Here's Why Lobsters Turn Red When You Cook Them

Although you were probably busy devouring popcorn shrimp at the time, going to Red Lobster as a kid and gazing into the bubbling live lobster tanks may have taught you early on that the delicious crustaceans aren't bright red when they're taken from the ocean. Of course, they turn red when cooked, but have you ever wondered why their shells take on such dramatically different color? A new video from Today I Found Out offers a simple explanation.

As the video explains, the exoskeletons of lobsters, crabs, and other crustaceans contain several pigments that often give them that naturally blue-green, brown, and grayish colors while they're alive and at normal temperatures. One of those pigments is astaxanthin, which is the same pigment that gives salmon its red color, but it remains hidden under other proteins in the lobsters' shells. That all changes, however, when you cook a lobster -- you know, tossing the poor thing live into a pot of boiling water -- and the heat begins to break down those proteins, revealing the red pigment below. Basically, the astaxanthin remains after the other pigments are cooked away, leaving you with a steaming scarlet meal of kings ready to be dipped in melted butter.

The same thing happens to crabs, crayfish, shrimp, and similarly delicious seafood, according to the video, including the insanely rare blue lobsters out there. Pretty simple, right? Now, if only someone would make a video explaining why lobsters are so damn expensive...

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Tony Merevick is Cities News Editor at Thrillist and had his first whole lobster over the summer and it was delicious. Send news tips to and follow him on Twitter @tonymerevick.