketchup pre-dates the modern barbecue, but this week, a team of engineers at MIT have developed the next step in ketchup engineering — a non-stick coating inside of glass bottles, allowing ketchup to flow as easily as water or milk.

Getting ketchup from a glass bottle is usually so difficult, Heinz lists their preferred method on their website: “To release Ketchup faster from the glass bottle, apply a firm tap to the sweet spot on the neck of the bottle — the '57.' Very few people know this secret.” But MIT’s Ph.D candidate Dave Smith cares little for that technique, or using a knife to get ketchup out. Instead, he and a team of mechanical engineers and nano-technologists from the Varanasi Research Group have developed a “super slippery” coating, that lets ketchup "[float] right onto the sandwich," Smith told Fast Company.

Ketchup history:

In the 1690's, the Chinese mixed together a concoction of pickled fish and spices and called it kôe-chiap or kê-chiap, meaning the brine of pickled fish or shellfish.

By the early 18th century, the table sauce had made it to the Malay states (present-day Malaysia and Singapore), where it was discovered by British explorers, and by 1740, it had become a British staple. The Malay word for the sauce was 'kechap.' That word eventually evolved into the English word "ketchup."

Guests:

Kripa Varanasi, associate professor, mechanical engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

John Cohen, vice president, general manager, Innovation Protocol


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