How to Cook Scallops

Publish Date December 8, 2022 3 Minute Read

Scallops are known as a delectable dinner party fave…perhaps one you’d assume requires significant preparation. Yet they’re one of the easiest and fastest foods to make. Let’s learn about this succulent shellfish.

How to Cook Scallops

Here’s what you need to know about buying and cooking scallops at home.

What Are Scallops?

Scallops are a high-protein seafood. A typical 3 oz. serving has fewer than 100 calories and about 1 gram of fat, while boasting 20 grams of protein.

As with other seafoods, scallops also serve up heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids – more than 300 milligrams in a serving. They’re an excellent source of minerals, including selenium, zinc and copper.

Most scallops fall under 1 of 2 categories: bay scallops or sea scallops. You’re probably more familiar with sea scallops, the type commonly found in restaurants.

Sea scallops are caught year-round up to 200 meters deep in cold sea waters, and normally range from 1½-2" in diameter. They’re a little chewier than bay scallops, but they’re still tender and sweet. The smaller bay scallops, most with a diameter around ½", are found in shallow waters, bays and estuaries along the East Coast. Jumbo-sized sea scallops tend to be more expensive.

Preparation Tips

Scallops can be bought fresh or frozen, with frozen being the most readily available option.

You can refrigerate fresh scallops (set atop ice) for up to 2 days, but it’s ideal to cook them them on the day of purchase. If you buy frozen scallops, thaw them overnight in the fridge before preparing.

Scallops often have part of the side muscle attached. It looks like a little bump on the edge. This muscle is tough and it’s usually not eaten. It’s easily removed with a slight pull.

To prepare scallops for cooking, rinse briefly under cool water and pat dry using a clean kitchen towel. Avoid using paper towels, which might stick to the scallops.

Most recipes will specify whether you should use bay scallops or sea scallops. If the recipe doesn’t indicate which type of scallop to use, look for a photo. For cook times more than 5 minutes, sea scallops are your best bet.

How to Sear Scallops

Pan-seared scallops are the most popular preparation method. The key to cooking scallops is to cook them quickly without overcrowding the pan.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. You want the pan to be well heated before adding scallops. When you place them in the pan, be careful not to crowd. Cook on 1 side for about 2 minutes, flip, then cook another 1-2 minutes on the other side. When finished, they should be golden brown on the outside and tender on the inside.

Season scallops on both sides with salt and pepper. You can also coat scallops end-to-end with your favorite spice blend or a coat of butter. Serve immediately.

How to Broil Scallops

Broiling is another quick preparation method.

Turn your broiler to high and coat a shallow baking dish with olive oil. Place scallops in a single layer in the dish, being sure to leave space between each scallop. Brush with oil or butter. Broil 6-8 minutes, or until golden brown. For large scallops, you may need to flip halfway through the cook time to get a golden sear. Serve immediately.

How to Grill Scallops

The charred flavor of grilling pairs well with scallops’ sweetness and rich, buttery texture. Because scallops can overcook quickly, skewer them after you prepare and dry them. Skewered scallops are easy to get off the grill fast.

Heat a grill to medium-high heat. Brush both sides of the scallops with olive oil and season as you like. Place skewers directly onto the grill. Cook 3-4 minutes covered, flipping the skewers once halfway through. Serve immediately.

How to Serve Scallops

Scallops can be used in soups, salads, pastas, stir-fries and more. For a classic presentation, serve over pasta with olive oil, a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. You can also set them atop puréed cauliflower or root vegetables. If scallops are your entrée, serve alongside rice and a salad.

Scallops Recipes

Now it’s time to try scallops in some tasty recipes. For even more meal inspiration, visit our Meal Planning page. Or for more fresh food ideas, visit our blog.

More Easy Scallops Recipes