Scallops are expensive, elegant, and fragile, but somehow quick and easy at the same time. Searing scallops is a simple matter that requires only a few techniques; after they're done perfectly, you can get creative with sauces. Here's how to cook scallops.
- Look for “dry” scallops that are off-white in color: They aren’t chemically treated, allowing them to caramelize naturally during searing. Avoid “wet” scallops that are plumped, stark white in color, and treated with preservatives like phosphates—they’re bland in flavor and will not brown properly when seared.
- Before you sear scallops, make sure they are very dry by patting off any moisture with paper towels. Dry-packed scallops are best, but if you're using injected or thawed scallops, use a bunch of paper towels and let the scallops sit to allow the moisture to leach out as well as it can.
- Season the scallops with salt and pepper, or dredge lightly in seasoned flour.
- Heat a pan well, and sear in oil or clarified butter over medium-high heat until they're nicely browned, then turn.
- It's important not to overcook them or they will become rubbery; they only need a few minutes on each side and should be just opaque in the middle.
- For a pan sauce, you can alter to make more tangy, spicy, or tart according to your taste, remove scallops from the pan after searing. Add wine or your liquor of choice (such as Pernod), a splash of heavy cream, herbs, a little spritz of citrus juice, and cold butter; reduce for a few minutes; serve.
- Another idea is to create a syrup by reducing one cup of orange juice, one cup of pomegranate juice, a bit of sugar, and a bit of balsamic vinegar. Place the seared scallops atop wilted spinach and drizzle it on.
Discuss: Suggestions for Pan Searing Scallops? Now try our favorite recipes:
1. Seared Scallops with Lemon and Vodka
You can enjoy fresh and bright flavors with creamy-herb textures simultaneously in this rendition. Then just toss it with some spaghetti. Done. Get our Seared Scallops with Lemon and Vodka recipe.
2. Seared Scallops with Fava Bean Sauté
Of course bacon is the best flavor accompaniment to scallops. But if you want a satisfying scallop meal rather than a scrumptious scallop appetizer, then you need more. Add a sauté of favas, sugar snap peas, and tarragon and you'll have just that. Get our Seared Scallops with Fava Bean Sauté recipe.
3. Scallops Crudo with Vanilla Salt
The Italian take on sushi, crudo requires the best-quality, freshest seafood. You're eating it raw, you know. So get day-boat scallops, which are the freshest around. with mint, lime, and vanilla salt (you'll need to buy that), it's quite a delicate way to handle a delicate mollusk. Get our Scallops Crudo with Vanilla Salt recipe.
4. Lemon Butter Scallops
It's really simple. Lemon juice, butter, garlic, and parsley make these tender morsels, seared a tad crusty on the outside, so luscious, all you need is some pasta and Parmesan and you're set. A salad might be good too, or some vegetable. Get the recipe.
5. Baked Scallops
Of course, searing isn't the only way to make scallops, although it may be the most popular way to go about it. But consider the New England-style suggestion of baking them with a buttery, crumbly topping. Get the recipe.
6. Broiled Scallops with a Parmesan Crust
Seriously, these look delectable. Swish them around in butter and olive oil and then coat in a bread crumb-Parmesan-paprika-parsley mixture, and broil. Top them on salad or eat them as an appetizer. Go ahead, pop 'em in your mouth. Get the recipe.
7. Seared Scallops with Lemony Farro and Arugula Salad
Throw a nutty, ancient grain and pepper, soft arugula together with the succulent, mild scallop, and then hit it with an acidic zest to awaken you to all that's in there. It's a combo you'll love, and it'll keep you full. Get our Seared Scallops with Lemony Farro and Arugula Salad recipe.
— Head Photo: Chowhound
— Amy Sowder wrote an updated 2016 version of Caitlin McGrath's 2010 article.
Amy Sowder is the assistant editor at Chowhound in New York City. She loves cheesy things, especially toasties and puns. She's trying to like mushrooms. Her running habit is the excuse for her gelato passion. Or is it the other way around? Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and her blog, What Do I Eat Now. Learn more at AmySowder.com.