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Pan-Seared Scallops



We strongly recommend purchasing “dry” scallops (those without chemical additives). If you can only find “wet” scallops, soak them in a solution of 1 quart cold water, 1/4 cup lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons table salt for 30 minutes before proceeding with step 1. In step 2, season the scallops with pepper only. If you are unsure whether your scallops are wet or dry, conduct this quick test: Place 1 scallop on a paper towel-lined, microwave-safe plate and microwave on high power for 15 seconds. If the scallop is “dry,” it will exude very little water. If it is “wet,” there will be a sizable ring of moisture on the paper towel. (The microwaved scallop can be cooked as is.) Prepare the sauce (if serving) while the scallops dry (between steps 1 and 2) and keep it warm while cooking them. For an accompaniment, use one of our recipes for Orange-Lime Vinaigrette, Ginger Butter Sauce, and Caper-Mustard Sauce.

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  • 1 1/2 lbs. dry sea scallop, 10 to 20 per pound, small side muscles removed (see note)
  • Table salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Lemon wedges or sauce (see related recipes) for serving



Step 1

Recipe By:
Yield: Serves 4

1. Place scallops on rimmed baking sheet lined with clean kitchen towel. Place second clean kitchen towel on top of scallops and press gently on towel to blot liquid. Let scallops sit at room temperature 10 minutes while towels absorb moisture.

2. Sprinkle scallops on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until just smoking. Add half of scallops in single layer, flat-side down, and cook, without moving, until well browned, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.

3. Add 1 tablespoon butter to skillet. Using tongs, flip scallops; continue to cook, using large spoon to baste scallops with melted butter (tilt skillet so butter runs to one side) until sides of scallops are firm and centers are opaque, 30 to 90 seconds longer (remove smaller scallops as they finish cooking). Transfer scallops to large plate and tent loosely with foil. Wipe out skillet with wad of paper towels and repeat cooking with remaining oil, scallops, and butter. Serve immediately with lemon wedges or sauce.




So-called wet scallops have been treated with sodium tripolyphosphate (STP), which lends a disagreeable flavor. Could we get rid of the STP by soaking the scallops in water?


We prepared three batches of “wet” scallops, soaking the first in a quart of water for 30 minutes, soaking the second for an hour, and leaving the third untreated. We then cooked each batch according to our recipe and sent them to a lab to be analyzed for STP content.


The scallops soaked for 30 minutes only had about 10 percent less STP than the untreated batch, and soaking for a full hour wasn’t much better: Only about 11 percent of the STP was removed. Tasters were still able to clearly identify an unpleasant chemical flavor in both soaked samples.


The phosphates in STP form a chemical bond with the proteins in scallops. The bonds are so strong that they prevent the STP from being washed away, no matter how long the scallops are soaked.


Rather than try to remove the chemical taste from STP-treated scallops, we masked it by soaking them in a solution of lemon juice, water, and salt.

A lemon-flavored brine camouflages the off-taste of "w

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