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Seared scallops

Scallops are a delicious type of white fish. They’re also easy to cook — so long as you remember a couple of simple guidelines. Most often they are “seared” — essentially sauteed to nicely brown the outside.

First of all, scallops are a delicate protein, so stick to medium-low to medium heat. Second, they cook quickly, so use a timer and make sure not to overcook them (they turn rubbery if overcooked). Third, use the minimal amount of oil necessary: we’re sauteing the scallops, not deep-frying them.

Suggested reading:

Time required: 10 minutes to cook


  • Scallops (dry-pack if possible — see note below), 4-5 per serving.
  • Neutral cooking oil

Take scallops out of the refrigerator, place on a paper towel, and thoroughly pat them dry. Having them start out dry when they go into the pan will help them brown quickly so they don’t overcook.

Pour enough oil in the pan to just cover the bottom, and pre-heat over medium heat.

Place the scallops in the pan, leaving space between them. Saute for three minutes, then flip them over and saute for another three minutes. Three minutes over medium heat in a pre-heated pan should give you a nice amount of browning. You want to minimize the amount you handle the scallops while they are cooking, so they maintain their shape. They might stick to the pan a bit; if they do, just gently wiggle them with tongs until they come free. If after cooking both sides for three minutes there isn’t sufficient browning, you can keep flipping them every thirty seconds — but again, try to minimize how much you handle them.

Remove from the pan and serve.

Tips and suggestions:

  • Scallops come in two forms: “dry pack” and “wet pack.” Wet-pack scallops are stored in a liquid containing various chemical preservatives; it’s what most grocery-store fish counters carry, but the chemicals can ruin the taste. Better seafood stores carry dry-pack scallops, and they are MUCH preferred.
  • Raw scallops are slightly transparent and have an off-white color. As they cook through, you can see them turn opaque and white. They get rubbery when overcooked, so it’s good to watch closely to make sure you take them off the heat just after they finish cooking through.
  • Once the scallops are cooked, you can serve them with whichever side looks nicer facing up.
  • Scallops go great with a light lemon-butter-garlic sauce. Try serving them on a bed of rice, to sop up the sauce.

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