We’ve all seen the commercial where a pizza wedge is pulled out from the rest of the pie using a pie server and all of a sudden there’s this gorgeous network of cheese pull going on at the sides.
Is that real cheese pull or is it stimulated using artificial ingredients? Or is it trickery from photo or video editing software?
How do food stylists achieve such incredible pull with a cheese that seems almost impossible to achieve at home?
Well, keep reading to discover the secret of cheese pull advertisements.
How do they make pizza look good in commercials?
The secret advertisers use to make pizza look stunning in commercials is quite simple and not as complicated as you might think.
They rely on a few key things only: freshly baked pizza having a lot of cheese with great pull on it, a high-quality camera and a good photo editing software in the case of photo shots.
Now we’re going to discuss each of these key elements in order to get a better understanding of how they come together to create a perfect cheese pull.
Why freshly baked pizza?
A freshly (and perfectly) baked pizza is a requirement in order to get a photogenic food to begin with, because obviously, one would need a naturally good looking pizza to be able to capture perfect shots under the lenses of a camera and then be able to retouch it cleanly in a photo editing software.
If you start off with a frozen pizza, for instance, it would normally be requested to be baked at 500°C.
Now there’s a problem here because cooking pizza directly from its frozen state at that temperature will result in a curled up edge, which is absolutely terrible for a photoshoot (though not bad if the original plan was to consume it).
That’s why the advertising teams always ditch frozen pizzas and go for freshly made ones because even at high temperatures, they still keep their edges intact to render that perfect photography.
Another thing is that freezing also affects the stretchiness of a cheese.
Starting out with a really fresh cheese means that you’ll be getting the full strength of stretchiness you’re supposed to be getting.
What’s a cheesy cheese?
Now let’s get to the second part of the equation which is the cheesy cheese.
Not all cheese is created equal.
The casein network in some cheeses is able to maintain integrity when applied with pressure by becoming elastic or stringy, and therefore providing a “pull” experience for the cheese.
A typical example of cheese with great pull is the mozzarella cheese, the Italian provolone, monterey jack, oaxaca and gouda.
These cheeses when melted produce a really stretchy pull because the casein molecules in their casein network are holding onto, and sliding past one another gradually as the pull intensifies.
The cheesiness is especially pronounced when you have a lot of cheese applied to the surface of the crust.
Now you might think because all the cheeses mentioned above have great cheese pulls, they can easily be substituted for one another in commercials, but you’re wrong.
Some of them are more appetising to the sight and look so much better (in comparison to others) when baked and subjected under the lens of a camera, for instance, Mozzarella looks so much better than provolone when cooked and photographed, so advertisers and food stylist almost always opt for Mozzarella in their food shots.
And then there’s the last thing that food stylists use to really nail that eye catching pizza pull for commercials.
The use of high-quality cameras and photo or video editing software.
A high-quality camera (plus freshly baked pizza) would do about 50% of the aesthetic job by giving us those vibrant colours and clarity for a photo or video editing software to work with.
The software on the other hand gives the final touch and repairs imperfections in the photograph or video, and also adds a little bit of effect to make things seem perfect.
In case you’re wondering what photo editing software food stylists or photographers use, it’s mostly photoshop and premiere pro.
What does a typical commercial session look like?
So this is how a typical pizza commercial shooting session would go.
First, the pizza is baked fresh with so much mozzarella cheese on it to give the stringy effect.
Then the freshly baked pizza (right out of the oven) is placed onto a wooden board and portioned into servings.
Now from the servings, there’s seams created for excess cheese to run into and this is especially beneficial in that it helps with the pull by making the cheese adhere to the sides of the wedge when it’s pulled away from the pie.
After cutting the pizza into serving portions, and some of the cheese has run into the seams created, the portions are pushed together to form a whole pizza once again.
This is to ensure that the cheese reengages back and it also helps with the pull effect.
All these must be done immediately after taking the pizza out from the oven and cutting it, and the reengagement is typically allowed for about 3 to 4 minutes before the shots are taken.
Afterwards, the camera is set up, focus is aligned and locked, and the shot is taken immediately after a heat gun is used to remelt the cheese at the surface.
The shot is taken by gently sliding in a pie server having a museum putty attached to the centre of it (to prevent sliding off of pizza) under a wedge, and then raising it some inches high and pulling back.
Depending on luck and how careful things are executed, it may only require one pizza to get the perfect shot. But most times, it will require two or three more pizzas to be able to get the perfect cheese pull.
Now this isn’t the full proof method of how advertisers create that pizza pull effect on pizzas. Many also have their own tricks and techniques but almost all would still rely on these key items above to nail things correctly.
What about glue?
If you’ve been searching a lot about how pizza commercials are shot, chances are that you must have come across the claim that pizza commercials add glue to their cheese in order to make it pull.
The truth is however, one doesn’t even need to add glue to a cheese, especially mozzarella and the rest of the cheese we mentioned above to get a decent pull.
Some cheeses naturally have a casein network that enables them to maintain integrity when pressure is applied. So their pull is superb.
Now there might be some manufacturers that would go the route of glues however, and this is how they’d typically do it.
They would add white glue into shredded cheese mixture and then apply it to the sides where a single wedge was taken out from the entire pie. Then they would glue it back and allow proper contact for about 1 or 2 minutes.
The rest of the pie is then screwed down onto a wooden board to prevent it from moving when the wedge is taken out from the rest of the pie with the aid of a pie server.
During lift, you then have this really satisfying and an even cheese pull compared to what you’ll get when you rely on a natural cheese for the pull.
Why do pizza commercials focus on cheese pull all the time?
Pizza commercials focus on cheese pull all the time because it is one of those advertisement tricks that have been proven psychologically to work.
A cheese pull has the capacity to affect a user’s behaviour of purchase.
The cheese pull does this by communicating to the nonverbal facet of ourselves that harbours hunger, cravings, desire and compulsion, and the person watching the commercial instantly just wants to get as much piece of the cheese as possible in as quickly as possible.
The pizza pull commercial is just as effective as the flipping of hair in shampoo commercials or the balls of sweat running down a Coca-Cola bottle which invokes the watchers desire to want to have a gulp.
Is pizza cheese made with glue?
Pizza cheese isn’t made with glue but rather milk.
Cheese is made by the coagulation of milk protein casein. Depending on the type of milk used, you can have a variety of flavours and textures.