Crustacean Color

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About
Crustacean shells and eggs provide some of the table’s most vivid colors. They are generally a dark green-blue-red-brown that helps them blend in with the sea bottom, but turn a bright orange-red when cooked. The animals create their protective coloration by attaching bright carotenoid pigments derived from their planktonic diet (astaxanthin, canthaxanthin, beta-carotene and others) to protein molecules, thus muting and altering their color. Cooking denatures the proteins and frees the carotenoids to reveal their own true colors.