What Is the Best Way to Cook Scallops?

Reading Time: 7 minutes Back to 7 minutes version

cooked scallops

Pan seared scallops. Sauteed scallops. Grilled scallops. There are many cooking methods for scallops, but what is the best way to cook scallops? The answer may vary depending on your taste and cooking preferences. But when it comes to cooking scallops, there’s generally one method that rules them all: seared scallops.

What’s the Best Way to Cook Scallops?

Generally, the best way to cook scallops is searing them. Seared scallops are cooked on the stovetop, usually in a cast iron skillet to get an excellent sear, using butter or oil to get them nice and crispy. The result is a crisp, golden brown exterior with a delicate balance of savory, tender scallops inside.

Although this method is one of the more popular ways to cook scallops, it’s not the only way. Scallops also do well in the oven or on the grill, and some people prefer to poach them. This guide features some of the best ways to cook scallops — including seared scallops — to give you more options in the kitchen.

Ways to Cook Scallops

First, let’s get into the top ways to cook scallops:

Seared scallops

Pan seared scallops are largely heralded as the best way to cook scallops. This method of cooking scallops features a skillet with some butter or oil over medium high heat. The scallops get seasoned with some salt and pepper before placing them on the skillet. After the scallops sears to a golden brown color on one side, they get flipped to the other side for searing and finishing the cook.

pan seared scallops

Baked scallops

Baked scallops are good for scallop recipes that have a sauce over them, like a lemon butter sauce or white wine sauce. Baking them can also be good for dishes where you want a little crisp from breading atop the scallop rather than the sear you’d get from a stovetop skillet.

baked scallops

Grilled scallops

Grilled scallops can give you a nice, crisp outside, similar to perfectly seared scallops, while adding the flavors of the grill. However, grilling scallops can take a bit more practice. Scallops, like most seafood, are delicate, and may easily stick to the grill if it’s not cleaned and seasoned well first. Using a grill pan between the scallops and grates can help.

grilled scallops

Poached scallops

Poaching scallops cooks them thoroughly in a liquid without searing them. Some people use this method because it’s simple and doesn’t require the use of oil or butter. However, some like to poach their scallops in a melted butter sauce for extra flavor and savoriness.

poached scallops

How to Sear Scallops

It’s difficult to beat perfectly seared scallops. But it can also take some practice to get this seafood cooking method right. We’ve outlined the basic steps for searing scallops below to get you on your way to cooking delicious scallops at home.

  1. Dry and prepare the scallops

Preparing your scallops is almost as important as the actual cooking process. To sear, you’ll want a nice, hot frying pan or cast iron skillet with oil or butter (salted or unsalted butter works). Make sure the pan is completely up to temp before adding your scallops.

As you wait for it to heat, remove the scallops from their packaging and pat them dry with a paper towel. Check each scallop to ensure that the small muscle has been removed. Then, season them with salt and pepper. 

  1. Sear the scallops

Now, it’s time to sear! Your pan or skillet should be hot and ready to go. Using tongs, place each scallop, one by one, into the skillet. Allow them to sear on one side for 2-3 minutes until they reach a golden brown hue. Flip the scallops to the other side and do the same. Scoop a bit of oil or butter from the pan and splash it over each scallop as they cook to prevent them from drying out.

  1. Enjoy the scallops

Your scallops are done when they’re golden brown on both sides and opaque in the middle. You can use a thermometer to check the internal temperature, which should reach about 115 degrees before you remove them from the heat. Place the scallops on a plate and allow them to rest for a few more minutes, during which their temperature should rise another 10-15 degrees. Then, enjoy!

Is It Better to Use Fresh Sea Scallops or Frozen Scallops for Searing?

Frozen scallops and fresh scallops both work for pan searing. Similarly, either a wet scallop or dry scallop package will work. The key to getting a good sear, no matter what kind of scallops you use, is to make sure they’re dried off well before adding them to the pan.

If you do choose frozen scallops, make sure you thaw them in the fridge completely and dry them off before attempting to sear them. Any regardless of the kind of scallop you use, you’ll need to pat them dry with a paper towel before cooking them. This allows the scallops to crisp up in the pan rather than get soggy.

Scallop Recipe Inspiration

As much as we love a good pan seared scallop, there are so many incredible things you can do with this particular seafood beyond cooking them in a pan. If you’re looking for more inspiration, here it is with these scallops recipe ideas.

Scallop salad

Seafood salads are fulfilling, refreshing, and healthy additions to your usual diet. Plus, adding seafood to a salad gives it a unique spin that elevates the traditional salad you’re used to. Scallops are one of the most perfect seafood additions to a salad because they’re quick to prepare and can work with a number of different salad toppings.

A basic scallop salad usually has mixed greens, your choice of veggie additions, something crispy — like seeds or croutons — and a citrusy or acidic dressing. Scallops pair well with lemon, so a honey-lemon dressing is one way to go. But you can also opt for a lime version or go with more traditional balsamic vinaigrette.

scallop salad

Garlic butter or lemon butter scallops

A creamy butter sauce adds a lot of flavor and a little richness to scallops, which is perfect when you’re making scallops into a more filling meal. Lemon butter scallops is one way to err on the side of light and refreshing, but if you’re looking for savory, opt for a garlic butter sauce.

Serve the scallops and sauce over pasta, on a crispy, thick slice of bread, or on their own with a drizzle of sauce on top.

garlic butter scallops

Scallop chowder or soup

When you’re craving something satisfying and hearty, go for a scallop chowder or soup. As a bonus, many soup recipes can be adapted for a pressure cooker or slow cooker, making them convenient alternatives to watching a hot pan when you’re short on time.

And there are virtually endless combinations you can make for scallop soups and chowders. Go the creamier route with white, creamy bases. Or, lean more toward clear broths and loads of veggies for a lighter meal.

scallop chowder

Scallop alfredo

Chicken is the long-standing preference for alfredo protein, but it’s certainly not the only one that pairs with a yummy alfredo sauce and pasta. Add cooked scallop atop the pile instead — you won’t regret it!

First, sear the scallops using the instructions detailed above. Go ahead and make your pasta and sauce as you do so. Then, add the scallops and drizzle a little extra sauce on top of them, followed by a dusting of grated parmesan.

scallop alfredo

Scallops with pan sauce

A pan sauce is literally a sauce that you make in the same pan you cooked your scallops in. The sauce uses the base (butter or oil) with scallop flavor infused throughout, plus whatever other herbs and spices you want to add.

We love a basic scallop pan sauce with garlic, white wine, and lemon juice. Add these ingredients to the pan after cooking and removing the scallops. Whisk them together, allow it to thicken, then whisk two tablespoons of cold butter into the pan. Bring to a boil, whisk, and then lower the heat, allowing the sauce to simmer for 3-4 minutes.

scallops with brown butter and lemon pan sauce

Bacon wrapped scallops

Scallops and bacon are a delicious pairing! Using large sea scallops, wrap a slice of bacon around each one, inserting a toothpick near the loose end and through the scallop to hold the bacon in place.

Then, brush a mixture of maple syrup and garlic powder onto each bacon slice and scallop. Broil for 5-10 minutes until scallops are cooked through and bacon is browned and crispy.

bacon wrapped scallops

The Best Way to Cook Scallops

Pan seared scallops are tough to beat. But the best way to cook scallops depends on the dish you’re making. For instance, a scallop chowder doesn’t necessarily require seared scallops. But dishes with drizzled sauces can definitely gain an enhanced flavor and texture from searing scallops.

Our two-pound pack of scallops can be ordered online and shipped to your door within a few days. They’re vacuum sealed and flash frozen before we ship them to maintain their freshness. Enjoy!