How to Sear Scallops + Wet vs Dry Scallops

How to Sear Scallops

As far as seafood goes, I would take scallops over anything.

I love shrimp, crab, fish, and lobster, but seared scallops are the king of my seafood universe! Their mildly sweet flavor and that caramelized crust they get when seared in a super hot pan…oh, swoon. Not to mention, they’re really low-maintenance compared to lobster and crab.

What’s funny to me about scallops is a lot of people I know only order them at restaurants because they’re too intimidated to make them at home. This is silly! Scallops are one of the easiest things you can make at home. I actually cooked scallops quite a bit during my surgery recovery because they take like 10 minutes to make, they’re super filling (it’s like a big ball of protein), and most importantly, they’re mighty delicious.

How to Sear Scallops

So before we get cooking, let’s talk about buying scallops. Have you ever heard of wet vs dry scallops?

I’ve noticed more and more grocery stores labeling their scallops as either wet or dry, which I really appreciate because I used to have to ask. If possible, you always want to buy dry scallops.

  • A wet scallop has been soaked in a preservative phosphate solution. This makes the scallop absorb more water, and when you cook them, they kind of shrivel a bit and don’t brown as well because of that extra liquid. The phosphate solution also gives the scallop an off flavor, and they’re usually not as fresh.
  • A dry scallop has not been treated with any chemicals additives or solutions. Compared to the wet scallops, they are darker (more of a beige color, whereas the wet scallops are whiter), and they have a more pure flavor.

Cool, now let’s get cooking!

The first thing you want to do when you’re searing anything is to pat the outside dry with a paper towel. I do this when I sear steaks too.

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Next, sprinkle the scallops with sea salt:

Seared Scallops Recipe

And some cracked black pepper, if you’d like:

Seared Scallops Recipe

Next grab a skillet, preferably cast-iron. Cast iron pans are my favorite for searing because they retain heat so well and preheat nicely.

Heat up the skillet until it’s really hot, and add some grapeseed oil:

Seared Scallops Recipe

Drop in your scallops, and make sure to give them enough space in the pan so they’re not steaming each other.

This is when I season the other side with salt and pepper:

Seared Scallops Recipe

Sear the scallops for about 2 minutes on the first side, then add a small pat of butter to the pan while the other side finishes cooking, to flavor the scallops:

How to Sear Scallops

And that’s it! They’re ready to serve. I like to serve it with something light, like a salad. Enjoy!

Seared Scallops

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb dry sea scallops
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 tbsp grapeseed oil (or other high smoke point oil)
  • 2 tbsp butter

Directions:

  1. Preheat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat.
  2. In the meantime, pat the scallops very dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle the sea scallops with salt and pepper, to season.
  3. When the pan is hot, add the grapeseed oil, then drop in your scallops, giving them enough room in between so they don’t steam each other. The scallops should make a sizzling noise when you put them in the pan. Cook the scallops for 2 minutes, making sure not to move them or touch them at all. Flip the scallops over with a pair of tongs, and add the butter to the pan. Let the scallops cook for 2 more minutes, basting the scallops with the butter.
  4. Remove the scallops from the pan and serve!
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