Elegant enough for a fancy occasion and fast enough to serve any night of the week, this recipe for Pan-Seared Scallops might become your new favorite way to eat seafood.
Restaurant quality scallops are easier to make at home than you ever thought!
Pan Seared Scallops
Similar to an oyster or a clam but even more tender with a hint of sweet flavor, fresh scallops are irresistible when cooked the right way. Searing is by far my favorite way to enjoy scallops.
For years, I tended to only eat scallops at restaurants. Since scallops are more costly than shrimp and most of the other seafood I cook, I was nervous to waste my investment by cooking them poorly at home.
When I finally set aside my fear, I couldn’t believe how easy and quick it was to cook seared scallops! My whole family loves them now.
Whether you enjoy indulging in scallops when you go to a restaurant or you’ve never tried them before, I know you’re going to love this easy recipe.
How Do You Cook Scallops?
Nowhere near as finicky as lobster or crab, scallops are easy enough for even a beginner cook. You can even get them prepared and ready to cook at any grocery store with a seafood counter.
I love that there’s no de-tailing or bone removal involved and virtually no prep time. The only prep for the scallops is actually optional. Check over the scallops as you’re handling them and remove the little side-muscle if you find any still attached.
This muscle looks like a little tag of tissue on the side of the scallop. It feels tougher than the rest of the scallop and will be a bit tough and chewy when cooked. It’s just fine if you leave it on (and sometimes it’s already been removed), some people are bothered by it and many others are not.
Just rinse the scallops under cool running water and pat them dry. I place them on a paper towel-lined plate or small sheet pan after rinsing them and then use another paper towel to make sure they’re completely dry.
Once the scallops are dry and season with a little salt and pepper. Drizzle olive oil into a heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat and add the scallops.
Let the scallops cook in the oil on the first side for a couple of minutes until lightly browned. They will cook quickly, within a couple of minutes, so don’t walk away from the pan!
Remove from the pan and serve right away. Seared and served fresh, scallops are never fishy or tough. You’ll love the caramelized crust and light buttery taste!
How to Choose Scallops
Look for the freshest caught scallops you can find! They should be round, plump, and about 2-inches in diameter with a creamy white color (not yellow).
For this recipe, “dry” scallops work best, as opposed to “wet” varieties that are packed in a salty brine as a preservative.
While fresh is preferred, you can certainly make this recipe with frozen scallops. Just let them thaw fully in the refrigerator and dry well before searing.
How Long to Cook Scallops
The idea behind searing scallops is that they cook quickly resulting in a lightly crisped crust and a flaky melt-in-your-mouth inside. You want to cook them fast at a high heat.
When I make scallops, I cook them for just about two minutes on each side. The exact time will depend on the heat of your pan and the size of your scallops.
Unsure when it’s time to flip the scallops? They’re ready to turn when they release from the pan and are lightly browned or when they become somewhat firm to the touch. If your finger is sinking into the scallop when you gently poke it, they need a bit more time.
Be careful not to cook the scallops for too long! When overcooked, scallops become rubbery and tough with little flavor. No one wants that.
Scallops have become a new favorite for a nice dinner at home over the past year. My kids absolutely love them too.
Can you cook scallops ahead of time?
Seared scallops should be served right away for best flavor. While you can absolutely store leftovers in the fridge and reheat gently in the microwave, they won’t be as lovely as when first cooked.
Thankfully, they’re quick as lightning to cook so you can have fresh seared scallops on the table in less time than it takes to make just about any other protein.
What to Serve with Scallops
Serve these scallops with a side of Italian Herb Rice, Lemon Butter Pasta, or Rice Pilaf with a green salad. They would also taste delicious with a simple side of pasta tossed with olive oil and this Peach Caprese Salad.
Pan-Seared Scallops Recipe
A restaurant-quality meal made right in your own kitchen. Served for a romantic date night or a family meal, these seared scallops are sure to impress!
Each bite of these scallops has a light and almost-sweet flavor, highlighted by the caramelized crust on the outside.
COOKING TIP: Wait to cook the scallops as the last thing you do before serving the meal.
Prepare everything else first, so that the scallops can be served immediately after cooking, while they are at their best.
Pan Seared Scallops
- 1 lb scallops
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Pat the scallops dry with paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat a large stainless skillet. Warm the olive oil over medium-high heat.
- Add one scallop to the pan and make sure it sizzles when it touches the pan. Add the remaining scallops to the pan in a single layer and avoid allowing them to touch. Cook the scallops without touching them for about 2 minutes, then use tongs or a spatula to turn them over. If a scallop doesn’t release easily, allow it to cook a few more seconds until it does.
- Cook the scallops without touching for 2-3 minutes on the second side. When the scallops are golden and lightly browned on top and bottom and opaque through the sides, they’re done.
- When the scallops have finished cooking, remove them to a plate. Add the butter to the skillet, swirl to melt and scrape up any browned bits of flavor. Drizzle the butter over the scallops. Serve immediately while still warm.