I cooked a few living Atlantic lobsters in water for 2-3 minutes. Before cooking they were bluish, after cooking red, as normal. I halved and fried them in butter, then served them. We had a bucket with ice and water on the table, where we discarded the shells and left them overnight. Next morning, there was still lots of ice left in the water. I took the whole bucket and started cooking it to make a bisque, adding only a few bay leaves and celery. After cooking a few hours, I started reducing it. In my experience, this should turn out an orange-colored sort of reduction. However, this one became totally white! It looks like milk but tastes like lobster. Can anyone explain this? Could it be it safe to consume?


2 Answers 2


When cooking lobster or other shellfish, proteins in the lobster meat and shells denature and coagulate, releasing color and flavor into the broth. However, in your case perhaps a different process might have occurred:

  • The brief 2-3 min boiling time may have led to incomplete release and breakdown of the pigments (like astaxanthin) that give lobsters their red-orange color. When you placed the lobster shells in ice water, the rapid cooling could have caused fats and proteins to solidify and coat the shells, encapsulating some of the pigments and flavors.

  • During the prolonged cooking of the shells and subsequent reduction, fat from the lobster meat and any remaining in the shells could have emulsified into the broth. This emulsification process can create a white, opaque mixture similar to what happens in making a creamy soup or chowder, where fat droplets are evenly dispersed throughout the liquid, giving it a milky appearance.

The prolonged exposure of the lobster shells to ice water could have also leached out some pigments and other soluble components, resulting in a weaker color extraction when you boiled them to make the bisque. The white appearance suggests that fewer pigments remained available to impart the usual orange hue.

Astaxanthin, the pigment responsible for the red color of cooked lobsters, is heat-stable but can still be influenced by how it is extracted. If the initial cooking and subsequent cooling in ice water altered the state of these pigments, they might not have been extracted as effectively during the bisque-making process.

This study determined that the best conditions for extracting astaxanthin from shrimp shells involved using a solid-liquid ratio of 1:7, an extraction temperature of 50°C, and an extraction time of 20 minutes. So some of these factors might have impacted your results as well.


Yes, it is safe for consumption, however, lobster bisque is made by boiling the lobster whole, which would change the color. Also, the better bisque recipes add a bit of tomato paste, as well as a nice Sherry, further changing the color. The link below is very educational, the only recipe I use. Hope this helps!


  • 1
    You do realize that your own link contradicts your claim that one needs to use the whole lobster?
    – Stephie
    Commented Jul 8 at 6:31
  • Here's a quote from my link... "If your lobster is already cooked, separate the tail meat from the shell and refrigerate the shell meat until it’s ready to be added to the bisque. If your lobster is not cooked, bring lightly salted water to a boil and add the lobster. Let it boil for approximately 5 minutes before removing. Save the water used to boil the lobster. This water might look dirty, but it’s not! It’s actually full of nutrients and flavor that should be used for a seafood stock that will be the base of the bisque." Commented Jul 9 at 12:22
  • Stephen, your are incorrect. Read the link, more thoroughly. Commented Jul 9 at 12:25
  • 1
    And the bisque is then made from the shells, with the lobster meat as optional add-in.
    – Stephie
    Commented Jul 9 at 13:55

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