How to Cook Scallops: Pan Seared Scallops

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5 from 7 votes

Learn how to cook scallops like a pro so you can dazzle the family, a dinner date or friends with crispy on the outside, soft on the inside seared scallops. All you need is a pan, butter or oil, and fresh sea scallops. These restaurant-quality seared scallops are ready in just 2 minutes.

You might wonder how in the world restaurants cook scallops so that they have a deep, crispy sear on the outside while still retaining a melt-in-your-mouth interior. You really don’t need to be a professional chef to sear scallops like a pro!

Try these Chinese Five Spice Scallops with Sweet Corn Puree or Scallops With Basil Pea Puree to get fancy with them!

How to Cook Scallops at Home Like a Pro

The key to cooking scallops like a pro is to preheat your pan on the stove over HIGH heat until it’s screaming hot. Yup, crank that baby up!

Try the water test: heat your pan over high heat until a few droplets of water thrown on your pan “dance.” Check out my video below for step-by-step instructions!

Once your pan is screaming hot, add your butter (or oil) and then your scallops. Searing them for just a few minutes (about 2 minutes total) prevents chewy, overcooked scallops. See full details below.

Tips on Where to Buy Scallops

  1. Look for fresh sea scallops in your grocery store’s seafood section, or better yet, find a local fish market! The fresher the scallops, the better.
  2. Also look for “dry sea scallops” over “wet sea scallops.” Wet scallops are injected with phosphates to plump them up and add water weight, whereas dry scallops are NOT treated.
  3. The times specified in this recipe are for sea scallops (not diver or bay scallops). Sea scallops are the medium-sized scallops most commonly found in grocery stores and fish markets. If you see scallops labeled “diver” or “bay” scallops, the cooking times in this recipe won’t be accurate. Diver scallops are typically larger in size and bay scallops are much smaller.

The Steps for Searing Scallops

Cook scallops by searing them in 5 minutes with these 5 steps!

  1. Dry off.

    Dry off your scallops with a paper towel. Dabbing them dry will help them sear evenly.
    Remove side muscle.
    Pat dry scallops for even searing/cooking.

  2. Remove side muscle.

    Each scallop will likely have a side muscle, which is edible but extra tough. Find the crescent-shaped muscle on the side of each scallop and tear it off.
    Remove tough side muscles from scallops

  3. Preheat pan. Add butter.

    Preheat a large pan over high heat until screaming hot (about 5 minutes). A few droplets of water thrown on your pan should “dance” when your pan is hot enough. Add a few tablespoons of butter and swirl it around in your pan until melted.
    Add butter to a piping hot pan.

  4. Sear scallops.

    Add scallops at least an inch apart from each other. Immediately set a timer to 90 seconds. As soon as your timer goes off, flip your scallops and sear for about 30 more seconds. Your scallops should still have a jiggly texture when poked with tongs but not as jiggly as raw scallops. Immediately remove the scallops from your pan onto a plate.

  5. Serve.

    Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

How to Serve Seared Scallops

Serve your scallops as-is, with a sprinkle of salt and pepper, or with one of the following preparations:

  1. Simple pan lemon-butter sauce – after searing scallops, pour out extra brown butter from your pan, leaving the drippings. Turn heat to low and add 4 tablespoons of butter. Let melt, adding in the juice of ½ a lemon, a handful of chopped chives or parsley, and salt and pepper. Spoon lemon butter over scallops, garnishing with more herbs or a pinch of lemon zest.
  2. With Sweet Corn Puree – blend 2 cups of cooked corn (about 4 ears), 2 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons coconut cream, ¼ teaspoon curry powder (optional) and salt until smooth and creamy. Serve with fresh chives on top and crispy pancetta bits if desired.
  3. With Basil Pea Puree – blend 1 ¼ cups cooked sweet peas, ¼ cup water, 4 tablespoons butter, 1 small sweet onion, ½ cup fresh basil and salt and pepper until smooth and creamy. Serve with fresh basil on top and crispy pancetta bits if desired.
  4. On a bed of Chipotle Corn Salsa
  5. On a simple salad with Roasted Shallot Vinaigrette
  6. On top of a Green Goddess Salad
  7. On top of a Peach & Burrata Salad
Scallops with Basil Pea Puree

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are scallops?

Scallops are a shellfish (bivalve mollusk of the Pectinidae family) that live in seawater. They are related to clams, mussels and oysters.

What do scallops taste like?

Scallops have a mild, sweet flavor with a buttery, tender, soft texture.

Are scallops healthy?

Scallops are low-fat and high in protein with lots of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. While I recommend cooking them in butter for the best sear, you can cook them in vegetable, canola or grapeseed oil if preferred.

Can I use olive oil to sear scallops?

I do not recommend searing scallops in olive oil because of its low smoke point.

What’s the best pan for searing scallops?

The best pan for searing scallops is a large stainless steel pan that is well-greased with butter or oil. A stainless steel pan will give you a better, deeper sear than nonstick – although both pans work! Make sure your pan is large enough so you don’t need to overcrowd your pan with scallops.

What’s the difference between bay, sea, and diver scallops?

“Sea” scallops are the medium-sized scallops most commonly found in grocery stores and fish markets. “Diver” scallops are typically larger scallops and “bay” scallops are much smaller scallops. The cooking times in this recipe are for medium sea scallops.

More Seafood Recipes on Tastefully Grace!

How to Cook Scallop: Pan Seared Scallops

Learn how to cook scallops like a pro so you can dazzle the family, a dinner date or friends with crispy on the outside, soft on the inside seared scallops. All you need is a pan, butter or oil, and fresh sea scallops. These restaurant-quality seared scallops are ready in just 2 minutes.
5 from 7 votes
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Course: Appetizer, Main Course, tips & tricks
Cuisine: New England, seafood
Keyword: any season
Servings: 12 scallops
Calories: 35kcal
Author: TastefullyGrace

Equipment

  • Large pan (preferably stainless steel)

Ingredients

  • 12 fresh sea scallops
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Dry off your scallops with a paper towel. Dabbing them dry will help them sear evenly.
  • Remove side muscle. Each scallop will likely have a side muscle, which is edible but extra tough. Find the crescent-shaped muscle on the side of each scallop and tear it off.
  • Preheat a large pan over high heat until screaming hot (about 5 minutes). A few droplets of water thrown on your pan should “dance” when your pan is hot enough.
  • Add a few tablespoons of butter and swirl it around in your pan until melted.
  • Add scallops at least an inch apart from each other. Immediately set a timer to 90 seconds. As soon as your timer goes off, flip your scallops and sear for about 30 more seconds. Your scallops should still have a jiggly texture when poked with tongs but not as jiggly as raw scallops. Immediately remove the scallops from your pan onto a plate.
  • Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve right away.

Video

YouTube video

Notes

  • Although not necessary but preferred, let your scallops rest at room temperature for 15 minutes.
  • Don’t use olive oil to sear your scallops! I recommend butter as the best option, but you can also use vegetable, canola, or grapeseed oil.
  • The cooking times above are for sea scallops, not diver or bay scallops.
  • If you’d like a simple lemon butter sauce, pour out any extra brown butter from your pan after searing scallops, leaving the drippings. Turn heat to low and add 4 tablespoons of butter. Let melt, adding in the juice of ½ a lemon, a handful of chopped chives or parsley, and salt and pepper. Other scallops sauces and preparations listed in my post above!
  • This recipe can be used for as many scallops that can fit comfortably in a pan without crowding it (typically 6-12). You can also cook scallops in batches if needed.

Nutrition

Serving: 1scallop | Calories: 35kcal | Carbohydrates: 0.5g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 11mg | Sodium: 81mg | Potassium: 32mg | Sugar: 0.003g | Vitamin A: 88IU | Calcium: 2mg | Iron: 0.1mg
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