Big sea scallops, also called diver scallops are a wonderful treat when you can find them. Scallops cook quickly and can be served with many different sauces for a variety of flavor options. With a simple technique and the right pan, seared scallops are ready in minutes. Read this post for tips on how to buy and how to sear scallops.
How to Buy Scallops
When purchasing scallops choose “dry” scallops. Avoid scallops treated with a phosphate solution. A brilliant white color is often a giveaway. Not only do you pay for water weight, they don’t taste as good or brown as well. Ask the person behind the seafood counter if they’ve been treated.
Scallops should smell fresh and clean like the ocean, not fishy. Choose scallops that are the same size so they will cook at the same rate. Have the fish counter pick them out carefully and individually. Watch as they select your scallops so you get what you want. With big scallops, you may only need 3 per serving or about 4-5 ounces per person.
Scallops are best cooked within a day of purchase. I usually ask the fish counter to package them in an ice bag to transport home, then put them in the fridge on ice in a shallow dish until dinner time.
Tips for How to Sear Scallops
Unwrap the scallops and allow them to sit on the counter for about 30 minutes to get the chill off. Check to see if the abductor muscle is still attached (the “foot”). If it is, remove it. It’s chewy and not nice to eat. Some stores remove it for you. Dry the scallops with a paper towel.
A good non-stick pan makes searing scallops easy. My favorite is ScanPan. It’s also my go-to omelet pan. Check your non-stick pan before using, because if it’s scratched and the coating is flaking, it’s not safe to use. Toss it and invest in a new one. There are other options such as ceramic non-stick.
Season, Sear and Steam Finish
Sprinkle the scallops sea salt, pepper, granulated garlic or seasoning blend of your choice. Add a teaspoon of oil and heat the pan over medium heat until hot. Place the scallops in a single layer in the pan and don’t crowd them. They should sizzle when they hit the pan which tells you the pan is hot enough. Allow a golden crust to form. This will take a few minutes. Don’t disturb the scallops while they are searing. Watch your heat and turn down if needed. You don’t want them to burn.
After the golden crust develops, turn scallops over and splash in a little white wine, water or light broth. Quickly place a lid on and turn the heat to low. Scallops will steam finish in about 1-2 minutes.
- For Mexican flavors, serve with brown rice and tomatillo sauce or fresh salsa
- For the sweetness of summer, serve with Nectarine Chutney
- For Chinese flavors, brush the tops with organic Hoisin
- For Italian flavors, serve with pasta and a quick marinara
- For a taste of the tropics, serve with a fresh and fruity pineapple mango salsa
- For Asian flavors, try scallops topped with creamy almond butter sauce
How to Sear Scallops
- 1 - 1 1/4 pounds sea scallops
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
- 1 teaspoon oil olive, coconut, or avocado
- 1/3 cup white wine, light broth or water
- Pat scallops dry. Season top and bottom with salt, pepper, and granulated garlic. Add oil to a non-stick pan and heat over medium heat. When hot, place the scallops in a single layer in the pan. Allow scallops to cook until a golden brown crust forms, then turn carefully with tongs.
- Pour in the wine or broth, cover with a lid immediately and turn heat to low. Cook scallops about another 1-2 minutes. Scallops will be slightly translucent in the center when done. Do not over cook them.