How to select, buy, store and sear Sea Scallops

How to select the right Sea Scallops for different dishes.

To shop for scallops, look for scallops that are plump and have a creamy white color. Avoid scallops that are dry or have brown spots. You can buy fresh or frozen scallops. Fresh is better as frozen scallops lose a lot of water when defrosting, reducing yield and increasing food costs.

Tray of Fresh Sea Scallops

How to defrost frozen scallops.

If you buy frozen scallops, make sure to thaw them properly before cooking. Scallops should be defrosted in a refrigerator overnight. The refrigerator should have a temperature below 5°C or 40°F. The closer the refrigerator or cool room is to 0°C or 32°F the better, as the seafood will keep longer, but take longer to defrost.

So the length of time to defrost will depend on the quantity and refrigerator temperature, how often the refrigerator is open, airflow, and the product mass. A kilo or 2 lb of scallops would probably defrost in a household refrigerator overnight with ease.

Scallops also come in blocks which means you need to defrost the whole amount at once and should be avoided. Or IQF (individually quick frozen) and can be counted or weighed to help reduce waste. I buy scallops by the count fresh when I can. Avoid scallops that look dry, have freezer burn, or smell of ammonia, not like the ocean.

Frozen Sea Scallops, IQF

How to manage fresh scallops in the shell.

In Australia, it is common to purchase fresh scallops on the shell, rather than in the shell. The fishermen or fishmongers remove the scallops from the shell, similar to the way oysters are presented, and usually remove the roe also. They are a great way to present the scallops in a restaurant. Try to get the deep shells, not the flat part so you can add sauce or bake them.

Scallops are a type of seafood that can be either fresh or frozen. Fresh scallops are usually more expensive, but they have a better flavor. Frozen scallops are less expensive, but they may not taste as good. The juice may be good for fish stock, seafood terrines, seafood quenelles, or a seafood mouse.

Don’t tell anyone but the shells make good containers too.

Often scallops served in the shell are on pre-used and washed shells. It is just cheaper to transport the scallops without the shells. If the shell is washed, sanitized, and dried correctly then that should be fine in most cases and will help reduce waste. The fresh shell is best recycled back into the ocean.

4 Different ways to use the scallop shells for better presentation.

Scallop shells can be used to present a scallop dish like Scallops Au Gratin, Scallops Mornay, Scallops with Ginger and Shallots, or for serving a seafood sauce like tar tare on a seafood platter. They make for great presentations in a seafood restaurant or at an event.

Scallops can be baked or grilled in their shell if you are skilled and careful. But is not a method we recommend as it is likely to cause damage or harm by burning your staff or customers, the shell can get very hot.

How to buy Sea Scallops

I like to buy fresh scallops on the day I want to use them from my local seafood market. Scallops come in a count/size like 20 per lb or 40 per kg. The sizes can vary with the location and season. They also come on trays in the 1/2 shell or IQF frozen in packets. With roe on and roe off. The scallop roe is good for a dish like a seafood terrine.

Prawn, Scallops and Seafood Terrine

If you can, always buy your fresh seafood daily. If you are really lucky you can harvest your own scallops, but that too is becoming rare.

In the restaurant or cafe business, it is common for fresh seafood to run low or out and you can keep a small number of frozen scallops or seafood in the freezer. This will depend on your standards.

A good chef works with the waitstaff and suggests small changes or recommendations to the menu to try to average things out. For example, I would add more scallops to a seafood marinara dish during service and use a few fewer mussels to try to average out the seafood consumption, nightly. Using seafood medleys helps with this idea.

Chefs Tricks and Tips.

When I had a seafood restaurant I would order just the amount of scallops for each service I expected to serve, there were 4 scallops to a serving and I expected to sell 10 servings, that was the amount that I ordered. Scallops, fresh do keep for about 3 days, and often our dinner would be any seafood that we had in excess.

There are also a few dishes where the scallops are pre-cooked and chilled. Then baked for service. Plus dishes like seafood terrines and quenelles use cooked seafood. We will discuss those recipes and technics at a later date.

How to cook Sea Scallops.

Scallops can be grilled, baked, poached, deep, or pan-fried. Scallops can be crumbed and battered. A popular way to serve scallops when I was young was to wrap them in bacon, secure them with a skewer, roast or grill them and serve the brochettes topped with hollandaise sauce.

Scallops are usually served as an appetizer, as starters, or as canapes.

The method of cookery will depend on the situation. As a young chef, I learned how to cook scallops gueridon style, where they were flamed with Pernod on a mobile cooking trolley with garlic, onion, and tomato dice, in front of the customers and served silver service to them.

How to saute’ or sear fresh scallops.

When sauteing scallops, use a little 1/2 butter and oil to help prevent them from sticking to the pan, the butter from burning and adding flavor. You can lightly dry and dust the scallops in seasoned rice flour if you like to help develop a crust. Get the pan very hot, and add a drizzle of oil. Then carefully add your scallops.

Sear the scallops on each side for around 1 minute, deglaze the oil with a touch of wine or brandy (careful it will flame if near a gas burner) and finish with a warm sauce, herb, or garlic butter. It should be completed quickly, so use soft butter or a warm sauce. Or just a squeeze of lemon juice and parsley.

Pan fried Scallops with Lemon

Simple, quick, and delightful.

Our best dinner party recipe ideas for scallops.

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