Why Motor Oil Is Sometimes Used In Food Photos

Who doesn't love a good food photo? From piping hot slices of pizza with melty cheese oozing over the edges to a perfectly rounded scoop of ice cream, there are few things better than logging into Instagram and being greeted with a snap or two of a delicious meal that leaves your mouth salivating and your stomach begging you to venture out for the real thing.

But alas, like many things on the internet, food photos are not always as they seem. In reality, that towering, triple-decker cheeseburger that made you put a pause on your scrolling will probably look nothing like it did in its social media advertisement, and while this is nothing short of disappointing, you should actually be grateful that you didn't get served an exact copy of what you saw on your feed. As it turns out, a lot of the foods you see advertised in photos and commercials have been doctored up to look camera-ready, and often with things that you want to keep as far away from your mouth as possible. Per So Yummy, wax is often added into sauces to give it a more vibrant appearance, while the fizziness of a refreshing soda is typically the work of a few antacids. Motor oil is another common trick of the trade that is utilized in more ways than one to get food looking flawless when it's in front of the lens.

Motor oil makes for a picture-perfect pancake topping

Breakfast joints love to lure in customers with photos of fluffy pancakes, but don't be fooled by these mouth-watering snaps. According to So Yummy, there are a number of tricks that go into getting the breakfast staple in tip-top shape for the camera, including placing cardboard in between each one to add some height to the stack. And the glistening maple syrup dripping down the sides? That's not maple syrup at all, but rather a nice douse of motor oil. Delicious, right? The reasoning behind this photography "hack" is that motor oil doesn't seep into pancakes like the regular stuff does, giving photographers plenty of time to take pictures without having to swap out soggy pancakes for a fresh stack. However, it seems that there are a few stipulations around the photography hack. As one Twitter user pointed out, the practice is okay for stock photos or pancake advertisements, but when it comes to ads for the sticky sweet topping itself, it is apparently illegal to make the swap.

Motor oil has a few other uses in the food photography world as well, like enhancing the look of sour cream or giving pieces of meat the appearance of looking extra juicy (via So Yummy and NPR). And while it may be a bummer that you can't get an Instagram-worthy snap of these foods, no meal is worth ruining with motor oil for the 'gram.