Patt Morrison

<em>Patt Morrison</em> is known for its innovative discussions of local politics and culture, as well as its presentation of the effects of national and world news on Southern California. Hosted by

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

by Patt Morrison

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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. Michael Juliano/KPCC

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."


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

John Cohen, vice president, general manager, Innovation Protocol

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