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Sea Scallops: The Ultimate Guide to Buying and Cooking

Sea scallops are a popular type of shellfish that is enjoyed by seafood lovers around the world. These bivalves are found in all of the world's oceans and are known for their unique flavour and texture. If you're interested in learning more about sea scallops, including how to select and prepare them, as well as different cooking techniques and recipes, then keep reading.

When selecting sea scallops, it's important to look for ones that are fresh and of high quality.

You can tell if a scallop is fresh by its smell - it should have a clean, ocean-like aroma. Additionally, the scallop should be firm to the touch and have a slightly sweet, briny taste.

Once you've selected your scallops, you'll need to prepare them for cooking. This usually involves removing the muscle that attaches the scallop to its shell, as well as any other unwanted parts.

When it comes to cooking sea scallops, there are many different techniques and recipes to choose from.

Some popular methods include pan-searing, grilling, and baking.

Each method has its own unique benefits and can be used to create a variety of delicious dishes.

Whether you're a seafood enthusiast or just looking to try something new, sea scallops are definitely worth exploring.

Key Takeaways

  • When selecting sea scallops, look for ones that are fresh and of high quality.
  • To prepare sea scallops for cooking, remove the muscle that attaches the scallop to its shell and any other unwanted parts.
  • Sea scallops can be cooked using a variety of techniques, including pan-searing, grilling, and baking.

Selecting and Preparing Sea Scallops

Sea scallops are carefully selected and cleaned, then patted dry with paper towels. They are then seasoned with salt and pepper, ready for cooking

Buying Scallops

When buying sea scallops, it's important to look for fresh scallops that are free of any off-odours or slimy texture.

You can find scallops in the seafood section of your local supermarket or fishmonger.

There are two types of sea scallops: wet scallops and dry scallops.

Wet scallops are treated with a solution of water and sodium tripolyphosphate, which helps them retain moisture. Dry scallops, on the other hand, are not treated with any additives and are more expensive.

If you're looking for the best quality, go for dry sea scallops. They have a sweeter flavour and a firmer texture.

Wet scallops, on the other hand, can taste slightly soapy and have a mushy texture.

Prep and Drying Process

Before cooking, it's important to remove any excess moisture from the scallops.

Excess moisture can prevent the scallops from searing properly and can make them taste rubbery.

To remove moisture, place the scallops on a paper towel-lined plate and pat them dry with another paper towel. Make sure to remove as much moisture as possible.

You can also let them air-dry in the fridge for a few hours before cooking.

When selecting scallops, size matters.

Larger scallops are more expensive but also have a better texture and flavour. Smaller scallops can be used for stews or soups.

If you're using frozen scallops, make sure to thaw them in the fridge overnight before cooking.

Do not thaw them in the microwave or under running water as this can affect the texture and flavour of the scallops.

Cooking Techniques and Recipes

Sea scallops sizzling in a hot skillet, being seared to a golden brown on each side. A sprinkle of salt and pepper is added, followed by a drizzle of lemon juice

Pan-Searing Sea Scallops

If you want to cook sea scallops to perfection, pan-searing is the way to go.

Start by patting the scallops dry with a paper towel and seasoning them with salt and pepper.

Heat a cast-iron skillet over high heat, add a tablespoon of olive oil, and wait for it to get very hot.

Add the scallops to the skillet, making sure they are not touching each other.

Cook for about 2-3 minutes on each side until they develop a caramelized exterior and a golden crust.

Don't move them around too much; otherwise, they won't sear properly.

Once the scallops are cooked, remove them from the skillet and set them aside.

To make a quick pan sauce, add a tablespoon of butter to the skillet along with some minced garlic and fresh herbs like thyme or parsley.

Let the butter brown slightly, then add a splash of white wine and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Cook for a minute or two until the sauce thickens slightly, then pour it over the scallops. Serve immediately.

Complementary Ingredients and Side Dishes

When it comes to serving sea scallops, there are many complementary ingredients and side dishes that go well with them.

For example, mashed potatoes are a classic side dish that pairs well with pan-seared scallops. The creamy texture of the potatoes contrasts nicely with the crispy exterior of the scallops.

For a burst of brightness, try adding a squeeze of lemon juice or lime zest to the scallops before serving.

You can also sprinkle some fresh herbs like cilantro or parsley over the top for added flavour.

If you want to add some heat to your scallops, try dusting them with smoked paprika or chili flakes before cooking.

This will give them a nice kick of flavour without overpowering the delicate taste of the seafood.

When it comes to oils, use extra-virgin olive oil for a subtle flavour or ghee or brown butter for a nutty taste.

These oils have a higher smoke point than regular butter, which makes them ideal for searing scallops at high heat.

Frequently Asked Questions

A pile of fresh sea scallops on a bed of ice, surrounded by lemon wedges and garnished with sprigs of parsley

How should one cook scallops in a pan?

To cook scallops in a pan, first, make sure they are dry.

Then, heat a non-stick pan over medium-high heat and add a small amount of oil or butter.

Once the pan is hot, add the scallops and cook them for about 2-3 minutes on each side until they are golden brown.

Be careful not to overcook them as they will become rubbery.

What are some delightful starter recipes that include scallops?

Scallops make for an excellent starter dish.

You can try making scallop ceviche, bacon-wrapped scallops, or scallop and prawn dim sum.

These dishes are easy to prepare and are sure to impress your guests.

Could you suggest some accompaniments for pan-seared scallops?

Pan-seared scallops can be served with a variety of accompaniments such as risotto, mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, or a simple green salad.

You can also try serving them with a side of garlic butter or lemon sauce.

What's the best way to prepare jumbo sea scallops?

Jumbo sea scallops can be prepared the same way as regular scallops. However, they may take a bit longer to cook.

To ensure that they cook evenly, make sure they are patted dry and seasoned with salt and pepper.

Heat a non-stick pan over medium-high heat and add a small amount of oil or butter.

Once the pan is hot, add the scallops and cook them for about 3-4 minutes on each side until they are golden brown.

Is there a notable difference between bay scallops and sea scallops?

Yes, there is a notable difference between bay scallops and sea scallops.

Bay scallops are smaller and sweeter than sea scallops, which are larger and meatier.

Bay scallops are typically used in soups, stews, and pasta dishes, while sea scallops are often served as a main course.

What ingredients go into a sauce that complements pan-seared scallops?

A sauce that complements pan-seared scallops can be made using butter, garlic, lemon juice, white wine, and parsley.

Simply melt the butter in a pan, add the garlic and cook for a minute, then add the lemon juice and white wine.

Cook until the sauce has reduced by half, then add the parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste.