Seared Scallops: How to Buy, Prepare, Cook and Serve

Grilled scallops on bed of onion confit, close-up
Thomas Barwick/Iconica/Getty Images
  • Prep Time
    4 min
  • Cook Time
    3 min
  • Total Time
    7 min
  • Yield
    2-3 Servings

Seared scallops can impress your guests at a dinner party, but you can also make this  a staple dish in your normal family fare with this easy recipe. Sea scallops are an elegant, easy, quick-cooking, and delicious seafood dish but you'll have to be sure you pay close attention to each step in having the best seared scallops. Here we share the best strategies for buying, preparing, cooking, and serving scallops. The trick is in buying the most fresh scallops, preparing them to a T and cooking them to perfection, not to mention serving them like a boss. Here's the recipe and more information for making the best seared scallops.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound sea scallops
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil or butter
  • salt and pepper

Preparation

1) Dry the scallops with paper towels. Salt and pepper both sides.

2) Heat a large regular (not non-stick) pan for 2-3 minutes on medium-high heat. Add the olive oil or butter, and then the scallops one by one, separating them so that they do not touch each other. If your pan isn't big enough to do them all at once, keep the first batch under a piece of foil and do two batches or more.

3) Cook the scallops about 1½-2 minutes each side making sure that the pan is adequately heated before adding them.

They should have a golden crust on both ends, and the center should still look translucent. Turn with tongs.

Serve immediately. One pound of scallops makes about 3 servings.

Nutritional Information: Each serving has 3.5 grams effective carbohydrate 25 grams protein, and 132 calories.

How to Buy Scallops

The road to a tender scallop, seared perfectly begins at the grocery store or fish market. There are three types of scallops commonly sold in the US. These include: sea scallops, bay scallops and calico scallops. Sea scallops are the largest scallops, averaging 1½”-2″ in diameter. Bay and calico scallops are relatively smaller, but sweeter and may be used in stir-fry dishes.

For seared scallops, you would buy sea scallops. There are wild caught or farm-raised options available. Look for 'dry or dry-packed ', 'diver', 'day boat' or 'chemical free' varieties. Avoid dredged scallops as the practice of harvesting them is harmful to the environment.

If you are buying frozen, the ingredient list should only include sea scallops. Avoid packages that list sodium tripolyphosphate (STP) or added water. If you are buying fresh scallops, avoid scallops displayed in overly moist, liquidy containers. Your sea scallops should be sticky which shows that they don't have excess added moisture which will affect the flavor and texture of your dish.

Color-wise, they should not be overly white, but rather a vanilla or pearly color is best. Other names you might see in the supermarket include king scallops, great scallops, Alaskan scallops and jumbo scallops. 

Sizes of Scallops

Whether a grocery store or fish market, scallop sizes should be labeled by the actual count of scallops per pound. Sea scallops can range anywhere from 10 to 40 per pound. The lesser the number, the larger the scallops. The largest available would be U/10 for under 10 per pound.

How to Prepare Scallops

Thawed overnight in the refrigerator or fresh sea scallops should be placed on paper towels for preparation to get as much extra moisture out before cooking. Do not use the microwave or hot water to thaw scallops. Before seasoning them with salt and pepper, pat them dry.

Serving Suggestions for Seared Scallops

Scallops can be a nice first course as well as a main course. As an appetizer, with fresh fruit or avocado, with bacon, or on a bed of arugula or other small-leafed greens.

As a main entree, serve 2-3 large seared scallops with greens sauteed in garlic with a squeeze of lemon, with mushrooms in garlic and wine, as part of an elegant salad, or lots of other ways.

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