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Pan-Seared Scallops

Pan-Seared Scallops

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  • 1/4 Pound bacon, finely diced
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Pound sea scallops, such as Alaskan
  • 1/2 Meyer lemon


Pre-heat a cast-iron skillet over medium heat and add the bacon. Cook until crisp and the fat has rendered, about 10 minutes, and remove with a slotted spoon and allow the bacon to cool on a paper towel. Meanwhile, melt the butter and the oil into the bacon grease. Add the scallops and cook for 60 seconds on one side — do not touch. Flip scallops, squeeze over lemon juice, and cook for another 60-90 seconds, or until scallops are just firm to the touch. Remove from heat, plate, and pour pan drippings over the top of the scallops. Serve.

Nutritional Facts


Calories Per Serving127

Folate equivalent (total)10µg2%

How to Perfectly Pan Sear Scallops

Do you want to make Pan Seared Scallops that have a golden-brown, crispy outside crust, with no burnt-flavors just the way you expect at a high-end restaurant! They’re easy to make at home and less expensive than eating out. So, What kind of pan is best for searing scallops?

A pan that retains heat well, like cast iron or any quality bonded pans (all clad, high carbon steel, etc.), the common rule of thumb is the heavier the pan, the better it will retain its heat. You want to use vegetable oil with a high smoke point above 450°F, like Avocado or Grapeseed oils are best for pan-searing scallops.

Do not use nonstick pans because, typically, you can’t get the pan hot enough between 450- 500 °F required to sear scallops without damaging the nonstick coating.

Scallops come either wet or dry buy the dry ones. Wet sea scallops have been treated with a chemical solution to preserve them, giving off-taste. If you aren’t sure if the scallops are wet or dry, ask your local supermarket fishmonger if frozen, read the package label. Always wipe your sea scallops dry with a paper towel because moisture will stop them from browning.

My favorite pan to sear scallops is a Non-Stick Fry Pan from All-Clad, a Safe PFOA-free Non-Stick Fry Pan available at Amazon. Great for cooking at higher heat with oils to develop foods with full, rich flavor, color, and crisp texture.


  • Start out by rinsing off the scallops after you’ve taken off the side muscles. Make sure you dry them completely (I use paper towels or a clean dish towel for this) or they won’t brown properly or get a good sear when you sauté them. Add dashes of salt and pepper to season them.
  • Put your cast iron or nonstick skillet on the burner on high heat and then add your butter and olive oil to it.
  • Set your scallops in the pan in a single layer with a spatula or tongs (be careful, because the butter and oil will spit in a hot pan.)
  • Sear scallops for 1 minute on both sides and then lower the temperature to medium heat. (Do not move the scallops as they’re cooking, they won’t get as browned as they should).
  • Add the garlic, then cook for another 20 seconds.
  • Move the scallops to a plate and serve them up.

Pan Seared Scallop Flavor Variations

  • Lemon juice or lemon wedges: adding just a little citrus to fish amplifies the natural flavor and goes great with the garlic and butter and makes a great pan sauce. For some texture, you can use lemon zest as well.
  • White wine: use white wine with melted butter and olive oil mixture to give the scallops a very different flavor.
  • Shallots or chives: try finely chopping up these onion varieties if you want to give this dish a kick.
  • Parmesan: sprinkle a little parmesan onto the scallops right before you take them out of the pan and let the leftover heat melt it for a mild but delicious addition.

What to Serve Pan Seared Scallops with:

  • Creamy Garlic Mashed Potatoes: rich and creamy, with garlic notes that will match the scallops, this mashed potato recipe is a winner. : this is a lighter side dish that still brings out the garlic, butter flavors. But then again, this squash goes well with almost anything. : fun to make, pretty to look at, tasty to eat. All you have to do is cut them up, arrange them and roast them.


Scallops are basically only made up of water and protein, with a tiny bit of fat. They can be up to 80% protein with relatively low calories and, depending on what you cook them with, they have no carbs. They are also pretty obviously gluten-free. If you remove the butter in this recipe and just use olive oil, our pan seared scallops are a healthy, low-fat dinner. Another very good reason to eat them is because they’re delicious.


When buying your ingredients, look for large sea scallops. You can tell whether or not they are good a few different ways. Here are ways to tell if they are not good.

  • Shiny or wet-looking : This means they are not too fresh, unless you’re buying live ones that are in water when you get them. Wet scallops that have been out water for a long time are leaking something.
  • Soft : Scallops should be firm. Squishy scallops are a no-no. This means that the meat is not fresh and has started to go very bad.
  • Stinky : If you go to buy your scallops and they smell like old fish, that is a definite sign that they are at best not fresh and at worst a gastrointestinal nightmare. Fresh scallops should smell a lot like saltwater.


With proper preparation, you can eat some seafood raw. However, for our scallop recipe you definitely want the internal temperature to be 145 degrees F (62.7 degrees C), which is a universally safe temperature for cooked fish and shellfish, according to the USDA’s website. Cooking scallops is also a good way to make sure that bacteria is properly removed from your meal before you eat it.

  • Serve: for the good of you and your insides, don’t leave scallops at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
  • Store: you can store cooked scallops in the fridge for up to 3 days before it becomes a bad idea to eat them.
  • Freeze: if you keep them in an airtight container, cooked scallops are good frozen for up to 3 months.

Pan seared scallops are a great way to eat gourmet without paying the gourmet price. Even if this is your first time cooking, you’re sure to impress.

Scallops – Fresh vs Frozen

One of the questions I often get is “should I buy frozen seafood?” The answer is absolutely yes!

Fresh Scallops

Fresh seafood doesn’t always mean “fresh off the boat”. Sadly you have no way to know if the seafood was properly handled from the boat to the supermarket.

It’s best to purchase fresh seafood if you live in a coastal area or if you have a trustworthy fishmonger or you are near a thriving fish market near the ocean. Fresh scallops should smell fresh, not fishy and should be firm and white to beige in color with a pinkish hue.

Frozen Scallops

Now let’s talk about frozen seafood. Most fisherman flash freeze the seafood as soon as they catch it to preserve it. That means you are getting great quality seafood that has been handled properly. When purchasing frozen scallops, make sure they are IQF (Individually Quick Frozen). IQF scallops are easier to defrost.

Defrosting Scallops:

It is best to defrost scallops in the refrigerator overnight. Another way to thaw out scallops is to place them in a resealable bag (or keep them in the bag they came in) and place them in a bowl filled with cold water. Don’t put the frozen scallops directly in the water! Check after 15 – 20 minutes to see if they are completely thawed out.

Storing Scallops

Fresh scallops are best consumed the day you purchase them. However, they will keep in the refrigerator overnight. Ideally, scallops should be kept in the fridge covered on a bed of ice.

Frozen scallops will last in the freezer up to 3 months.


  • 5 scallions
  • 6 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 ½ cups uncooked long-grain white rice
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • 2 ¾ cups lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest, plus 2 seeded lemon slices (from 1 lemon), divided
  • 16 dry-packed sea scallops (about 1 ½ lb.)
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus more for garnish

Thinly slice white and light green parts of scallions. Thinly slice dark green parts to equal ¼ cup. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a saucepan over medium-high. Add white and light green scallions, and cook, stirring often, 1 minute. Add rice. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant and toasted, 2 minutes. Add wine. Cook, stirring constantly, until absorbed, about 30 seconds. Stir in broth and 1 teaspoon of the salt bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low cover and simmer until liquid is absorbed, 15 to 17 minutes. Remove from heat cover until ready to use.

While rice cooks, cut remaining 4 tablespoons butter into pieces. Place butter and lemon slices in a microwavable bowl. Microwave on HIGH until butter is almost melted, 30 to 40 seconds. Stir until melted remove and discard lemons. Cover lemon butter to keep warm.

Rinse scallops pat dry. Remove muscle from side of scallops discard. Season with pepper and remaining ½ teaspoon salt.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high. Add 8 scallops press gently with a spatula. Cook until bottom side is deep golden brown, about 4 minutes. Turn scallops over cook until slightly opaque in center, 3 to 4 more minutes. (Don&rsquot overcook.) Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels. Wipe skillet repeat with remaining oil and scallops.

Fluff rice with a fork stir in parsley and zest. Serve scallops with rice sprinkle with dark green scallion slices and additional parsley. Spoon lemon butter evenly over scallops before serving.

Cheese Fondue

Cheese fondue and scallops might sound like a weird combination, but it would probably be my top pick.

That Distinctive Flavor

A little trick to keep in mind is to make a fairly liquid fondue rather than a gooey one. To do that, raise the heat when it’s almost ready, add a splash of dry white wine, and give it a good stir.

Use the fondue as a base and place the scallops on top of it. A boiled potato can be added to the plate to add some starch to your meal.

Keys to Getting a Great Sear

Get &ldquoDry&rdquo Scallops

One of the things that I didn&rsquot realize was important when I first started making this dish was whether my scallops were dry or wet.

I was having wildly different results depending on where I got the scallops from and couldn&rsquot figure out why the same recipe wouldn&rsquot work twice.

As outlined in this post about the differences between wet and dry scallops, wet scallops are soaked in chemicals called phosphates.

The chemicals make wet scallops hold more water, which actually prevents them from getting a good sear.

As shown in the image below, when compared to dry scallops, the wet ones (on the left side of the screen) are whiter in color.

Wet vs. Dry Scallops Comparison from Fine Cooking

Use a sizzling hot pan

Ensure that your pan is hot. Adding the scallops to your pan too soon will cause them to soak up the cooking fat instead of getting a crispy sear.

Allow Butter (or your other cooking fat) to be your friend

Salted butter, or your other cooking fat, is your best friend.

Besides helping to crisp the scallops, butter can tell you whether your pan is too hot.

Put the butter in the pan and wait for it to sizzle. If your butter turns brown when you place it in the pan, then the pan is too hot.

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2. Sear the scallops

Pick a cast-iron skillet or a nonstick skillet if you don’t have a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet—beginners should probably avoid using a stainless-steel skillet since it may cause your scallops to stick and tear. Make sure your pan is big enough to fit the number of scallops you’re cooking—you want to make sure you can get them all in the pan in a single layer with plenty of space between each.

Before you put the scallops in, swirl a bit of olive oil onto the skillet and heat over medium-high heat until it’s very hot and shimmering. Then, using tongs, gently place your seasoned scallops in the pan and DO NOT TOUCH THEM until they are deeply golden brown on one side, about three minutes for an average-size scallop.

In a medium cast iron pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. If you're looking for a slightly rich flavor, add a small pat of unsalted butter to the olive oil.

When the oil is hot, add scallops. If the scallops are on the small side, sear them for about two minutes until browned. Don't turn over the scallops until the first side is browned. As much as possible, try and leave the scallops on their own for those two minutes.

After the scallops are turned over, brown them for another two minutes. For larger scallops, this might take three to four minutes instead. Note, if the scallops are sashimi grade you might prefer to sear the outside and leave the inside rare.

Plate the seared scallops on a small appetizer plate and drizzle the spicy onion sauce over the scallops.

How to Cook Scallops: An Easy Step-by-Step Guide

Wondering how to cook scallops at home? Like candy from the ocean, perfectly cooked scallops have a beautiful caramelized crust on the outside and are tender and sweet inside. Perhaps you’ve only enjoyed them in a restaurant, but we promise, fancy-looking pan-seared scallops aren’t just restaurant food. You can absolutely make them at home—even on weeknights!

A dish of sea scallops is a delicious and undeniably showy dinner that’s easier to make than it appears. Start to finish, you can prepare restaurant-worthy scallops with a pan sauce in less than 15 minutes. Serve them with some crusty white bread, a simple salad, and a bottle of chilled white wine, and you've got an almost-instant, completely elegant dinner for a romantic date at home. Or just, you know, a fancy-feeling Tuesday.

Pan-seared scallops don't need much to make them delicious, but a little butter-basting and pan sauce action certainly never hurts. You can push the flavors of this dish in different directions at three different stages of the preparation: seasoning, basting, and making the pan sauce. You don’t even have to follow a dedicated scallops recipe. Since so many flavor combinations work wonderfully with the sweet, rich flavors of scallops and butter sauce, you really can choose your own adventure, as long as you follow the four steps below.

Watch the video: How to Make Perfect Scallops. SAM THE COOKING GUY (September 2022).