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How do I Cook Scallops

  • j

I want to sear some large scallops I bought tonight for dinner tomorrow. I want to use as little as fat as possible. Basically I have most jarred spices under the sun, Pam, etc. What's a very easy way to sear. A step-by-step guide would be much appreciated.

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  1. Hopefully dry pack scallops. Pat them dry and heat a cast iron pan or SS skillet to medium hot. (No teflon, as it will not sear well.) Apply a paste of equal parts white miso and maple syrup to each scallop.

    Spray the pan with PAM and add 2T butter; when it is foaming add the scallops and sear 2 minutes per side. Remove them, and make a quick pan sauce:

    Deglaze the pan with white wine or sherry, and finish the sauce with herbs and butter.

    1. The biggest mantra is to have no fear. You need a skillet heated as high as it will go. The scallops need to be dry and seasoned. The barest drip of oil, put the scallops in, and let them go. There will be some smoking. The searing will first stick the scallops to the hot surface, but then they should release. The dark coloring adds flavor and complexity -- brown and speckled is good, black is burned. It is a delicate balance; overcooking turns scallops into rubbery erasers, undercooking is preferable since there will be carryover heat, just make sure you got the sear. You will be tempted to turn down the heat because you believe the smoke and sear and sizzle is too much -- resist that impulse, keep the heat high, and pull them off earlier.

      1. Butter.

        The only spice I would use is ground pepper, very finely ground.

        1. Here's my favorite method:

          Preheat oven to 475
          Clean and trim scallops
          Heat oil (enough to coat bottom of pan) in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat
          When hot, put in scallops; they should sizzle
          Transfer to oven
          Large scallops should be done in about 5 minutes; test for doneness either by cutting into one or by feel (firm but juicy)

          1 Reply
          1. re: jlafler

            I like this one, jlafler, I will give it a try. Thanks for the technique suggestion.

          2. Pat your scallops dry (with a paper towel)

            Heat up a non-stick frying pan (or a cast iron pan if you've got one)

            Add some olive oil, and make sure to get the oil very hot (just to the fringe of its smoking point)

            Place the scallops in the pan flat side down, don't overcrowd the pan with scallops or you'll end up with a steaming effect.

            Once the scallops are in the pan DO NOT MOVE THEM AROUND. Depending on the size, let them cook for about 2 minutes (3 to 4 minutes for larger scallops).

            After 2 minutes, flip the scallops and cook for about another 2 minutes. You should try to get a nice, brown crust on each side.

            Remove from pan and serve with whatever accouterments or sauces you've prepared.

            1. Great advice here right on down the line.
              The only thing to watch for is not to overcook them. Seared on the outside and just hot on the inside...heaven.
              Simpler is better, definitely.

              2 Replies
              1. re: The Professor

                I would concur, except I say 1 minute on each side.....

                1. re: galleygirl

                  Oh yeah, and even if they're 'dry' scallops, I wrap them in paper towels for a few minutes....Dry, dry, dry to get a nice sear....

              2. lightly dredging them in flour, shaking off excess before searing can produce a nice crust. I agree with galley girl about 1 min per side. Scallops are much better under cooked than over cooked, when over cooked they have a rubbery texture. I agree also that it is key to lt your pan heat up. It takes longer than you think, so turn on the fan and let it get very hot.

                1. All very nice suggestions thus far....

                  My contribution has to do with presentation of the scallops. After pat drying and before searing, do criss cross cuts on one side, the first side you intend to sear. This helps for two reasons:

                  1. it's a more visual presentation
                  2. any sauce you choose to accompany the scallop with will adhere better to its flesh

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: fourunder

                    I like to deglaze the pan with lemon juice, place the scallops over mesclun and pour the juices over all.

                  2. brine the scallops in cold water, salt, and sugar for about 30 minutes. pat dry, and either sautee about a minute and a half per side depending on size, and thickness in a sautee pan, or coat with oil, and throw on a roaring hot grill for about the same ammount of time, the brining will keep the scallops extra moist, and tender. Season with salt and pepper as well.

                    Just dont overcook them.

                    1. I don't know if you need any more information--people here all provided great advice. But a guest author at my blog recently posted about making scallops with orange butter and parsnips. You obviously don't have to do the whole thing, but she did spend some time talking about how to sear them. She doesn't use a lot of oil, pats them dry (like another person suggested) and only moves them once--to flip them over. Take a look at the link for some details and photos.


                      1. Every try them raw. They are fantastic!!!