by Denise Vivaldo
The first question to ask when you find out you are shooting pizza is, "Will there be a pull?" A "pull" is when a slice of pizza is being lifted away from the pizza, causing the cheese to stretch between the pulled slice and the rest of the pizza. You will want to know this because a cheese pull can take at least half a day to get right.
On a big pizza shoot, a portable pizza oven will probably be in your client's budget. Pizza ovens come on wheels and can be brought directly to a location. They are powered by propane and are about 5 feet wide, deep and tall. On most other pizza shoots you will be using whatever oven is at the location. Since pizzas are cooked at a high temperature, check to see that the oven is clean; otherwise it may smoke and set off the studio alarms. This has happened to us on more than one occasion.
Cheese should be stretchy to create a nice looking pull. Use the mozzarella that comes in the string cheese snack packets. Peel apart the cheese in long, thin strands, 1/4 to 1/2 inch wide by about 1/16 inch thick. You want to end up with a bunch of string cheese ribbons. To construct a pizza for a cheese pull you will need:
- Pizza dough.
- Thick pizza sauce—we use tomato paste thinned with a little oil and darkened with a few drops of Kitchen Bouquet.
- String cheese.
- Shredded mozzarella cheese (not waterpacked or fresh).
- Toppings as desired.
- Pizza pans—we use the pizza pans that have a perforated bottom so the underside of the crust hardens.
Preparing the Pizza
1. Roll out the dough to the desired size and bake it on a pizza stone or a pizza pan in a 400-degree F oven until firm and lightly golden. Remove from heat.
2. Decide what size your slice of pizza will be and make a template stiff enough to support the slice. Heavy-duty cardboard plates work well. Make it a little bit smaller than the actual slice all the way around so the camera won't see it.
3. Decide on the spatula that will be used to hold the pizza slice. (Before taking the photo, the photographer will need to secure this spatula in place on the set with a C-stand, unless somebody with extremely steady hands is going to stand there with the spatula. This cannot be you as you will be busy working on the cheese.)
4. Have or make a stand-in pizza for the photographer to light. If you use the hero, the cheese will solidify by the time you are ready to pull the slice.
Preparing the Pull
1. Spread sauce over the crust (sauce for pizza should be thick to prevent it from soaking into the crust and making it soggy), coming to within 1/4-1/2 inch of the edge.
2. Cut the desired size slice into the crust using a large sharp knife or a pair of scissors. (Place the whole crust and the slice on the pizza pan.)
3. Place string cheese ribbons across the cuts, thicker in some areas, thinner or not at all in other areas. (If you cover the entire cut with string cheese, when you pull it up and away from the rest of the pizza you have a solid wall of melted cheese, not the stringy, holey look that is preferred.
4. Scatter torn bits of string cheese lightly over the rest of the pizza.
5. Sprinkle pizza with shredded mozzarella cheese, obscuring the string cheese pieces. Caution: too much cheese at the tip of your cut slice will make the slice weigh down, causing the tip of the cut slice to bend downward when pulled.
6. Add toppings. If using mushrooms, sauté them on one side for a golden brown color before adding them to the pizza. Don't place toppings over the cuts in the pizza, as they will interfere with the cheese pull. If you are adding pepperoni or using large ingredients, slice them where they straddle the cut so they won't inhibit the pull.
7. Place the pizza in a hot oven, about 400 degrees F, until the cheese melts.
8. Remove the pizza from the oven before the cheese starts to bubble and brown. Cover it loosely with foil until ready to use.
1. Place the hot pizza on set. Put a cardboard template under the cut slice. If the pizza is very hot, let sit for a few minutes or the cheese will be too liquid and you won't get that stretchy pull.
2. Place a spatula under the cardboard template that holds the slice. The photographer will attach the spatula to a C-stand or somebody with very steady hands will hold the spatula.
3. The spatula needs to be moved up and away from the pizza in small increments while the photographer shoots.
4. If the cheese starts to harden, you can use a clothes steamer or heat gun to re-melt it.
If you are not showing a cheese pull, hold the cooked pizzas until ready to shoot by spraying them with cooking oil spray and covering with damp paper towels until ready to use. Pizzas can be refreshed so they look hot by applying heat to the surface with a heat gun or clothes steamer. Pizzas will last all day if treated this way. Extra cheese can always be applied to the top and melted to freshen the look of an old pizza.
The Food Stylist's Handbook
- by Denise Vivaldo
- Gibbs Smith 2010
- Hardback; $50.00
- ISBN-10: 1423606035
- ISBN-13: 978-1-4236-0603-1
- Reprinted by permission.
Also check out Food Styling by Delores Custer
- Cookbook Profile Archive
This page created October 2010