Sneaky Tricks Advertisers Use To Make Their Food Look Irresistible

In the glossy world of advertising, appearance is everything. And with food commercials, the more irresistible, fresh and delicious the food looks, the better. So, if you’ve ever wondered why that burger on the commercial looks so mouthwatering, or why that ice cream looks so enticing, there’s a reason. In fact, there’s a special art to each dish and some savvy scientific techniques behind these commercials. In most cases, the food on the commercial looks even more appetizing on the ad than in real life, and you might think these are all down to clever photography, lighting or Photoshop.

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However, there are actually a few other tricks of the trade used to make each meal look so tempting on camera. You might be surprised at some of the subtle tricks advertisers use to help make each ingredient stand out. Some of the hacks on this list are actually incredible and we would have never have believed it was possible. So, let’s go behind the scenes and unravel some of the top industry secrets behind some of our favorite food ads.

Shine Fruit with Deodorant

Have you ever noticed that the strawberries on the advert look so much more succulent and colorful than the strawberries in your refrigerator? Well, while you might think this is down to a special lighting trick, the food stylists simply just add a dash of deodorant.


In the same way that we use hair spray to make our hair glossier, deodorant can actually have the same effect on fruit. So while the fruit is being photographed, the food stylists simply spray it with deodorant and it can help keep it looking shinier, more appetizing and can help protect the color from fading. Although the fruit might look fresher, we know you this is probably one fruit hack you probably wouldn’t want to try at home!

Shaving Cream Sundaes

There’s no better way to cool down on a hot summer’s day than with an indulgent ice cream sundae treat. The ice cream sundae in the ads is actually made with a less appetizing scoop of shaving cream instead of whipped cream.


Since ice cream and whipped cream usually melts into the plate in a matter of minutes, photographers had to find a substance with a similar texture and look like whipped cream. So since shaving cream has the same fluffy white appearance, this is exactly what photographers needed. They probably just need to keep reminding everyone on the set that the “ice cream sundae” isn’t real.

Shoe Polish Burgers

Whether you’re a vegan, vegetarian or a meat fanatic, most people would admit that the burgers in commercials look like chargrilled masterpieces. Well, the meat always looks more juicy, succulent and irresistible on TV. Still, this is another trick that the food stylists probably wouldn’t want us to know. The burger hack commonly used in the industry is, in fact, shoe polish.


In reality, the burgers you see in the commercials are nothing like the one you’d expect to eat in the restaurant. That’s because the burger patties are almost raw and are lightly roasted for just a few seconds. The reason that they look so brown is that photographers coat the patties with shoe polish. Then they make the burger look chargrilled with hot skewers. No wonder our burgers don’t look the same!

Waterproof Bread

There really is nothing like the aromatic smell of freshly baked bread, as soon as the loaf is taken out of the oven. Even if you’re gluten intolerant, the sheer smell of a crusty loaf is enough to tempt us to rip a huge chunk out. Especially before anyone sees. Still, if the bread is left sitting on the counter for a six-hour photo shoot, the chances are it won’t look the same. So they use waterproof spray.


Although you might think that the bread on the commercial looks more deliciously appetizing than the one in the shop window, they actually put a great deal of effort to recreate the effect of freshly baked bread on camera. There is no special baking secret or special wheat recipe. In fact, as soon as the bread has been exposed to the light, it begins to dry out. So they coat the bread with a special waterproof spray, commonly used to protect car interiors from water and sunlight.

Drizzle Engine Oil on Pancakes

If you’ve ever created a tower of pancakes, then each one will probably look fluffy and fresh as soon as you scoop them on the plate. Still, as soon as you drizzle maple syrup on them and try to capture the perfect shot, then your perfect tower can quickly turn into a drizzly mess. So in the world of advertising, photographers have discovered the perfect pancake solution, engine oil.


Since pancakes absorb the maple syrup too quickly, it can be tricky to capture the perfect photo. So for a pancake ad, they had to find a substitute that looks as appetizing as maple syrup but doesn’t absorb as quickly. So the reason the pancakes look so delicious on the ad is strangely enough, because of engine oil.

Keep Seafood Fresh with Glycerin

When you order seafood in the restaurant, more often than not, you would expect it to be freshly caught the same day. You would also expect it to be perfectly presented on the plate, looking fresh, juicy and ready to devour. However, a photography session for commercial can sometimes take hours to capture, so to ensure the seafood looks just as glossy as in real life, they actually coat it with glycerin.


Since seafood can quickly lose its presentation and it’s hard to keep it looking so fresh and appetizing, the advertisers had to turn to science. So, the trick they usually use it to coat it with a mixture of water and glycerol. This way the seafood looks just as appetizing as the fresh seafood of the day in your local restaurant, and no one has to know.

Coat Chinese Noodles with Glucose Syrup

Throughout Asia, noodles are a traditional staple culinary delight. And there’s plenty of delicious varieties to choose from, Udan or glass or rice noodles, you really can take your pick. Noodles are also usually the easiest and quickest dish to cook if you’re craving some comfort food. It usually takes just a few minutes to boil noodles and voila, just add the sauce. However, if you’re trying to take the perfect photo, it can be tricky to ensure the noodles look steaming hot and glistening bright after a few hours. But that’s before we knew about glucose.


As most cooks will testify, as soon as you transfer the noodles from the pan onto your plate, they can easily go from steaming hot to steam dry. So since noodles can dry out so quickly, the advertising pros simply glaze the noodle dish with glucose syrup, and they can stay looking just as hot and juicy for hours.

Coffee Soap

For most of us, starting our day with the perfect cup of coffee will provide the fuel we need to power through the day. Still, to create the perfect shot of blended coffee, cappuccino or steaming hot latte for a commercial, photographers have a few other secret tricks under their sleeves. In truth, many use the same trick to create an ice-cold glass of milk or a refreshing glass of beer. The reason these beverages look so attractive on camera is because of liquid soap.


When you order your favorite cup of cappuccino in your local coffee shop, it will look like a coffee showpiece for a few minutes. However, it’s trickier to make its foamy appearance last for a long photoshoot. So many food stylists actually add liquid soap to most beverages, from coffee, beer or milk, as it creates a foam that will last, and looks natural and attractive on camera.

Plump up Cakes with Cardboard

In recent years, the demand for unique, themed and creatively trendy cakes has soared. No longer can we just expect to see a standard Victoria sponge cake or marble cake on the advert. Now we expect show-stopping unicorns, cartoon characters, superheroes, and makeup-inspired cakes. In fact, there’s a cake for almost every theme. Still, although these baking delights may look deliciously tempting on the adverts, the reason many of these cakes look so plumped up is because of another industry secret, cardboard.


In the enticing world of cake adverting, many photographers add layers of cardboard into the middle of the cake and fasten them together with toothpicks. This way they can make the cakes look extra sturdy and prevent the cake from drying or the icing being ruined. Some photographers use the same hack for sandwiches and burgers. It’s actually mind-blowing.

Plastic Ice Cubes

The best way to add a refreshing twist to any drink is to add a few ice-cold cubes. Whether you’re making a delicious juice, super-food smoothies, cola or cocktail, ice cubes give your drink an instant hit of cold flavor. However, the only problem with ice is that it immediately falls to the bottom of the glass and melts. So another incredible way to curb the melting phenomenon is to use plastic substitutes for ice cubes.


Since real ice will melt under the heat of lighting equipment, and usually disintegrates fast into the drink, many photographers use plastic cubes instead of real ice for soft drinks. This does make sense, as you wouldn’t expect the ice to last more than a few minutes in your drink. You can actually use plastic ice cubes in your own drinks at home, as they are reusable.

Mashed Potato Ice Cream

Another indulgent treat on our list is none other than ice cream. The creamy dessert is a staple for most restaurants, and the list of flavors, trendy toppings and varieties are endless. From cookie dough to caramel, chocolate fudge or even coconut or avocado ice cream, there’s a flavor for any mood. Still, the ice cream you see on commercials is actually not even ice cream. More often than not, it’s creamy mashed potatoes.


Under the hot lights of the photoshoot, real ice cream melts almost immediately. So many photographers simply substitute ice cream for another creamy alternative, mashed potatoes. Mashed potatoes are less inclined to melt under the hot lights, and have the same texture and look like ice cream, so we can totally see why.

Airbrushed Chicken

Preparing the perfect roast chicken or even turkey can be tricky for even the most experienced of cooks. To master the perfect blend of succulent flavors, make sure it looks plumped up on the plate and the outside is golden brown, can be tough. Still, if you’re trying to cook the perfect roast chicken like the photo on the advert, then you might want to know that it’s not even edible, thanks to paint.


The perfectly roasted golden brown chicken on commercials is actually barely cooked. Instead, the raw chicken is often cooked lightly and then airbrushed with golden brown paint or even shoe polish. This way the photographers can help give the illusion of baking perfection for the commercial.

Cereal Glue

If you have ever attempted to capture the perfect shot of a bowl of breakfast cereal in a refreshing pool of ice-cold milk, you would have to be quick. That’s because whether it’s cornflakes, oatmeal or chocolate-flavored cereal grain, cereal will quickly be absorbed into the milk and sink to the bottom of the bowl. So the delicious bowl of milky cereal that you will see on the commercials, is actually cereal dipped in glue.


Since cereal, grains and any fruity topping will quickly soak into the milk and fall to the bottom of the breakfast bowl, the photographers had to think outside the box. So after a few experiments, they actually started replacing the milk with white glue. This way the cereal will remain on the surface of the bowl and keep its appetizing appearance for the photoshoot.

Make Drinks Bubble with Antacids

Another eye-pleasing way to add some pop to any soft drink, cocktail or cola is to find a way to inject more bubbles. When you pour an ice-cold soda into a tall glass, the carbon dioxide will fizz and rush to the top and look instantly appetizing. Still, the bubbly effect will only last for a few minutes, so the advertisers had to find another artificial way of making the same show-stopping effect. So they chose antacids.


Since the bubbles of carbon dioxide in soft drinks will usually disappear fast, the photographers also add heartburn antacids. When the sparkling water mixes with the antacids, it naturally causes the chemical reaction of neutralization. This way the tempting bubbles and fizzing froth will reappear just in time for them to get the best photo.

Stuff Chicken with Paper Towels

The plumped up, succulent, golden-brown chicken you see on the adverts, usually doesn’t look like the same one you would make at home. And while you might curse your culinary skills for not being able to prepare the perfect roasted delight, there’s actually more than meets the eye. The roasted chicken you see on the advert is often stuffed with another industry secret, paper towels.


To ensure that the chicken is primed for the photograph, many food stylists actually add volume by inserting paper towels into the inside of the meat. This way the chicken looks, plumper, juicier and more appetizing to consumers. The chicken is also undercooked and painted. Maybe you should keep that in mind the next time you prepare a more edible and juicy chicken dish.

Generate Steam with Wet Cotton

Most baked dished looks more delicious as soon as you take them out the oven and the hot steam oozes from the plate. So many advertisers cottoned on the idea and searched for the best way to create the effect of hot steam. So another clever science trick is to heat up some wet cotton balls to create the effect of steamy hot food.


The clever reason hot dishes look so steamy and enticing on the commercials is that many photographers use steamy cotton. They can either use a streaming device or moisten the cotton balls and put them in the microwave. Then they strategically place them behind the food and watch as the stimulated steam rises off the dish. Well, that’s just incredible.

Melt Wax to Create Sauces

One of the most colorful ways to spice up any dish is to add a dash of sauce. From tangy salsa or creamy guacamole to soy sauce, the appearance and texture of the sauces are just as pleasing to the eye as it is to taste with your food. So many photographers add a dash of color to each dish by adding an array of sauces. However, the appetizing sauces in the advert are usually mixed with melt wax.


The reasoning behind this unlikely mix is because melted wax will create the perfect consistency and can make any sauce look more flavorsome. So as many sauces might separate, melted max will help keep the texture intact, and make sure each sauce pops on the plate for the commercial.

Frost Glasses with Deodorant Spray

It’s always better to drink an ice-cool cocktail, beer or juice from frosted glass. Not only does a frosted glass add an icy kick to any drink, but it also makes it instantly look more appetizing. So for years, scientists have experimented with techniques to create the perfect frosted glass. Still, they haven’t yet pinned down a way of making the frosted ice not melt. So the advertisers are ahead of the game. They just frost glasses with deodorant spray.


While we usually take it for granted that most drinks on the adverts are served in a frosted glass, it’s more mind-boggling to think that the effect is created with deodorant spray. So in fact, the natural effect is not natural at all. Well, at least we know why the drinks look so refreshingly appetizing on TV now!

Shoe Polished Steak?

If you’ve ever drooled at the sight of a well- seasoned steak on an advert, that has been flame grilled to perfection on both sides, and masterfully presented on the plate, then don’t let the advertisers fool you. The steak that you actually see has actually not been grilled at all, and those grill marks are actually painted shoe polish.


The foolproof method used by the advertising industry to prepare the perfect steak, is far from the cooking technique you might have imagined. Rather than chargrilling the steak, they don’t actually use a grill at all. The meaty delight is first pan-fried before they paint the chargrilled lines with shoe polish. Well, that’s one way to curb our appetite!

Strawberry Lipstick

Most make-up artists will know that red lipstick can add a splash of sassy color and help brighten up any smile. From strawberry red to rosy pink, brown or even darker wine, there’s a shade for almost any complexion. However, in the advertising industry, red lipstick is not just confined to the cosmetic scene. Many advertisers actually use red lipsticks on strawberries.


If you’ve ever wondered why the strawberries on the commercial look so much redder and brighter than the ones you see in the supermarket, it’s because they have a secret ingredient. Many photographers, therefore, transform into fruit make-up artists and paint the strawberries with red lipstick for a more dramatic effect.

Spray Pancakes with Scotch-Guard

If you look through any restaurant or café menu, you might find that they all claim to offer the most delicious, fluffiest, golden brown stack of pancakes in town. However, you might often find that however picturesque the pancakes look, the stack never looks as fluffy or thick as the pancakes on commercials. Thankfully for us, that’s because these restaurants don’t use the same secret ingredient as the advertisers, Scott-Guard spray.


In order to create the dramatic shot of perfectly cooked, fluffy stack of pancakes, the advertisers had to find a way of making sure the pancakes stay looking just as attractive for hours. Since pancakes are usually oozing with gooey toppings, flavors, and syrups, it can be hard to make sure the liquids are not absorbed by the pancake mix. So by spraying a protective layer of Scotch Guard, this helps by more time to get the winning pancake shot.

Hold the Plate Together with Clay

For every photography food shoot, the presentation is key. Since each dish has to look beautiful on the plate, every food item has to stay perfectly in place. Every dish will also be captured from a variety of angles, with different props, lighting effects, and cameras. However, food doesn’t always cooperate, and sometimes not everything on the plate will stay in the same position for so long, so many photographers add clay.


Since the ideal shot from the perfect angle is hard to achieve, many food stylists had to search for a way to hold everything on the plate in place. So the perfect solution to hold everything on the plate together was to stick every item on the plate with clay. They can also use clay under the plate to ensure the dish doesn’t move. Wow!

That’s Not Just Shampoo

To create the most appealing shampoo commercials, the advertisers commonly search for a beautiful model, with the silkiest and smoothest hair around. While the majority of these models will have glossy hair, the reason their locks so dramatic for the advert Is not just down to shampoo alone. In fact, the advertisers usually add some sneaky extensions to the mix.


So just in case, you thought that the shampoo on the commercial alone can give you the glossiest, nutrient-rich, miraculous-looking hair, you might have to think again. The models on the adverts are usually primed by the best hairstylists, who usually add volume with hair extensions to make their locks look so dramatically thick. They also use plenty of air and a blow drier for extra effect.

Sesame Seed Perfection

It seems there is more to burger commercials than meets the eye. In fact, food stylists use plenty of savvy tricks and strategies to make every element of the burger and bun look like a mouthwatering fast food classic. So another industry trick you might want to know about is how exactly the burger buns look so perfect. Well, that’s because the sesame seeds are specially arranged with tweezers.


In fact, the food stylists place a great deal of painstaking effort to arrange the sesame seeds on the bun. For most people in a restaurant, they would rarely put so much attention to detail onto every element of the burger. So this is exactly why the burger you order in the restaurant rarely looks like the juicy, tantalizing burger with the perfect sesame bun we see on the adverts.

Shoe Polish Chicken?

On a Sunday afternoon, most families sit down a delicious Sunday roast. While the most common dish is roasted chicken, most budding chefs follow the best recipes to ensure the chicken is seasoned, with juicy meat and crispy meat on the outside. It’s actually a hard process to master, as you have to keep checking, seasoning and turning the roast to get the perfect chicken dish. However, this is no sweat for advertisers. They have shoe polish.


It seems that shoe polish is the perfect way to season meat in the advertising scene. So just like burgers and steaks, the deliciously tempting chicken you see in the advert is hardly cooked at all. Instead, they rub shoe polish all over the chicken to make it look like the perfect roast.

Milky Fresh Soap Water

Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, milk adverts were huge. One of the most memorable and catchy campaigns was the iconic ‘Got Milk’ adverts. The dairy advertising industry is big business. So the advertisers had to think of some savvy ways to make the milk look even more delicious and fresh in the adverts, with the help of soapy water.


So to ensure the glass of milk in the adverts looks freshly poured, many advertisers add soap water and extra bubbles. This way the milk that you see on the commercial will stay looking fresh for hours, and we would be none the wiser!

Paper Napkin Ice Cream

The tricky thing about ice cream is that no matter how delicious it looks or tastes, it will begin to melt as soon as you gently pour a flavored syrup and or chocolatey topping over it. In fact, no matter how hard we try to position them, the syrups refuse to stay in. So for photographers, they had to find a way of solving this ice cream conundrum. Their magic formula is napkins.


Since the syrups usually only hold their position on top of the ice cream dessert for a little while, paper napkins offer the perfect solution for advertisers. They simply cut out small pieces of paper towel and place them over the ice cream scoops. Then as they pour the syrups onto the tempting dessert, it can help keep everything in place for the photoshoot.

Fabric Protector Pancakes

Another sure-fire way to make the stack of pancakes look so picturesque on the advert is to use another secret advertising weapon. That’s because, although pancakes are delicious to eat, they are quite porous. So while some advertisers use motor oil or engine oil to ensure the pancake stack stays in position, others coat them with a healthy layer of fabric protector.


To prevent the maple syrup from seeping straight into the pancake mixture, many advertisers add aerosol fabric spray, it can provide a layer of protection. This way the food stylists can pour as much golden syrup as their heart desires, without ruining their pancake masterpiece.

Glycerine Drinks

Once we uncovered some of the tricks of the food industry, we soon realized that they can be applied to other items. One of these savvy products is glycerin, which is usually confined to the beauty section. Still, when mixed with water, glycerin can offer the appearance of the moisture and provide a natural-looking gloss or sheen, many advertisers spray glycerin over bottles of beer, soft drinks or jugs of cocktails or glassware.


By spraying glycerin over any food product, it can instantly give the illusion that it is ice cold or frosted. This also makes it look for enticing for any food advert, so many advertisers keep a bottle of glycerin handy for any photoshoot. While some spray the substance on fruit or salads, others spray into an ice cold drinks like beers or colas.

Fake Chardonnay

We were stunned to learn that if you see a refreshing glass of red or white wine in an editorial spread, it’s rarely real wine. The reason is that often it’s tricky to get the perfect shot of white wine since it’s usually clear. So many photographers and food stylists simply add a dash of color to the water.


So for white wine, many stylists mix a few drops of Kitchen Bouquet. Although Kitchen Bouquet is usually used for browning or seasoning meat, it offers a caramel color. By adding a few drops it can make a convincing Chardonnay. Other food bloggers swear that a few dashes of soy sauce can create a realistic shade too.

Red Wine Coloring

If you see an attractive model pour a generous serving of red wine into a glass, it can instantly look enticing. However, for a photoshoot, it can be tricky to capture the right shot in the perfect lighting. That’s because red wine will often come out too dark in the photo. So many food stylists looked for an alternative substance to create the same desired effect.


So for many of the wine commercials, we see in an editorial spread or on TV, the red wine is not even alcohol. In fact, the mixture in the glass is often a mixture of water, with a few drops of food coloring. This way the stylists can ensure they create a realistic shade and blend for the shoot.

Styling Fried Eggs

When preparing and styling eggs for a shoot, photographers also pay special attention to detail. Although we were pleased to discover the eggs on the advert are usually real and not substituted by mashed potatoes, there are some other industries hacks used to make eggs look so mouthwatering on the plate.


Some of the best-kept industry secrets to preparing the perfect fried egg is to crack each egg first into a fine-mesh sieve over a small bowl. Then drain and gently transfer into a non-stick pan and cook on medium heat. For a photoshoot, they also prepare the eggs without oil, to ensure the egg edges are clean and the yolk is white and it is presented perfectly on the plate. Well, this is one you can also try at home.

Styled Soups

If you’ve ever tried to photograph a bowl of soup, it can look quite bland on its own. So when photographers try to bring the soup to life for the camera, they usually use a variety of soup techniques. In reality, there’s a whole industry dedicated to soup styling and finding a way to create the perfect texture and consistency.


The perfect way to create the right texture is to add fresh chunks of sourdough, French baguette, dinner rolls, and crusty loaves into the soup mixture. This will provide a base and will help the rest of the delicious looking seasoning or fresh garnishes float a little more easily on top of the soup for the ad.

Soft Boiled Egg Tissues

If you’re looking to create the perfect soft boiled egg in a cup, then many food stylists use another secret trick to make the egg look more visible. Once you’ve boiled the perfect egg and placed it in a cup, it can sometimes look too low and it’s hard to capture it from every angle. So that’s where tissue paper can provide a savvy solution.


By adding a few layers of tissue paper or a paper towel to the bottom of the cup, this can help provide a useful prop. That way you can ensure the egg is supported in place and looks more visible for the shoot and pleasing to the eye.

Soup Garnishes

One way to instantly elevate your bowl of soup is to add a whole host of seasoning or garnish. While we would usually use the freshest herbs and most colorful peppercorns as possible, there is just one of the main issue. That is that the seasoning will usually oxidize into the liquid as soon as you sprinkle it on, or wilt and not stay on the surface of the soup.

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So one of the tricks of the soup industry is to keep a few sprigs of herbs in a bowl of ice water. This will help keep them fresher for longer. Then, just as you’re ready to sprinkle them over the soup, simply pat them dry and sprinkle away. You can also keep adding more garnishes to the mix to ensure you have more chances to get the best shot.

Save the Dressing Until Last

Dressing, sauces, and seasoning are the best way to inject some punch into any salad. While dressing can instantly add flavor, it can also make the salad look more zesty and fresh. However, there’s just one snag. If you add dressing and sauces to some salad leaves, it will be acidic and often cause the greens to wilt. So the best advice from industry professionals is to save the dressing until last.


So for most salad photo sessions, the salad will be lovingly prepared in the bowl first. While it can also be filled with as many colorful varieties and flavors to really make the photo pop on camera, the experts usually set up the lighting and camera equipment first. Then at the last second, they lightly drizzle a small amount of dressing over the salad, just in time for the magic shot.