Delicious Pan Seared Scallops

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Pan-Seared Scallops Recipe 

  1. Set up the cooking station and gather all ingredients
  2. Preheat the skillet
  3. Pat scallops dry
  4. Drop in the scallops
  5. Let it cook
  6. Flip the scallops
  7. Remove from pan and serve
pan seared scallops on cutting board in pan

If you love seafood as much as I do, you have reached the right place. In today’s article, we are going to talk about a lump of innately delicious seafood meat that is very simple and quick to cook- Scallops.

Seared scallops are surprisingly easy to make and contrary to popular belief, not that intimidating to handle. The only real requirement from the cook of this dish is not to ruin the scallops by overcooking them. 

The beauty of scallops is that it makes such a refreshing dinner option, one that can make you and your guests feel like you are dining in a posh restaurant. The process of cooking scallops is simple and the results are irresistible. But before we just into the process, let’s understand what are scallops? 

1. What Is A Scallop? 

Scallops are a type of mollusk. That means the interior muscle (meat) is covered by two shells, very similar to clams, oysters, and mussels. The different types of scallops that you can find in the market today are: 

  • Sea Scallops: These are large scallops that we sweet, slightly salty, and packed with flavor. These scallops can be cut into 1 to 2 inches in diameter and are perfect for pan-searing, baking, and grilling. They are also called “jumbo scallops” or “king scallops”.
  • Bay Scallops: These scallops are smaller, sweeter, and very delicate to handle. These may not be the ideal scallop for pan searing as they dry up quickly and turn tough. However, these scallops are well suited for deep frying, air frying, and sauteing. Some even prefer these types of scallops for cold or raw dishes like salads, sushi, and ceviches. 
  • Diver Scallops: These scallops get their name from how they are harvested. Experienced divers pick these scallops and make sure to choose the best and biggest scallops they can find. 

    If you’re wondering what they look like, scallops come in large shells with a fanned-out shape. The part of the scallop that we eat is round, plump, and usually white in color.  Now that you have a better understanding of scallops, let’s take a look at all the tools you will need to make this recipe. 

    2. Tools You Will Need:

    Before you get into the details of the recipe, here’s a list of some essentials that you will need: 

    1. A skillet: A non-stick skillet is the most important tool in this list. The large cooking surface makes an excellent pan for searing scallops.
    2. Cutting Board: A cutting board will come in handy when you require a base to pat dry the scallops.
    3. Apron: Say no to unwanted splatters with a comfortable apron.
    4. A pair of tongs: Tongs will come in handy when you have to flip the scallops while cooking them. 

    3. How to Buy Scallops? 

    When picking scallops for your meal, the important thing to remember is to purchase scallops that are “dry”. Never buy “Wet scallops” to sear even if you notice a significant price difference. This can turn your dish into a mediocre meal. Let’s understand a little bit more about wet and dry scallops: 

    • Wet Scallops: These scallops look plump and big but can be very deceiving. The wet scallops that you find in the market are treated with sodium tripolyphosphate. While this solution is perfectly safe to consume, it makes scallops impossible to sear. Very often it is also noticed that these scallops have a very unpleasant soapy taste. 
      • Wet scallops are mostly sold in supermarkets. Some fishmongers use this solution to make the scallops weigh more so they can charge more money. While these scallops are normally labeled if you are not sure always double-check. If the scallops are sitting in a milky-looking liquid, then they are definitely “wet” scallops. 
    • Dry Scallops: Dry scallops are not treated with any chemicals and are far superior in quality. However, they have a short shelf life and come with a higher price tag. But trust me, paying the premium for dry scallops is ABSOLUTELY worth it.
      • These scallops taste better and sweeter, are fresher, and cooking them is easier than their counterparts. To identify dry scallops, look out for a label that says “dry-packed” or “chemical-free”. 

    Now that you know how to identify the right kind of scallops for your meal, let’s diver straight into the recipe. 

    4. Pan-Seared Scallops : Cooking Instructions

    Pan-Seared Scallops

    Prep Time
    5 mins

    Cook Time

    5 mins 

    Total Time

    10 mins

    Servings

    2


    Ingredients

    Ingredient List: 

    • ½ LB Dry Sea Scallops 
    • 1 tablespoon high smoke point Oil (like Ghee or Avocado Oil)
    • 2 tablespoon Butter
    • Salt (to taste)
    • Pepper (to taste)

    Cooking Instructions

    Step 1: Set up the cooking station and gather all ingredients

    • Make sure all the tools and ingredients listed above have been gathered and you’ve set up your cooking station to get searing. 

    Step 2: Preheat the skillet

    • Preheat a skillet over medium-high heat. 

    Step 3: Pat scallops dry

    • While the skillet preheats, pat the scallops dry with a paper towel. 
    • Sprinkle the sea scallops with salt and pepper (to season). 

    Step 4: Drop in the scallops

    • When the pat is hot and ready, add oil and drop in your pat-dried scallops. 
    • Make sure to give leave enough space between them so they don’t steam each other. 

    Note: The scallops should make a sizzling sound when you place them in the pan. 

    Step 5: Let it cook

    • Cook the scallops for 2 minutes. 
    • Make sure you don’t move them around too much or touch them. 

    Step 6: Flip the scallops

    • Flip the scallops over with a pair of tongs and add butter to the pan. 
    • Let the scallops cook for another minute, basting the scallops with butter. 

    Step 7: Remove from pan and serve!

    • Remove the scallops from the pan and serve with your favorite sides. 

    5. Alternative Recipe- Pan-Seared Scallops with Lemon Caper Sauce

    Need a meal to elevate date night? Or need something special to make an impressive impression? Or are you looking to add a boost of flavor to scallops once you have mastered the art of searing them? We’ve got you covered!

    Here is a great alternative recipe to the pan-seared scallops mentioned above:  

    Alternative Recipe- Pan-Seared Scallops with Lemon Caper Sauce

    Prep Time
    15 mins

    Cook Time

    15 mins 

    Total Time

    30 mins

    Servings

    4


    Ingredients

    Lemon Caper Sauce

    • ¼ cup Unsalted Butter 
    • 4 cloves Garlic (minced) 
    • ¼ teaspoon Salt
    • ¼ teaspoon Black Pepper
    • ¼ teaspoon Lemon Zest
    • ⅓ cup White Wine
    • 1 teaspoon Sugar
    • 1½ tablespoons Capers (drained and rinsed) 
    • 2 tablespoon Lemon Juice 
    • 1 tablespoon Fresh Parsley (finely chopped)  

    Seared Scallops

    • 1 pound Sea Scallops (patted dry) 
    • ½ tablespoon Unsalted Butter
    • 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
    • Freshly ground Sea Salt
    • Freshly ground Black Pepper 

    Cooking Instructions

    For Lemon Caper Sauce:

    Step 1: 

    • Melt butter in a large skillet. 
    • Continue cooking the butter over high heat until it becomes a deep golden-brown color.

    Note: Keep swirling the pan occasionally to ensure the butter does not burn.

    Step 2: 

    • Add in the garlic, salt, pepper, pepper flakes, and lemon zest. 
    • Cook for 1 minute or until garlic is fragrant. 

    Step 3: 

    • Pour in the white wine and sugar. 
    • Reduce heat to medium at this point. 

    Step 4:

    • Simmer the sauce for 5 minutes. 
    • Then, toss in the capers and cook for another 2 minutes.  

    Step 5:  

    • Remove the sauce from heat.
    • Stir in the lemon juice and parsley. 

    Step 6: 

    • Do a quick taste check and adjust salt, pepper, or sugar quantity. 
    • Set aside until needed. 

    For Pan-Seared Scallops: 

    Step 1: 

    • Remove the tiny muscle (or meaty part) from the scallops.
    • Rinse scallops with cold water and pat dry with paper towels. 
    • Set aside on a paper towel. 

    Note: You want to make sure you get as much moisture out of them as possible. 

    Step 2: 

    • Add the butter and oil to a large skillet or pan over high heat. 

    Step 3: 

    • While the pan heats up, season the scallops generously with salt and pepper. 

    Step 4: 

    • Once the pan starts to lightly smoke, gently add the scallops to the pan. 
    • Make sure they are not touching one another. 

    Step 5:

    • Sear the scallops for 1½ minutes.
    • Then, gently flip and cook for another 1½ minutes, or until both sides are golden brown.

    Note: Do not touch the scallops while searing them. 

    Step 6:

    • Top the pan-seared scallops with the lemony sauce you mead earlier.
    • Serve this with your favorite sides or as a meal, all by itself. 

    6. How to Cook Fried Scallops?

    Searing scallops should not be a scary task for you anymore. You can also try to fry the scallops and make this a nice appetizer to go with your meal. 

    Fried Scallops

    Prep Time
    10 mins

    Cook Time

    10 mins 

    Total Time

    20 mins

    Servings

    3


    Ingredients

    Ingredient List: 

    • Vegetable Oil (for frying) 
    • 2 cups Buttermilk
    • 2 cups All-purpose Flour
    • ½ tablespoon Salt 
    • ½ tablespoon ground Black Pepper
    • 12 Fresh Scallops (large) 

    Cooking Instructions

    Step 1:

    • Heat oil in a deep-fryer or a large skillet to 400 degrees F.

    Step 2: 

    • For the batter, pour buttermilk into a bowl. 
    • Combine flour, salt, and pepper in a separate bowl. 

    Step 3: 

    • Immerse 4 to 5 fresh scallops in the buttermilk bowl.
    • Transfer to the flour mixture.
    • Roll around until thickly coated. 

    Step 4: 

    • Add the scallops gently into the hot oil

    Step 5: 

    • Cook the scallops until they are golden and crispy. This should take about 3 to 4 minutes. 

    Step 6: 

    • Drain the scallops on a plate lined with a paper towel. 

    Step 7: 

    • Repeat the steps with the remaining scallops

    7. Cooking Frozen Scallops

    Very often, you will find frozen seafood in the market. Fishermen flash freeze the seafood as soon as they catch it in order to preserve it. When purchasing frozen scallops, make sure you check if they are I.Q.F. (Individually Quick Frozen). This is simply because I.Q.F. scallops are easier to defrost.  

    Here are 3 ways in which you can defrost scallops: 

    • If the scallops are frozen in the shell, start by cleaning them.
      Open the shell with a butter knife by inserting it between the halves. Once open, rinse the meat under the top using cold water to remove any sand or grit. Use only cold water as it prevents the scallops from getting mushy.
      • Use a knife to cut out the large piece of white meat from the rest of the scallop.
        If the frozen scallops are not in the shell, you can skip this step.
      • Once clean, put the scallops in the fridge 24 hours before you plan to use them. Put the scallop meat in a large bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. You want to keep this bowl in the fridge for at least 1 day before you want to cook them. Ensure that the bowl is large enough to hold the scallops and any water from melted ice.
      • The next day, check if the scallops still feel icy cold or solid. If they do, let them sit in the fridge for another hour before using them. Use scallops within a day or two of putting them in the fridge.
    • If you want to thaw them the same day, place the scallops in cold water 1 hour before cooking them. To do this, fill a bowl or your sink with cold water and set the packet of scallops inside. Make sure the packet is completely sealed though so the water does not get inside.
      • Let the packet sit like that for up to 1 hour so the scallops can slowly come to room temperature. If you have unpackaged scallops, put them in a resealable bag before putting them in water. You also want to make sure that the scallops don’t get waterlogged, as it can affect their texture.
    • If you need to use them immediately, you can also defrost the the scallops in the microwave. Make sure to put the scallops in a microwave-safe container and cover them with a paper towel to prevent splatters and heat them evenly.
      • Use the defrost setting on your microwave in 30-second increments until they’ve completely thawed. If your microwave does not have a defrost option, you can also set your microwave to 30% power. 

    8. Serving Suggestions

    Before deciding how many scallops to consider per person, make sure you decide how you wish to serve the scallops. If you plan on serving scallops as a side dish, you may want to count at least 3 to 4 large scallops per person.

    If you are serving this as a main, you want want to double this quantity and serve 6-8 large scallops per person. 

    What can you serve pan-seared scallops with?

    • Personally, I love serving scallops with something like a fresh salad. A Mexican corn salad or an arugula-zucchini salad pairs perfectly with this.
    • Other greens like asparagus, green beans, and broccoli also accompany scallops nicely.
    • Adding angel-hair pasta or sauteed zucchini noodles to the lemon caper sauce makes for a more filling entree.
    • Pan-seared scallops go very well with salty flavors that contrast their sweetness. You can try serving pan-seared scallops over some warmed lentil salad with bacon as well.
    • Steak and scallops are also a classic combo, loved by all scallop fans.
    • Scallops over creamy mashed potatoes or with simple roasted or grilled vegetables is also a yummy touch. You can try veggies like cauliflower, grilled summer squash and broccoli as they don’t overwhelm the delicate flavor of scallops. 

    9. Tips For Perfectly Pan-Seared Scallops

    While pan-searing scallops are rather quick and easy, there are some things to keep in mind when cooking them: 

    • Get your pan REALLY hot before adding scallops. It can even be lightly smoking. This will give you the perfect, golden sear.
    • Do not forget to pat your scallops dry with paper towels. Too much moisture is not a good thing when cooking scallops. All this moisture will release when the scallops hit the pan and result in soggy scallops.
    • DO NOT touch the scallops once they have been placed in the pan for at least 90 seconds. Then flip and cook the second side until it’s golden brown, for about another 90 seconds. 
    • If you cannot find a packet of dry scallops, lay them flat on a paper towel and then place a paper towel over them BEFORE cooking. Let them sit for about 10 minutes.
    • Make sure your pan does not have too much liquid because then the scallops will steam up and you won’t get the nice, golden sear that you desire.
    • If you do notice a lot of liquid in the pan, just stick the corner of a paper towel in the pan to soak it up.
    • To determine whether the scallops are done, wait for them to begin to turn opaque. This means that they are just about finished. You want to let 90% of the scallop cook on the first side. Once all but the top of the scallop is opaque, flip it and finish cooking on the other side for another minute. 

    10. Nutritional Value

    Did you know scallops are more than 80% protein? There are about 20 grams of protein in just 3 ounces of scallops. Scallops are also a great source of magnesium and potassium. 

    Pan-Seared Scallops

    Calories

    263kcal

    Fat

    20g

    Saturated Fat

    8g

    Carbohydrates

    3g

    Protein

    19g

    Cholesterol

    127mg

    Sodium

    317mg

     

    11. Frequently Asked Questions About Pan Seared Scallops

    How long should I sear my scallops?

    Searing scallops is a rather quick task. They take just 4 to 5 minutes to cook. You can sear scallops in a skillet for about 2-3 minutes on each side and they’re done.

    What color should scallops be?

    Scallops normally fall in the milky white to the coral pink range. However, this has no effect on the taste of the scallop. If the scallops look dull and gray, they are probably old. You may want to avoid these. 

    What do scallops taste like?

    Scallops have a tender, buttery texture just like crab or lobster. Some scallops have a slightly nutty flavor, similar to almonds or hazelnuts. This unique, delightful flavor makes scallops a tasty ingredient in the seafood meats range. 

    How do you tell if pan-seared scallops are done?

    To determine whether the pan-seared scallops are done, you can: 

    • Look for a golden-brown color to appear as you sautee the scallops in a pan or skillet. Once the pan side of the scallop is golden-brown, flip the scallop. 
    • When the scallop is golden-brown on both sides, consider it done. 
    • Also, look for the scallops to turn opaque and break apart slightly along the edge. 
    • Check the texture and make sure it’s not too soggy. 

    What's the best oil to cook scallops in?

    For pan-frying scallops, you will want to use vegetable oil that has a high smoke point. Some examples of such oils are safflower oil, grapeseed oil, or extra virgin olive oil.
    You can also use clarified butter or ghee to sear scallops. This will bring a rich flavor to the dish. 

    Do you have to wash scallops before cooking or searing them? 

    Yes, you must give the scallops a quick rinse under cold water. This will help remove any dust or grit that may be stuck on the scallops. But don’t forget to pat dry the scallops to get the perfect golden-brown sear. 

    How do you make a good sear on a scallop?

    To get a good sear on your scallops add the butter and oil to a 12-14 inch skillet on high heat. Salt and pepper the scallops. Once the fat or oil begins to smoke, gently add the scallops. You should hear a sizzling sound. Also, make sure the scallops are not touching each other.
    Sear the scallops for 1½ to 2 minutes on each side and ta-da…your pan-seared scallops are ready!   

    How long will scallops last in the fridge?

    Two days MAX! When scallops are fresh, they will have a sweet ocean smell. When scallops begin to spoil, they will take on the typical stinky fish smell. 

    How to store pan-seared scallops?

    • You can store sauteed sea scallops for 2-3 days in the refrigerator. 
    • To reheat scallops, heat up a skillet until warm so you don’t overcook them. 
    • Freezer scallops for 2 to 3 months. Remember to thaw it in the refrigerator before reheating. 

    Why won’t my scallops sear?

    There are a few reasons why your scallops won’t sear the way you want them to: 

    • It can be because you purchased the wrong type of scallops. If you got “wet scallops”, they will be impossible to sear. 
    • You may have forgotten to pat dry the scallops before cooking them. 
    • Another reason can be that your skillet is not hot enough. 
    • And lastly, it can be because your pan or skillet is overcrowded. Scallops need some room to sear. Remember to leave at least ¾ of an inch between them.
    Written by Himani Vaid
    Toronto-based food nerd turned food storyteller, Himani is a connoisseur of all things delish. Currently, busy thinking about what to eat next.

    Delicious Pan Seared Scallops

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