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Why were my seared scallops so terrible?

  • p

So I made this (http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/rec...) on Friday. My first, and hopefully worst, attempt at searing scallops. When I first put them in, so much water came out that they didn't get any type of texture. Then, I took them out and did each one individually on the other side. That got a nice texture. But when I ate them, the crust tasted like pure salt. I had to cut off the crust to get anything edible. What did I do wrong? What are the secrets to searing scallops?

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  1. You bought scallops that had been packed in brine (as are most scallops sold in supermarkets). You need to find a source for "dry" scallops. These can be very difficult to find in some parts of the country, and they are very expensive. They are, however, remarkably good!

    3 Replies
    1. re: pikawicca

      I ordered "dry" scallops from freshdirect but DH complained that they were tasteless. I agreed. They *were* dry but almost tough in texture as well. I'm pretty sure the problem wasn't my cooking...something was definitely lacking in the scallops themselves. Do you know why or what could have happened?

      1. re: fauchon

        Try cooking the dry scallops for a very short time. I cook really large scallops in a well-heated saute pan over medium-high heat for one minute a side. Any longer and they dry out and get tough. The scallops should be transluscent in the center. If your scallops are smaller, try cooking one as a trial run.

      2. re: pikawicca

        Yeah, that's it for sure. A minor point - it's not really a brine, rather a solution of sodium tripolyphosphate that plumps the scallops up so they weigh more and also helps to preserve them. Disgusting practice, but as you say it's often the only game in town.

      3. I'd LOVE to know this too!

        1. I think your scallops had water added. It seems to be pretty standard treatment, unless they are specifically labelled "dry scallops". I usually salt mine heavily and leave them in a colander for at least an hour to draw water out. Then I rinse off the salt, pat dry with a paper towel and allow them to air dry before cooking.

          10 Replies
          1. re: cheryl_h

            Good idea! But I didn't realize you could leave seafood out for that long. Do you put it in the fridge? If not, do you know the outer limit for how long you can leave seafood out?

            1. re: pman

              You can put the colander in the fridge with a bowl under it to catch the liquid, same with air-drying later. If it's cool, I'll leave it in the sink. An hour won't do much harm.

            2. re: cheryl_h

              Thanks for the good idea. I'm going to try this. I always buy either Nantucket or Peconic Bay scallops and have been disappointed just as often as I've been thrilled. I'll definitely try your technique...

              1. re: fauchon

                Are you using bay scallops? I don't sear these, they're so small it's too fiddly to get right. I was referring to sea scallops. Though I expect salting would draw fluid out of bay scallops as well, just never tried it. I like bay scallops in ceviche.

                1. re: fauchon

                  If you've eaten 'dry' or 'day-boat' scallops at top restaurants, you will always be disappointed by the water injected scallops even if you removed some of the water by salting and leaving them out to disgorge. These scallops have a salty briny taste without any of the sweetness of 'dry' scallops. I think it is a waste of money.

                  1. re: PBSF

                    I agree that really fresh, unprocessed scallops have a flavor that can't be equalled by the injected variety. But they're very hard to find. So I use the treated ones and for everyday use, they're fine, just not stellar.

                  2. re: fauchon

                    i live in boston and have never been disappointed by nantucket bay scallops. they are little nuggets of heaven. am wondering where you live and how far they have been shipped?

                    they are so heavenly i basically eat them nearly raw.

                    i certainly have never had to drain them.

                      1. re: joycrcc

                        oh dear. even here they are usually over $20 pp, but i know they are less than 24 hours out of the ocean, untreated and certainly not frozen. i wouldn't even bother if i were that far away. they must be very spendy for you. if not, you're not getting the real deal and that may explain some too.

                        1. re: joycrcc

                          You can find quick-frozen dry-pack sea scallops in the midwest. (I'm in Indiana.) Properly thawed, they sear up fine. A good price around here is under $15 per pound. Best I've seen is maybe $11 per pound.

                  3. I agree with the other posters that it's not your cooking, it's the scallops. Most supermarket scallops are packed in water. They are tasteless and just blah. Unless you have a restaurant-quality supplier that can sell you day-boat scallops, I'd not try making scallops at home. Or you can try the salt method mentioned Cheryl, which sounds logical enough!

                    1. The ones you want, should be marked "Day Boat", "Dry Pack" or "Diver".

                      Cheers