Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
There is nothing like the full sensory experience of perfectly seared scallops. Learn step-by-step how to pan sear sea scallops. From the visually stunning appearance of the glistening alabaster bivalve crowned with a bronzed crust, to that delicate bite that is the sweetest taste of the sea, scallops are always a culinary treat. However, achieving that balance of color, crust, and texture can be intimidating to some. This article will help you easily feel like a rockstar in the kitchen by breaking down the process.
Wow your friends and family with your culinary prowess. Starting with the freshest New Bedford sea scallops, it only takes a little love and prep to sear up perfect scallops every time.
Tips for Seared Scallops
Have you ever wondered how chefs achieve those photo worthy scallops gleaming with their browned crowns? With just a few simple tips you can recreate Instagram worthy seared scallops at home.
- Dry – Make sure your scallops are thoroughly dry before placing them in your pan or on your griddle.
- Size – Searing works best with larger scallops. Pick scallops that are labeled jumbo or colossal. U10-20 scallops means that there will be 10 to 20 scallops per pound. Larger scallops can take the high heat without over cooking.
- Seasoning – Lightly season your dried scallops immediately before cooking them. A sprinkle of sea salt salt or kosher salt will help draw out any extra moisture lending them to a perfect sear.
- High Heat – Make sure your skillet or griddle is fully heated. If added too early the scallops will stick the pan. The oil should be slightly bubbling and dancing. If the pan isn’t hot enough, you will steam the scallops instead of searing them.
- Spacing – Don’t over crowd the pan or they will not brown properly. It’s better to sear scallops in batches than it is to fit them all into one pan. If they’re too crowded, they will steam.
- Abductor Muscle – Always remove the muscle on the side of the scallops. It becomes tough when cooked but is easily removed with your fingers.
- Touch – Use your sense of touch to let you know when to flip your scallops and also when they’re done. After one and a half to two minutes, check to see if your scallops easily release from the pan. if they do it’s time to flip. When they scallops are done, they will be firm to the touch but still spring back.
- Temperature – Your scallops are done when they’re internal temperature is between 115-120 degrees.
How to Buy Scallops
The key to the ultimate seared scallops begins with the scallops themselves. Here at LobsterAnywhere we only source the freshest wild caught, day-boat scallops. They’re hand shucked and flash frozen. Whether you’re searing scallops or making bacon-wrapped scallops, it all starts with picking the best mollusk.
- Dry Packed – Always purchase dry packed scallops. Wet pack scallops are soaked in sodium tripoly phosphate. Not only does this change the flavor and texture of the scallops but it also plumps them up with chemicals. Wet packed scallops will never achieve that beautiful, seared crust.
- Free of Additives – Scallops are a true delicacy of the sea. There should never be any additional ingredients to dilute their delicate and sweet flavor. When purchasing scallops, also look for scallops that that are free of additives and preservatives.
- Size – Because scallops cook so quickly, picking the right size scallops is important. Save the bay scallops for your soups and pastas. U10-20 sea scallops are the ideal size. This will allow you to sear both sides without overcooking them.
- Color – Occasionally you will come across scallops in shades of light orange or pink. Don’t shy away from these! It just means they’re female scallops and they are slightly sweeter.
See our complete guide for how to buy the best scallops.
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Tools for Seared Scallops
Armed with the right scallops, it doesn’t require fancy tools for decadent seared scallops. All you need is the ideal cooking surface, and an instant read digital thermometer. You can prepare these in your kitchen as you sip a cocktail or alongside your shrimp and lobster tails on the grill for the ultimate Maine Fresh Catch Dinner.
- Pan/Griddle – Always pick a cooking surface that can handle high heat. Cast iron pans, griddles, and stainless steel are ideal. Also pick a flat cooking surface. This will give you that even edge to edge crust.
- Instant Read Thermometer – When in doubt, temp check. Just like anything else, cooking scallops takes practice and eventually you will get the time down. In the beginning don’t be afraid to depend on the tried-and-true method of checking the internal temperature. Always check from the center of the scallop on the side and aim for between 115-120 degrees. Just like steaks, scallops have carry over cooking as well and will continue to cook even once they’ve been removed from their heat source.
- Paper Towel – A dry scallop is a happy scallop. Use paper towels to thoroughly blot your scallops dry before seasoning and cooking.
- Fish Spatula/Silicone Tipped Tongs – Scallops are delicate and can tear easily. Using the right tool to flip them will not only make the process seamless but also prevent any damage to the scallop. Fish spatulas are made especially for fragile fish fillets and delicate food like scallops. Unlike all metal tongs, silicone tipped tongs can easily grip items without the sharp metal digging in.
When it comes to celebrating this sweet bite of the sea, there is nothing wrong with keeping it simple. Especially when you’re perfecting the art of searing scallops, keeping your seasonings to a minimum will allow the flavor of the scallops to shine without becoming an overwhelming cooking process. Once you have mastered the art of searing scallops you can add them to dishes like lobster paella.
- Scallops – The star of the show. When you start with the best scallops, it only takes a couple of accents to allow them to shine.
- Salt/Pepper – Sea scallops are naturally sweet and don’t require a lot of seasoning. Fine sea salt will accent that sweetness without overpowering that flavor. A sprinkle of freshly cracked black pepper will give an earthy, yet mellow pop of heat. Pink peppercorn also pairs well with scallops, offering up a more floral note.
- High Smoke Point Oil – High heat is the key to achieving that golden bronze crust. Avocado oil, canola oil, and extra light olive oil all have high smoke points. This means they can take the high heat without burning and giving your scallops that acrid taste. In addition, ghee also has a high smoke point, giving you the flavor of butter but without the milk fats which tend to burn.
- Butter – Butter is completely optional but can added for extra decadence. You can add butter after you sear one side. Just be careful not to let it burn.
How to Make Perfect Seared Scallops
Pop open the bottle of bubbly and heat up your cast iron skillet. Cooking up scallops like a pro is not only easy, but it will allow you to have the restaurant experience in the comfort of your own home. And don’t forget, not only is it easy to cook scallops, it’s also easy to gift them for the holidays with LobsterAnywhere. Need more tips for cooking sea scallops at home? See our guide for grilling, baking, and broiling scallops.Print
- 1 pound scallops, U10-20
- 1–2 tablespoons oil, avocado, canola, ghee, or other high smoke point oil
- Fine Sea Salt
- Black Pepper
- 1–2 tablespoons butter, optional
- Heat a cast iron skillet, griddle, or stainless-steel pan over high heat.
- Use the mercury ball (water test) to gauge if the pan is hot enough to add oil. Just add a few droppletes of water on the pan and if they form into little tiny balls and roll off the pan you can add your oil. If the water droplet evaporates, the pan is not hot enough and the scallops will stick to the pan.
- Coat the bottom of the pan evenly with an oiled, folded up napkin.
- Pull off and discard crescent-shaped muscle on side of each scallop. This side muscle is also called the “foot” and it is tough and chewey.
- Use paper towel to thoroughly pat them dry.
- Lightly season both sides of your scallops.
- Once the oil is almost smoking, place your scallops into the pan, making sure the the wider, flatter side of the scallop makes complete contact with the surface.
- Allow the first side to cook 1 1/2-2 minutes before flipping. Turn scallops with tong one at a time. Don’t flip them until they easily release from the pan and have a nice golden crust.
- Cook the second side another 2 minutes. They should turn white and opaque on the sides and have a spring to the touch when they’re done. Turn scallops only once
- Additionally, you can reduce the heat to low and add butter, shallots, garlic, and/or herbs according to taste and baste before removing from the pan.
When in doubt, check the internal temperature of your scallops. They should be between 115-120 degrees. They will also feel slightly firm to the touch, but still spring back.
- Prep Time: 10
- Cook Time: 5
- Category: Seafood
- Method: Searing
- Cuisine: American
- Diet: Gluten Free
Keywords: pan seared scallops, seared scallops, sear scallops, scallop recipe, how to sear scallops
Frequently Asked Questions About Seared Scallops
Make sure you use sea scallops that are jumbo or larger. Smaller scallops and bay scallops with cook too quickly before you achieve that seared crust.
Always pick an oil with a high smoke point. This includes oils such as avocado, canola, and even ghee which is clarified butter. This will let you heat it to a high temperature without it burning and becoming bitter.
It depends on the size of the scallop but aim for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes on the first side, or until it easily releases from the pan.
Always cook your scallops to 115-120 degrees internal.
Always pick a pan that can take a high temperature such as cast iron or stainless steel. Cast iron griddles also work well.