This Is Why Fast Food Always Looks Better in Commercials

The sad-looking food you sometimes get in the restaurant may not look as appetizing, but it actually tastes better.

Hamburger, potato fries, cola drink. Takeaway food. Fast food.Valentyn Volkov/Shutterstock

Mouthwatering fast food commercials always make you crave a juicy burger and crispy fries. But once you get to the restaurant and unwrap your food, you realize your burger is soggy, the tomatoes aren’t as red, the bun is squished, and the cheese isn’t perfectly melted. It leaves you thinking, “How did they ever get this to look like the steamy goodness in their ads?” These are 13 secrets your fast food worker isn’t telling you.

Sadly, the answer to that question is that the food you see in commercials isn’t edible. A lot of work and time goes into making that food look the way it does on-screen, whereas when you go to the fast food restaurant, they slap together your food in less than a minute.

Food stylist Ellie Stern told Money Talks News that she likes to photograph food that isn’t cooked all the way. Undercooked burgers look more plump and juicier than ones that have been cooked. Stern also likes to use pins to keep the toppings in place and to make the burger look much taller than it actually is.

It doesn’t stop with burgers, though. Antacids are added to soda to make it look fizzier, the steam is from a heated cotton ball placed behind the food, glue is used to substitute for milk because it lasts longer in shoots, wax is added to the sauce to make the color pop, and the ice cream is typically made out of Play-Doh or mashed potatoes so it doesn’t melt. Now that you know making fast food look good is somewhat of an art, read about these 16 other secrets a food stylist won’t tell you.

And even after all of those crazy measures are taken to make the food look better than it actually is, the photo is still typically retouched. Doesn’t seem so appetizing anymore! If you want your food to look like the grub in fast food advertisements, you might be better off making it at home—just remember to cook the burger all the way and remove any pins! Now, read about these secrets food manufacturers don’t tell you that could change the way you eat.

Morgan Cutolo
Morgan is the Assistant Digital Managing Editor at Reader’s Digest. She graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2016 where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. When she’s not writing for rd.com or keeping the 650+ pieces of content our team produces every month organized, she likes watching HGTV, going on Target runs, and searching through Instagram to find new corgi accounts to follow.