Surely almost all of us visualize a beautiful red crustacean when we think of lobster, even if the color of the live animal is brown, brown or bluish. Until recently it was known that the culprit of that intense red color is astaxanthin, a caretonoid present in the shell, and more recently we know exactly why lobster and lobster change color when cooked.
Astaxanthin is a fat-soluble pigment that in its free form has a bright red color slightly orange, the same that these crustaceans have once cooked. But when they are alive, this caretonoid is hidden by interacting with a protein, crustacyanine, which causes brown or bluish color.
When the animal is cooked, usually by subjecting it to high temperatures when cooking in boiling water, the structure of the protein is broken, releasing the astaxanthin and showing the natural reddish color. The more muted tones of live crustaceans would also have a practical function, since it makes them less visible against predators.
This scientific curiosity may have various applications in different fields, as indicated by those responsible for the study carried out by the University of Manchester published in the Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics. For example, this reaction could be used as an indicator in the cooking times of certain foods, or used as a food coloring. It is also a valuable discovery for medical research.
It should be noted that when we talk about lobsters there is usually some confusion among crustaceans that we consume in our country and the most common in the United States. In movies or TV series it is common to see the characters eat lobsters with large front clamps, but “our” lobster lacks them. Actually the American crustacean is more a relative of the bovagante, which does have the same clamps and the most typical dark color when alive.
Astaxanthin has been used so far especially in the feeding of certain animals, especially fish, to enhance its reddish color - farmed salmon is the best known example - usually in synthetic version, but also as an antioxidant supplement for humans. Ever you had wondered why certain crustaceans turn red when cooking?