Gelatin Comes from Collagen

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About

Free gelatin molecules don’t exist in meat and fish. They’re woven tightly together to form the fibrous connective-tissue protein called collagen, which gives mechanical strength to muscles, tendons, skin, and bones. Single gelatin molecules are chains of around 1,000 amino acids. Thanks to the repeating pattern of their amino acids, three gelatin molecules naturally fit alongside each other and form weak, reversible bonds that arrange the three molecules in the form of a triple helix. Many triple helixes then become cross-linked to each other to form the strong, rope-like fibers of collagen.