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Scallops - what am I doing wrong?

I'm a pretty good cook and I must say that most things I make turn out yummy :-) But I have never been able to cook scallops. I buy fresh, good quality ones so it's not the quality of them. I read they need to be be dry --- so tonight I dried them between 2 paper towels and attempted to sear them in olive oil/butter. No sear action!!! Just a white liquid in the pan. They were edible, but did not have a crusty layer - like the ones I had at a restuarnt last week. Please help!!! What am I doing wrong?

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  1. Sounds like your pan was not hot enough, you need to get your buuter/oil mixture sizzling, and then not sizzling - but not browning - when this happens it means all the moisture has evaporated from your butter (the oil keeps it from burning too quickly) put in your dried scallops - that part was correct, and brown them quickly on both sides. Don't worry about undercooking them, they will continue to cook on your serving plate because of the residual heat. With seafood, it's better to "err on the side of caution"

    1. Here's my technique.

      Very hot steel pan.
      Little grapeseed oil(or canola if you need)
      Seasoned scallops in pan, dried off is good.
      If they dont go "tssssssss" your pan is not hot enough.
      After about 20 seconds, throw in your butter, place pan in hot oven. 425 deg. Do not turn over.
      Roast for 2-3 minutes, assuming you are using large scallops.
      Take pan out of oven, turn scallops out and check out your deep dark golden brown "one side seared" scallops!

      1. you are using the wrong oil. You have to use corn oil or vegetable oil. even if your pan is so hot that its going to catch on fire olive oil will not make it crispy because it doesn't hold temperature as high as corn oil. olive oil is good for salad. corn oil is good for sear and frying. you should also dredge the scallop in light flour for a light crust.

        3 Replies
        1. re: jasmine802

          No need to dredge in flour if proper technique is employed.

          1. re: formerlyfingers

            Thanks for your tips formerlyfingers and everyone else. I see some areas where my technique can be imporved.

            A follow-up question if you won't mind: I was using previously frozen Mexican bay scallops that, based on who I bought them from, I believe were dry not wet (am I being naive?). Still, they gave off a ridiculous amount of liquid.

            Would you say, as I have deduced here, that I have a limited time to get that seared crust on and that I need to do that in a sufficiently hot pan and then, when any liquid is thrown off, I'll already have the crust in place?

            1. re: NYChristopher

              If they have been frozen they will be wet - even if they were once dry. Dry scallops refers to the fact they they were never put into a preservative "bath" on the boat - thus dry scallops are often called day boat scallops because they have to come in every day if they don't put them in preservative. You can appoximate dry by drying them but it won't be the same.

        2. NO coated pan! - Steel all the way, and very hot!

          1. There's another definition for "dry scallops" meaning scallops that have not been soaked in sodium tripolyphosphate ('wet scallops"). Such soaking is common practice for scallops. It helps them retain moisture, which makes them "look better" to some consumers and also prevents them from losing water == weight == market profits.

            It is really pretty difficult to properly sear a "wet scallop"... paper towels won't get you there. The result you describe is typical, as the excess moisture pools in the pan.

            I'd make absolutely sure you aren't buying treated scallops.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Pincho

              I have to agree with Pincho. It doesn't sound like you are doing anything wrong. It sounds like it is the Scallops.

              After I peel off the little white muscle I season my scallops with S&P. The scallops, if they are fresh, should not need to be dried off.

              I heat a little butter and EVOO in the pan, let it get hot, then put in the Scallops. When they are opaque half way through, turn them over.

              That's it.

              1. re: Fleur

                I'll agree with this as well. "Good quality" leaves me wondering what exactly you purchased. Unless you are 100% sure that the scallops you're buying are dry, I'd buy frozen scallops in the bag at your local grocery store. These aren't the same as true dry scallops, but my experience with them has been much better than the dreadful grocery store case. For one, they aren't sitting in a refrigerated case for hours or days on end.

              2. re: Pincho

                Right. That milky discharge is a clear indicator of "wet" scallops. Make sure the scallops you buy are called "dry" or "diver" scallops in the store.