How to Cook Scallops: Bake, Broil, Sear and Grill

Cooking Scallops

There are many ways to prepare these delicate sea morsels. The most popular way to cook scallops is to coat them end-to-end with your favorite spice blend and then sear them in a hot pan. They cook quickly so make sure that you don’t overcook them or they will dry out, lose their juices and crack the spice coating.

Because scallops are high in moisture content, it is easier to adhere a coating to them by adding cornstarch to the spice mixture.  You can prepare them in various different ways. Skewered with shrimp, Cajun seared with wasabi cream or in a pesto sauce with linguini or a simple golden crust pan sear with melted butter. Scallops are an excellent source of protein and did you know, have fewer calories than poultry.

How to Cook Scallops
Perfectly Seared Sea Scallops served with asparagus Parmesan risotto by Saucy Beard BBQ

Scallops go well with all kinds of sauces and spices, but simple cooking is the best way to enjoy. Learn how to cook scallops at home, including searing, baking, broiling, and grilling. Fresh raw scallops can also be cooked in lime juice served ceviche.

Scallop Handling and Care

Important: Do not allow raw and cooked scallops to come into contact with each other.

  • Plan to cook fresh-shucked scallops on the day of purchase. Scallops are especially prone to spoilage.
  • Keep shucked scallops in their own sealed container at a temperature of 38 ℉ (note you may have to adjust your refrigerator). Scallops can be put on ice, but keep the scallops in a sealed bag.
  • Refrigerate fresh scallops for up to 2 days.
  • Sea Scallops freeze better than most seafood. Simply place scallops in a plastic container and top with milk before freezing. Never refreeze defrosted scallops.

Scallops Preparation

  • Gently rinse scallops under cold water for a few seconds to remove any sand or grit. Never soak scallops since they will absorb the water! 
  • Some recipes suggest cutting large scallops in half to present them in a fan-shape but never cut scallops along the grain. The grain is from the top to the bottom of the scallop since they have a tendency to fall apart when cooked. Slice scallops horizontally. The large size makes sea scallops a natural for the grill. Rather than cutting large scallops, buy a smaller size; it will be cheaper.
  • Remove the little tab-like (tough) muscle on the side of the scallop before cooking. This side muscle is called the foot and has no flavor.
  • Always dry scallops before cooking. Pat dry using a clean kitchen towel. Be careful with paper towels since they have a tendency to stick to the scallop and create a mess! To extract any extra moisture season with salt on the top of the scallops.

Important: Do not microwave scallops – they can explode at higher settings!

How Many Scallops to Serve?

One pound of scallops would be an appetizer serving four or as a main course for two. Much depends on the scallop size as well and the type of dish prepared. For example our U-10  sea scallops are 1-1/2 to 1- 3/4 ounces each. You will average about 10 scallops to a pound! Two to three of these large scallops per person is a nice serving.

Shop Scallops

How to Cook Sea Scallops

Scallops need little cooking, only enough to make the translucent meat opaque. Though they may be large, sea scallops still cook quickly, so keep a close eye on them. Be careful, overcooking them can ruin the texture. With your finger, gently press on the scallop. If it has a little spring, it’s ready. If it is firm or stiff– it’s overdone! For most recipes, cooking for 2-3 minutes on each side is more than enough!

Do not cook scallops and re-heat later, you’ll just have tough scallops!

How to Sauté or Sear Scallops

Scallops cook quickly so make sure you don’t overcook them or they will dry out and lose their juices. Good dry scallops will brown quickly and form a golden crust when sauteing. It is almost impossible to achieve a good sear on a treated scallop.

Pro Tip: To get the perfect golden brown sear on your home stove try to make your dry scallops even dryer! Place sea scallops on a plate with a napkin underneath. Sprinkle with sea or kosher salt and let sit for about 10 minutes. This will draw out any additional moisture.

  1. Heat 2 tbs. olive oil in a heavy nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When cooking in butter or oil, do not put scallops in the pan until the pan is already very hot. If you add the scallops before the pan is hot you risk the chance of overcooking them. Try not to crowd the pan.
  2. Season scallops on both sides with salt and pepper. You can also coat scallops end-to-end with your favorite spice blend.
  3. Do not move scallops around the pan; and resist the urge to turn them too soon. Wait until they form a nice caramelized crust.
  4. Sauté 2-3 minutes or until scallops turn milky white or opaque and firm. Only turn once. Again, don’t overcook as they will become tough, stringy and lose flavor.

Grill Scallops

Because scallops are high in moisture content, it is easier to adhere to a coating to them by adding cornstarch to a spice mixture. You can also poach scallops for about a minute to prevent them from sticking to the grill. Cook large sea scallops on a hot grill for no more than 3-4 minutes. Try them grilled on a skewer with shrimp!

Broil Scallops

Turn on broiler. Brush scallops with olive oil. Sprinkle with lemon pepper and garlic powder. Broil about 5 minutes until scallops are opaque. Serve with lemon wedges.

Baked Scallops

The scallop shell itself can be used for individual baking dishes since they hold up to high oven temperatures. Be sure to check our recipe for classic baked scallops.

Want to learn more about the incredible sea scallop? See our Scallop 101 Guide for scallop history, facts, and buying tips.


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