Cooking scallops is quick and easy, whether you grill, bake or sauté. Start by investing in fresh, high quality scallops and you'll turn out winning recipes every time. Scallops cook very quickly. The key is taking care not to overcook them so the end result is melt-in-your-mouth and not tough or chewy.
Types of Scallops
Choose your scallops carefully so you get best texture and flavor. If you're serving them as an appetizer or entrée, be willing to pay a premium. If you're using scallops as a supplemental ingredient in another recipe, you won't compromise the dish by buying less expensive ones.
Bay Scallops. Bay scallops are small and sweet. They are available only twice a year, in autumn and winter, and they are highly prized for their flavor. They are pricier than sea scallops, but chefs and seafood lovers alike consider them more than worth the price.
Sea Scallops. Sea scallops are the largest scallops. Often larger than two inches in diameter, these scallops are best when halved or quartered before cooking so you can cook them throughout without risking overcooking the outside. They are harvested year round and are the most readily available. Sea scallops that are hand harvested versus dredged, are called diver scallops.
Calico Scallops. These, the smallest scallops, should not be confused with bay scallops. Typically shucked immediately after harvesting, they're partially cooked before sale. What you save on price, you'll lose in flavor and texture, so use calico scallops as a supplemental ingredient in dishes like gumbo or seafood casseroles.
Buying the Best Scallops
Always buy dry scallops whenever possible, keep them as cold as you can (bring a cooler with ice with you to the fishmonger's, and keep them on ice even in the refrigerator) and use them as soon as possible. It's best to cook fresh scallops the day you buy them. Look for scallops that appear dry and are somewhat translucent. Avoid scallops that are already milky white and are shiny.
When you speak to the fishmonger, you may hear the terms "wet" and "dry" being used to describe the scallops you are purchasing. Wet scallops have been soaked in brine as a preservative. These scallops will contain a lot of extra liquid and will be less flavorful than "dry" scallops that have not been soaked in brine. They are difficult to cook because of the extra liquid and they will not have that tender, melt-in-your-mouth texture scallops are known for.
Thawing Frozen Scallops
If you bought frozen scallops, thaw them just before cooking by running the package under cold water. Do not run water over the bare scallops or you'll wash away the flavor. After thawing, drain any excess liquid and then press the scallops between sheets of paper towels to remove as much extra liquid as possible.
The most important thing to remember when cooking scallops is to never overcook them. As soon as the scallop is opaque most of the way through, it should be removed from the source of heat and allowed to finish cooking on a serving plate for a minute or two before being served immediately, hot off the grill, stove, or broiler. The following suggestions are guidelines for cooking tender, flavorful scallops.
Broiling Scallops. Place scallops coated with olive oil on broiling pan and broil on high, turning scallops once, until scallops are just opaque throughout.
Baking Scallops. Scallops should be baked at between 375 to 400 degrees, with or without butter and breading, until scallops are firm and opaque.
Grilling Scallops. Always oil both the grill and the scallops (using olive oil) before grilling. Place the scallops on water-soaked wooden grilling skewers and cook over direct heat, flipping to cook all sides, until scallops are just opaque throughout.
Pan-seared Scallops. Using a well-oiled skillet (you can use either butter or olive oil as a grease), cook scallops on medium-high, turning and flipping frequently, until scallops are opaque and firm.
You may want to cook your scallops with a generous amount of butter, lemon juice, cream sauce or white wine sauce. Dill weed and basil are two herbs that are often used to season scallop dishes and scallops and bacon is a classic pairing. You will want to salt and pepper any scallop dish.
Bacon wrapped scallops are wonderful as an entrée or an appetizer. You can prepare this popular dish employing any of the following preparation techniques: broiling, grilling or pan-frying. Use this recipe for scallops wrapped in bacon and choose the cooking technique from the three choices described.
One of the easiest and most delicious ways to prepare scallops is to cook them in a skillet. Pan-seared scallops are simple to prepare and come out perfect - golden brown on the outside, medium rare on the inside. This technique for cooking scallops preserves the natural flavors and textures while allowing you to create a tasty, complementary sauce.
Bay scallops work well in many recipes, including ceviche and stir-fries. These easy recipes will reveal how much you can do with bay scallops.
Grilled scallops can turn a regular steak dinner into a simple surf and turf entrée or they can stand alone as a lovely seafood main dish.
The wonderful thing about baked scallops is how quick, easy and tender they are. Both of these baked scallops recipes produce fast, but delectable seafood dishes that will melt in your mouth. They are perfect when accompanied by asparagus and scalloped potatoes. Serve with a white wine or a green wine (vino verde) for an impressive meal you can prepare in a cinch.