Seared Scallops are incredibly easy to make at home and taste like they’re from a good seafood restaurant! Learn how to make seared scallops with a few simple tips and tricks to get the best results every time. Ten minutes is all you need to make restaurant quality (and even better) scallops!
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Scallops are a popular restaurant favorite for a few reasons. They’re incredibly delicious with their slightly sweet flavor and tender, delicate texture. Also, they’re ordered so often because as tasty as they are, so many people are afraid to make them at home! I’m here to tell you that your fears are unwarranted – making scallops at home is a whole lot easier than you may have thought.
A big element that scares many people away from scallops is the price. Scallops can be quite expensive, and the better the quality, the more expensive they get. With that being said, I get it – it’s scary to cook something expensive and fear that you may ruin it. But I’m here to reassure you that seared scallops are incredibly easy to make and they cook so quickly!
Sea scallops, olive oil, butter, garlic, salt, and pepper is all you need to make this entrée. If you’re feeling like adding a little more flavor, finish the scallops with some fresh parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice, but you don’t even need to do that. It’s a very simple seafood dinner that’s wonderful to serve during the summertime with a light vegetable side dish or a green salad.
Sea Scallops – Dry scallops are what you want for cooking seared scallops! Scroll down to my FAQ section for more info about what exactly that means and the different types of scallops you can purchase.
Olive Oil – You can use avocado oil instead if you’d like. I personally really enjoy the subtle flavor that good quality extra virgin olive oil lends the scallops.
Seasonings – Compliment the natural flavor of the scallops with just a few pinches of salt and black pepper.
Butter – Use unsalted butter. If you use salted butter, I’d recommend skipping the pinch of salt as a seasoning.
Garlic – It’s imperative to use fresh garlic only! Pre-minced or paste garlic will not yield the right aroma or flavor.
See recipe card for complete information on ingredients and quantities.
How To Make Seared Scallops
Step 1: Rinse the scallops off with cold water and gently pat each one dry with a paper towel. If there are any scallops that have the side muscle attached, simply remove it.
Step 2: Season the scallops with a little salt and pepper on both sides.
Step 3: Preheat a pan over medium-high heat and add olive oil. Let it warm up for just a minute.
Step 4: Place the scallops into the pan. Leave room between each one to ensure a good sear.
Step 5: Don’t touch the scallops until they’re ready to be flipped. Add some butter slices around the skillet and let them melt as the scallops cook.
Step 6: Sear the scallops for about 2 minutes. Flip each scallop in the same order they were placed into the pan. Add minced garlic.
Step 7: Let the scallops sear for about another 2 minutes before removing from the pan.
Step 8: Spoon some butter over the seared scallops and add an optional squeeze of lemon juice and sprinkle of fresh parsley.
Types Of Scallops and What Does It Mean
Dry scallops have not been soaked in any chemical solution and therefore are slightly darker in color. They will have the best natural taste through, no excess liquid, and cook beautifully. They’re the best scallops for searing because no excess liquid will come out to hinder the sear. (Note that there will be some natural liquids coming out, just not in excess.)
These scallops have been soaked in a phosphate solution that whitens them. It makes them absorb more liquid and therefore, weigh more. So when you buy these scallops, you are paying more money for water. They also do not sear as well and give out a lot of liquid when bake. Try your best to stay away from “wet scallops” and look for “dry-packed” or “chemical free” labels.
These are the big scallops and sometimes they are called “jumbo.” These big boys can be as big as 2 inches in diameter and as small as 1 inch. They are perfect for seared scallops or baked scallops.
These are smaller scallops that are found in shallow waters. These scallops can be as small as 1/2 inch in diameter and don’t get bigger than 3/4 inch. Because of the small size, they are not suited for searing because they cook fast and can easily be overcooked and turned rubbery.
These can range in size but are more expensive. Most scallops are picked but a boat that is dragging a net along the ocean floor but diver scallops are picked by hand. Divers will usually hand-pick the biggest, fully grown scallops and that’s reflected in the price.
What Does the Number on the Label Mean?
Many stores and packages will have a number next to the scallops and shrimp, for example 36/40 or 21/25. These numbers indicate the amount of scallops or shrimp you will get in 1 pound. So smaller number will mean that the size of scallops will be bigger, and bigger number will mean that the size will be smaller.
You may also see a label that states “U10” or “U15” and all that means is “under.” So there are under 10 scallops in a pound or under 15 scallops in a pound. That is also a size indication.
Getting Fresh vs Frozen Scallops
This is not as clear-cut as you might think. If you live on the coast, you may have bought frozen scallops straight from the fishermen. Most local fishermen flash-freeze seafood as soon as they catch it to preserve it. You will still get the freshest seafood this way but it will be frozen.
When it comes to fresh, seafood is truly fresh when the market gets it within a day or two and you buy it right away. Otherwise, supermarkets may label it “fresh, never frozen” but it could be several days old. It all comes down to the reputation and the market that you trust.
If you have no way of getting fresh scallops, you can purchase it frozen. In this case, always thaw them slowly, overnight in the refrigerator. Cook them the next day after it’s thawed and do not re-freeze.
PRO TIP: The most important recommendation that I can make when it comes to buying scallops is to make sure you get sea scallops or diver scallops that are“dry”. Check the label for that information and if it’s not available, ask the specialist at the seafood counter.
Seafood does not last long in the fridge, fresh or cooked. Fresh scallops (and most other seafood) should be cooked the same day you buy or defrost it. Cooked scallops will last in the fridge for two days but don’t keep it for longer. Make sure to store them in an air-tight food storage container, in the refrigerator.
Technically, yes, you can reheat scallops. I don’t usually recommend reheating seafood because it’s never as good and often can be chewy when reheated. The best way to reheat seafood is in the preheated skillet, over medium heat, and just until heated through. Be careful not to over-cook it and take it out of the skillet as soon as it’s warmed.
There are so many pairings that go well with this seared scallops recipe! A fork and a knife… those are usually my go-to pairing with scallops. All joking aside, side dish options are limitless.
Hearty sides – mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes, mashed cauliflower, or buttery pasta.
Light sides – roasted asparagus, green beans, Caesar salad, salad with a white wine vinaigrette, or seared greens like chard, mustard greens, or kale.
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- 1 lb "dry" sea scallops
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- black pepper
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter sliced into smaller pieces
- 3 garlic cloves smashed and minced
- 1/2 tbsp minced parsley
- 2 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
- Rinse off scallops with cold water and pat each one dry with a paper towel. If there are any scallops that have the side muscle attached, simply remove it. (Side muscle cooks tough and it’s unpleasant to eat.)
- Season scallops with salt and pepper on both sides.
- Preheat a cooking pan first over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and let it heat through until you start to see a little smoke (it should take less than a minute).
- Place scallops into the skillet but leave some room in between each one. To ensure a nice sear, don't overcrowd them.
- Do not move or touch them until ready to flip. Add butter slices around the skillet and let it melt as scallops cook.
- Sear scallops for about 2 minutes (a few seconds more or a few seconds less depending on the size).
- Flip each scallop in the same order as you put them in. Add minced garlic all around the pan too and let it cook. You can gently shake the pan to spread the garlic.
- Let scallops sear for another 1.5-2 minutes and take them out of the pan.
- Spoon some of the butter from the pan over the scallops.
- Optional: a few seconds before scallops are ready, add parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice to the pan and gently shake the pan to mix.