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Apr 24, 2010 06:34 PM

White and brown scallops - what's the difference (not wet vs dry!)?


I went to buy some scallops today and the selection included some that were very light, and others that had a more sandy colour. They are well dry scallops. The fishmonger didn't know the difference and neither did I so I bought some of each. The whiter ones were much sweeter and more tender, whereas the brown were a lot more meaty, and seemed much less pleasant to me. I wonder if anyone knows what the actual difference between these types is? They all smelt good, and were all apparently freshly caught.



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  1. Hmm. I've never noticed any brown-ish colored scallops but you made me curious, so I did some googling. Didn't find much of anything on the subject.

    " When shopping for fresh or thawed scallops, look for ivory or creamy-colored meats, even as dark as a light tan; a stark, bleached white can be a sign of heavy phosphate treatment. There should be little or no milky liquid in the tray, another sign of heavy soaking. In fact, the best dry-packed scallops are often a bit sticky. A fairly strong sweet-briny aroma is also not a problem, but a fishy or sour smell indicates spoilage."

    That paragraph seems to imply that darker ones are preferable as they are less likely to have been treated with chemicals. Then again, it stipulates "as dark as a light tan", so maybe anything darker is indicative of spoilage or something else?

    6 Replies
    1. re: sonia darrow

      I've noticed this color thing myself from time to time; every now and again I bump into a "pink" scallop. I used to toss them away (I had a lot of bad experiances with food posioning due to bad scallops in my chilhood, so I tend to be super cautios around them)

      On a related issue whenenver I go to chinatown I see large bins of dried scallops for sale. In every bin most of the scallops are a dark yellow tan (the normal color of dried scallops)However in many of the bins there are a few scallops whose color can only be described as bright orange. one Chinese friend of mine claimed that, should I ever actually need to buy dried scallops I should make a point of trying to get these orange ones, he clains they will give the food a deeper flavor. Any one out there who can corim this?

      1. re: jumpingmonk

        OK, I did a bit more google research and found this (for the OP's question):

        "With respect to colour, scallops should have firm, white flesh with a slight shine to them and no evidence of browning"

        The same webpage says that bay scallops can have a pink tinge and sea scallops can have an orange tinge. The orange tinge is from algae they eat. So I guess it could give the scallops more flavor like your friend said. It doesn't say why the bay scallops are pink, but it seems to be a normal characteristic. As long as they're not brown, I guess.

        1. re: sonia darrow

          I remember reading somewhere that orange tinged scallops are sweeter than the ivory ones...but I can't say whether this came from a reputable source or not, just something I recall. The scallops I've bought at the store occasionally have an orange tinge to them, but they've tasted the same after being cooked.

          1. re: bluemoon4515

            I own a Retail seafood market on Hilton Head Island, SC. I buy dry day boat scallops from a 'Day Boat' Company that are flown-in daily out of Barnegat Light, NJ. We do not scallop in SC. I was also interested as to why there were color differences in each gallon of scallops. I was quite amazed that the simple diffrence is the female scallops are the brown, or orange-where the males are the more white color. As I started to realize, I also see this in our local mussels and clams. I do find the female, darker colored variety of all of the three are sweeter and more succulent. As said above, they should all have a 'sticky' texture, and have a nice sheen. Very much worth the extra$$. I hope this helps!

            1. re: tonyabythe shore

              The orange coloration that you see occasionally in deep sea scallops is due to the color of the eggs (roe). So Tonya's right, it's the females that show the orange or brownish tinge. The roe turns bright red-orange, and the pigment is absorbed into the adductor muscle (which is the only part of the scallop we usually see in the markets here in the States). The pigment is harmless, and you shouldn't throw the scallop out...It's perfectly good to eat.

      2. re: sonia darrow

        The milky liquid is a natural secretion of scallops in summer months. That is NOT an indicator of heavy processing. If you see scallops in a market that are in a greyish liquid and the scallops are very glossy looking, they have been more than likely soaked in tri-poly phosphate. The "brown" scallops are not great to bring to the dock. Very hard to market. Not sure what causes the browning, some think it's age. If had the misfortune of one of our vessels bringing in a large quantity of those. Not good at all. They will not bring top dollar and are difficult to market. I've been in the scallop business for about 20+ years and we own a fleet of sea scallop vessels.