Of all the condiments I can think of, ketchup is perhaps the most divisive (except for mayonnaise, maybe). Its sweet, slightly vinegary flavor profile is one that some people want to pair with practically everything, while others turn away from this thick, gloppy sauce in disgust. Ketchup often ignites arguments about what it does and does not belong on, and we’ve heard them all. Here are seven dishes people get really animated about when it comes to the glossy red condiment.
A Philly cheesesteak is a prized sandwich, and Philadelphia natives have strong opinions on their favorites—as well as which ingredients belong on them. I’m part of a Facebook group dedicated to cheesesteak discussions, and every once in a while someone will post a photo of their sandwich with ketchup on it. Predictably, mayhem ensues. Under each offending photo, commenters kick off a fierce debate about whether or not ketchup has any business being near a cheesesteak. (I’m telling you, man, it gets really intense.)
The question of whether ketchup belongs on a hot dog is, here in Chicago, not even up for debate. This is not an exaggeration. If you go to a hot dog stand and ask for ketchup on your hot dog, be prepared to get made fun of (unless you’re a kid, in which case you’ll merely learn a valuable culinary lesson). But the controversy isn’t just localized to Chicago. Travel across the country and you’ll find very divided opinions on whether or not the sweet condiment belongs on a savory wiener.
When I was a kid, I used to eat ketchup on my scrambled eggs. When Mom made fried rice, she’d put an omelet on top and we’d put a little ketchup on that, a common practice with this dish. I eventually grew out of the ketchup-on-eggs habit when I began to prefer sunny-side up eggs instead. But it turns out, something I thought was perfectly normal was way more divisive than I knew. When we tackled the question of ketchup on eggs, readers had a lot to say in the comments.
I wouldn’t have believed this until I witnessed it for myself: Some people put ketchup on pizza. In my time as a pizzamaker, I performed a lot of duties, including running food out to tables. When I dropped an order off once, a customer sheepishly asked if we had ketchup so they could add it to their pie. (We didn’t.) I found out later that this wasn’t the first time a customer had asked for ketchup to pair with their pizza. Personally, I can’t hang with this. Do you put ketchup on your slices?
Macaroni and cheese
For most of my adult life, I remained blissfully ignorant to the fact that some people put ketchup on their mac and cheese. But the habit is more common than I knew. This Reddit thread from 2016 shows the kind of fervor people demonstrate when discussing the practice. (Most people in the thread were against it; others swore by it.) In theory, this might be a viable way to zest up a bland serving of macaroni, but I think I’ll stick to hot sauce.
Donald Trump has a lot of unusual eating habits, one of which involves eating well-done steak with ketchup. But if you put ketchup anywhere near a fancy cut of meat, most people look at you as if you’ve sprouted a third eyeball. I can see the appeal of using a condiment to rescue a particularly overcooked piece of meat, but isn’t that what steak sauce is for? The situation has to be pretty dire before ketchup is your best option. And if you’re in a high-end restaurant—the most advisable place to order steak—you’re probably not being served a cut of meat that needs rescuing in the first place.
Takeout writer Angela Pagán swears by adding ketchup to every meal—no ifs, ands, or buts. That includes rice. “Mixing some ketchup into Mexican or Puerto Rican rice is an extremely underrated combination,” she writes. “It adds just the right amount of tang to the rice.” Many forms of rice, by design, aren’t packed with flavor. Does ketchup give it the right boost? That’s up to you to decide.