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Pan seared scallops?

Mine could definitely be better! Any tricks, tips or recipes? Thanks

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  1. 1. You must use dry sea scallops; be sure to ask the fishmonger if they are.

    2. Remove the adductor muscle.

    3. It's easier to keep the sear on the scallop in a non-stick skillet (because more of the fond stays on the scallop). But a pan reduction is better in a non-non-stick skillet (for the same reason). I use two pans, one heavy non-stick the other heavy professional copper-exterior pan; the latter produces a much better sauce, the former has the nicest scallops. So I always use both.

    1. most home cooks don't allow their pans to get hot enough to successfully sear anything, and chemically-treated non-stick pans give off funky fumes when they get super-hot.

      pre-heat a well-seasoned cast iron skillet till it smokes. in the mean-time pat dry the scallops (this goes for all meat and fish, btw). generously season on both sides with salt and pepper. add oil to the pan. when it starts to shiver it's sufficiently hot. add the scallops one at a time and don't move them. you can see the bottoms start to brown. depending on how cooked you like them, flip them over and cook some more. depending on the size, they will cook in 2 to 3 minutes. remove them quickly and let rest for a few minutes on a dishcloth before plating and saucing.

      1 Reply
      1. re: hotoynoodle

        A good post. I place my scallops in a cookie sheet lined with a double layer of paper towels and then cover them with another layer of paper towels. I gently press and pat them dry and then do as you said.
        Just made them that way on Wednesday night and they came out great!

      2. What do you scallop-searers out there think re: a quick dredge in flour or corn starch?

        Most eea scallops at the fish counter or even the seafood store have been previously frozen then defrosted. Knowing this, what do you think about Trader Joe's frozen scallops sold in the bag?

        p.s. -- If you really get a heavy-bottomed pan hot enough, two to three minutes is probably too long. As the previous poster says, put them down, leave them alone, turn when brown (not black), very quick on the other side, and out. Otherwise they get tough and rubbery.

        11 Replies
        1. re: nosh

          I find deep-frozen seafood notably slack in texture and resilience, and also prone to exuding moisture (fatal for searing) and therefore drier at the end (in a bad way). Kept on ice is far better. Use frozen scallops for other purposes.

          1. re: nosh

            If you use flour, use Wondra, it's much lighter than regular AP flour and works very well.

            1. re: rtmonty

              Good dry sea scallops do not need to be dredged in anything to achieve a nice crisp and caramelized exterior, as long as you use a hot pan and don't crowd the pan. In fact, I would not dredge at all since you don't sear all sides of the scallop and even if you only dip top and bottom in the flour, there is bound to be some uncooked flour on the final product.

              1. re: laguera

                Agreed. It's the mark of the superior scallop. You never get more than you pay for in this regard.

                The only thing superior in scallopdom are Nantucket bay scallops, the season for which started this week.

                1. re: Karl S

                  Don't forget Peconic Bays scallops, hope they have them this year!

                  1. re: coll

                    Don't know where you are but Grace's Marketplace in NYC has them & they are as fabulous as even. One day, I plan to have a side by side tasting of Peconics & Nantuckets...Do you prefer one to the other?

                    1. re: fauchon

                      I only prefer Peconics out of loyalty, because I live on the East End of Long Island. They almost died out from red tide and pollution but I have a fish store that usually has some when in season, otherwise they always have local dry for around $8. But if they don't have Peconics, I'll take Nanucket any day...the one thing I've still never tried is fresh shrimp, I think the season for ones from Maine is around now too? I should start looking.

                      1. re: coll

                        OMG! Grace charges $35 per lb...therefore a rare & expensive treat for us! Which EE fish market do you use? There's one in Mattituck (I think) that's wonderful...

                    2. re: coll

                      Aren't those beds closed now? I would have mentioned them but I konw the beds were closed for a while.

                      1. re: Karl S

                        politely butting in....I was told this summer that they'd been reopened this year but that the season would be short...

                        1. re: fauchon

                          (Sorry, I had to work this afternoon, just got back) No, the beds have been open for several years with very limited quantity, some years the fishermen keep them all for themselves! If I'm lucky I get them for around $20-25 lb. But I can always get the dry local scallops for the lesser price, just that they're all different sizes which is fine with me. I always use Mastic Seafood in Mastic (by William Floyd), their prices are the best and the fish is gorgeous. Brauns in Mattituck has great quality too but you pay dearly for it.

            2. Buy as fresh as possible. Make sure they are dry before searing. Pat them down completely. Moisture prevents a good sear.

              1. I dip my scallops in buttermilk and dredge in seasoned flour and cook in a mix of olive oil and butter - very hot pan, qick cook and they turn out great. My husband dislikes scallops and loves them when I make them.

                1. I agree with the iron skillet method. Little butter, little olive oil, real hot, dry them off, pop them in there for a few minutes--if it's hot enough, and you're using a well-used iron skillet, it should be reasonably non-stick. Good scallops don't need much. Little lemon at the end, and you're good to go.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: bakingstoned

                    Bakingstoned, you suggested the same tips I was going to offer up. A little butter definitely helps give the scallops a nicer color and a squeeze of lemon at the end gives it a nice tang. I feel like seared scallops are among one of the easier things to make. Salt and pepper and a hot pan and you're good to go!

                    1. re: bakingstoned

                      They will brown better (and taste delish) cooked in a combo of oil AND butter. Remove scallops from pan when brown, deglaze pan with lemon juice for a few seconds and swirl the scallops back in the pan quickly for a few more seconds.

                      1. re: missclaudy

                        if the pan is as hot as it should be, the butter will scorch and burn. you can melt butter on the side, and pour it over the scallops when you remove them from the pan.

                        1. re: missclaudy

                          That's what i like to do, too. but here's my problem. scallops definitely brown better in cast iron, but i can't deglaze my cast iron pan with lemon juice due to the bad reaction, it will all turn grey.

                          how do others solve this problem?

                          1. re: missmasala

                            A well-seasoned pan can take momentary--even more--exposure to lemon juice. There are numerous threads on seasoning pans--all I can say is don't scrub them well. I clean mine with water and a plastic puff thingy. If cooking with acid I rinse immediately after, just flush with water, maybe add a little oil to the hot wet pan while I go eat dinner.

                      2. I've used the frozen ones from TJ's a couple of times. If you are very careful and dry them very well, normally a couple of times, they will sear up very nicely. BUT, the drying part is essential. And, no crowding in the skillet, that would be a smokin' hot skillet.

                        Then, like singlebuychef said, a little butter along with a little olive oil, some salt and pepper, squeeze of lemon and enjoy. Love them like that in salads, 3 nice scallops on some great greens, drizzle of vinegarette.

                        1. I buy dry scallops and just throw them in a pan with a bit of canola oil between medium and med high, they brown very easily.

                          My biggest frustration is in the juices lost in the browning, the "fond" on the pan, what's the best thing to do to reclaim this lost flavour? I've added stock/wine with thyme and this isn't bad, but I'd be interested in what other people suggest.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: steinpilz

                            A little white wine, some lemon juice and butter, makes the perfect sauce. I also think tarragon goes nicely with scallops.

                            1. re: rtmonty

                              I like to plate the scallops on top of mesclun and pour the sauce over all.

                            2. re: steinpilz

                              I deglaze with balsamic vinegar. They make a nice tart contrast to the sweetness of the scallops.

                              1. re: cheryl_h

                                Thanks, these all look great and I will try them.

                            3. If you sprinkle the tiniest bit of sugar over the surfaces that will be seared, that aids carmelization and provides a nice crisp surface that isn't as likely to get soft by the time you eat it. This is also useful for any firm-fleshed fish that you sear, especially the sweeter white fish.

                              As others have said, wait until the searing side starts to brown before moving it. Searing flesh eventually releases from the pan, but if you try to move it before it is ready it will stick.

                              1. This was interesting. I agree that the #1 rule is to use dry scallops. I live in New England where the Hannaford chain sometimes has them for $10.99/lb. I was surprised at how hot people like their pans to be. I use a Cooking Light recipe: dredge the scallops in flour seasoned with majoram etc and deglaze the pan with balsamic vinegar. The first time I cooked the recipe I thought the pan was too hot with the tendency to blacken the bottom while the middle was not quite done. Since then I use medium heat. My saute pan is stainless steel with heavy bottom made by Cuisinart in the 80s. I have an electric stove. The scallops I get are quite large.