11 (Mostly) Inedible Ingredients Photographers Use to Get Food Ready for Its Close-Up

John Ueland
John Ueland

Looking at the cover of your favorite cookbook or food magazine, it's hard for your mouth not to water. Unless, of course, you know what sort of decidedly non-tasty "ingredients" go into making your favorite foods camera-ready. Here are 11 of them.

1. GLUE

Milk makes cereal soggy, but those corn flakes will stay crunchy when bathed in white glue. Yogurt or shampoo will also do the trick.

2. COTTON BALLS

A piping hot dish looks tasty when steam is billowing, but it’s hard to maintain. As a fix, photographers will soak a cotton ball or tampon in water, microwave it, and then hide it in the frame to create that smoky effect.

3. SHOE POLISH

A tin of shoe polish
iStock

Most meat products aren’t cooked because they shrivel. Instead, steaks and burgers are seared with a blowtorch. Grill marks are added with a branding iron, and shoe polish or varnish creates a succulent sheen.

4. AND 5. CARDBOARD AND TOOTHPICKS

Prop burgers are supported with layers of cardboard, while toothpicks or pins keep the garnishes in place.

6. GLYCERIN

If a product looks cold or icy, it’s likely covered in glycerin. A sugar alcohol, glycerin subs in for condensation on shoots, making the sweat on beer bottles and the moisture on salads.

7. DISH SOAP

A sink full of dish soap and bubbles
iStock

Soda needs lots of bubbles. A little antacid tablet typically gets the stuff churning, while dish soap creates larger surface bubbles.

8. HAIRSPRAY

That delicious bunch of grapes has a matte look because it’s coated in hairspray.

9. MOTOR OIL

Pancakes absorb syrup like a sponge. To prevent this, food stylists will coat a stack of flapjacks with aerosol fabric protector. And since maple syrup isn’t as appetizing under bright lights, some photographers prefer motor oil.

10. PAPER TOWELS

Several rolls of paper towels
iStock

Ice cream syrup tends to droop, so photographers cut out pieces of paper towel, lay them onto the ice cream, and then cover the patches with syrup, which stays in place.

11. MASHED POTATOES

Speaking of ice cream, which melts under hot lights: mashed potatoes are dyed different colors and then shaped into scoops to look like they came from a creamery. Taters are also injected to plump up roasts and baked into pies to prevent slices from falling apart.

A version of this story appeared in Mental Floss magazine.

Mayochup Is Now an Official Condiment

Heinz
Heinz

Like it or not, Heinz Mayochup is on its way to a store near you. As Us Weekly reports, bottles of the blended sauce—made from mayonnaise and ketchup, naturally—will be available for purchase later this month.

Heinz's announcement of the condiment back in April was met with mixed reactions. Many were thrilled. Others repulsed. And people from Utah were pretty miffed that Heinz took credit for their beloved "fry sauce," a condiment that was reportedly invented by a local restaurant chain in 1948. (In addition to fries, the ketchup and mayo combo pairs well with burgers and can be used to make a variety of dips.)

Mayonnaise haters (we're looking at you, Millennials) may find Mayochup less than appealing, but at least it's better than Heinz's green ketchup, right? Mayochup also seems to be doing well in the United Arab Emirates—the only country where it's currently being sold. In April, Heinz took a poll on social media to see if there was any interest in bringing the condiment stateside, and 500,000 people voted in favor of the move. This week, the company launched another Twitter poll to see if there's similar interest in the UK.

If you happen to live in Culver City, California; Chicago, Illinois; or Brooklyn, New York, you may have the chance to sample it before anyone else in the country. These cities—preselected by Heinz for being the most "passionate" on social media about bringing Mayochup to the U.S.—are in the running to win a "food truck takeover." Free samples of fries and Mayochup will be dished out to passersby and diehard Heinz fans. People are now taking to Twitter to vote (using the template #MayochupYOURCITY), but act fast—voting ends September 18.

[h/t Us Weekly]

How to Make Classic Chicken Noodle Soup With One Pot

iStock
iStock

Chicken noodle soup is the perfect meal to take you out of grilling season and into the days of comforting, cold-weather food. If you've only had chicken soup from your parents' kitchen or out of a can, you might assume the recipe takes more time than it's worth. But a soul-warming dish doesn't have to be labor-intensive: Martha Stewart's take on the recipe can be achieved with just one pot and 20 minutes of active cooking time.

Stewart's recipe for one-pot classic chicken noodle soup, from her book One Pot: 120+ Easy Meals from Your Skillet, Slow Cooker, Stockpot, and More, keeps things simple. Start with a whole chicken cut into eight pieces, or about four pounds of separate chicken parts, and add it to a stock pot with four cups of chicken broth, five cups of water, and one teaspoon of salt. Bring the water to a boil then reduce the heat to medium-low, skimming any foam off the surface as you go.

After giving the liquid a chance to simmer for five minutes, add your vegetables and aromatics: two sliced onions, four sliced carrots, 12 sprigs of parsley, two sliced celery stalks, and four crushed cloves of garlic. Partially cover the pot and let it simmer for 25 minutes.

Once the chicken is cooked through, remove it, along with the parsley, from the broth. Toss out the parsley and tear the chicken from the bones until you have about three cups of meat. Bring the broth back to a boil, then add two ounces of angel hair pasta and simmer for five minutes. Add the chicken meat back in and season the soup with salt and pepper to taste.

This recipe makes about eight servings, which works perfectly as a meal for a crowd or a make-ahead lunch for the week. If you're looking for more low-stress comfort food, check out this recipe for the world's best macaroni and cheese.

[h/t Martha Stewart]

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