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Scallops: The Complete Guide - All You Need to Know

Scallops All You Need to Know

Do you have a taste for fine dining and exotic foods? Then, you probably know about scallops, the candy of the sea. Scallops can up your cooking game with their inherent texture and luscious taste.

You can serve scallops as appetizers or add them to pasta. They even make a rich addition to salads! Furthermore, scallops are not only delicious but also versatile. So, with the right technique, you'll find them fairly easy to cook, even if you're not a seasoned chef. And they're healthy, too!

But if you're new to cooking scallops, don't worry. We'll help you impress your loved ones every time you prepare these gifts from the sea! So, let's dive into the world of scallops (no pun intended)!

Key Takeaways

  • Scallops are tasty and healthy, and can change a boring meal into an exciting one.
  • You must buy fresh and dry scallops for the best quality and taste.
  • Scallops have a mild flavor, so it’s best to pair them with gentle spices and sauces.

What Are Scallops?

What Are Scallops.jpg

Scallops look like a coin-shaped dollop of unsalted butter on the plate. But did you know they are a type of mollusk like clams, oysters, and mussels? What you eat is the fleshy muscle embedded between the hinged shells of this sea creature.

Fun fact: This creature from the mollusk family can swim! They flap the shells and propel themselves with the water current. And they're found in seas across the world.

What Are the Most Common Types of Scallops?

The most common types of scallops are bay scallops and sea scallops, although there are other types, too. Let's find out.

Bay Scallops vs Sea Scallops

You’ll find both bay and sea scallops on restaurant menus. But what’s the difference between the two?

Bay Scallops

In the Atlantic estuaries and bays on the East Coast, the waters are shallow. This is where bay scallops come from. These scallops range between 0.5" and 0.75" in diameter and have a delicate texture.

It’s best to use quick-cooking techniques to bring out the best of bay scallops. They have milder flavors and are ideal for sauteing and broiling. That’s because their small size allows for them to be cooked fast, and you can use them in daily recipes, too.

Sea Scallops

The cold sea waters are ideal for sea scallops, which are typically found at depths of 200 m in the Sea of Japan and the North Atlantic waters. Their diameter varies from 1.5” to 2”. The texture is slightly firm and chewy.

Sea scallops cost more, due to their size, specific taste, and versatility - much loved in multiple cuisines across the world. They're great for pan searing, grilling, and baking, all of which need a little more patience and cooking time. Still, it's best if you don't overcook them while trying to achieve a beautiful caramelized look.

Other Types of Scallops

There are also other scallops like the Patagonian scallops from the icy Antarctic waters and the Calico scallops found in the warm waters of Central and South America. These are usually categorized as Bay scallops, though they’re smaller.

What Do Scallops Look Like?

Scallop exoskeletons have a pair of distinct-looking fanned-out shells. They‘re shaped like a saucer - only with fluted or scalloped edges. The shells may vary in color, including pale shades of white, pink, beige, purple, brown, yellow, or orange. They may even shimmer!

Scallops can swim by moving their two hinged shells. And the part we love to eat is embedded between the two shells. It looks like a thick coin and it's white with just a hint of pink. But you'll also find darker orange scallops that are perfectly edible.

What Does a Scallop Taste Like?

Scallops might be mollusks, but they taste slightly different from their cousins - oysters, clams, and mussels. They boast a subtle taste similar to lobsters and crabs. Scallops also have a beautiful balance of sweet and briny flavors with buttery smoothness.

Bay scallops have a delicately sweet taste that gives them a melt-in-your-mouth quality. On the other hand, sea scallops are a little more on the salty side, and each bite tastes like the goodness of the sea.

Do Scallops Taste Very Fishy?

Not at all! The flavors of both sea and bay scallops are quite mild, and they are not overly fishy, like other mollusks. Instead, they have a balance of sweet, salty, rich, and tender flavors and textures. Even people who don't prefer seafood enjoy scallops!

Related: What Foods Are in the Mediterranean Diet

What Are the Health Benefits of Scallops?

Benefits of Scallops

There’s no doubt that scallops are delectable and are often present in many popular diets like the Mediterranean way of eating. So, are they healthy? Let’s take a look below at the nutrients present in 100 grams of scallops, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

Scallops - Nutrients Per 100 g

Source: Medical News Today

Clearly, scallops are rich in nutrients and protein, making them ideal for muscle and bone health. The protein content in scallops comprises taurine and glycine. This type of seafood also has high amounts of magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin B12.

And that’s not all! Despite being seafood, scallops are surprisingly low in mercury, which means they're safe to eat even by pregnant and nursing women. Plus, the carbohydrate content is also low. So, you won’t experience elevated blood sugar. Scallops are also low in callories.

Are Scallops Good for You?

The nutrients in scallops make it a healthy addition to a non-vegetarian and pescetarian diet plan. Here's how:

Cardiovascular Health

Thanks to the omega-3 fatty acids and magnesium, scallops can lower cholesterol, improve blood circulation, and keep blood pressure under control. Additionally, the Vitamin B12 content and fatty acids can help prevent clots.

Weight Management

Scallops are low in calories and rich in lean protein, making them ideal for your weight loss journey. They keep you full for a longer period and boost your metabolism. Plus, scallops prevent weight gain thanks to the taurine, glycine, and amino acids they contain.

Fast Recovery

Since scallops have magnesium, they can boost physical recovery by repairing tissues. They can also reduce muscle cramps and boost your stamina. You may not know it, but magnesium is essential to keep osteoporosis and issues with mobility at bay. In addition, scallops are good for people with low sodium levels, too, as they contain naturally salt.

How Many Scallops Can You Eat?

According to the FDA, you can have 8-12 oz of scallops weekly. Even pregnant and nursing women can safely have 2-3 servings of scallops a week.

Each serving is 100 g or 3.5 oz. That’s about 2-3 large scallops or 4-5 medium ones. So, a healthy diner can have 16-60 scallops a week, depending on their size and weight.

Related: How Many Eggs per Day Can You Eat on a Keto Diet?

Are Scallops Safe for You?

Scallops are considered safe if you stay within the consumption limit specified by the FDA and are typically healthy. However, you do need to be careful about the following:

  • Pollutants - Scallops may have pollutants, including organic contaminants, marine biotoxins, heavy metals like cadmium, arsenic, nickel, etc.
  • Bacteria - Scallops may contain bacteria if harvested in algae-rich or polluted waters. This can be the reason behind rare cases of stomach problems and diarrhea.
  • Purine - Scallops contain an organic compound called purine. People with kidney issues should avoid it as it can cause stones. It may also lead to gout.

Is Scallop a Major Allergen?

Unfortunately, scallops are an allergen as they belong to the shellfish family. If you're allergic to seafood and had reactions like breathing difficulties, a rash, etc., in the past, then, you should avoid consuming scallops. Also, scallops can harm your kidneys if you're sensitive to purine.

Related: Frittata: The Complete Guide (With Tips & Recipes)

What to Look for When Buying Scallops?

Factors to Look for When Buying Scallops

While buying scallops, consider the following factors to ensure that you bring home the best:

Diver vs. Dayboat Scallops

Diver scallops are sustainable as they’re harvested manually by divers without harming the sea floor. But this, however, makes them pricier. Dayboat scallops are harvested by a method called dredging, which can be more harmful to the ocean floor and sea creatures.

Wet vs. Dry Scallops

Dry scallops are better as they’re not soaked in water or chemicals, unlike wet scallops. Wet-packed scallops are soaked in phosphate solution to increase the shelf-life. But this creates a soapy aftertaste, and no matter the cooking method, it may still fail to mask it.

Fresh vs. Frozen Scallops

It’s always best to buy fresh scallops with the meat still attached to the shells. Make sure that shells don’t have cracks. You’ll have to shuck them yourself. But if you can’t find these, you may also buy frozen scallops that may be sold with or without shells.


Check if the color of the scallops is white, orange, or light pink. If you notice that the meat is turning brown, yellow, or gray, it means that the scallops aren’t fresh or have necrosis. Eating such scallops won’t be healthy, and the meat quality will be poor.


Smell check is crucial when buying scallops. Fresh scallops smell sweet, with a mild hint of the salty aroma of the sea. That’s what will take your meal to the next level. If you sense a strong fishy odor or a pungent smell, do not buy those stale scallops.


Make sure the scallops are firm to the touch and feel freshly washed. Sticky, slimy surface and mushy texture indicate poor quality and staleness. They can cause digestive issues and will ruin your dish.

Related: All You Need to Know About Chorizo - The Complete Guide

How to Cook Scallops

How to Cook Scallops

Scallops are super versatile, and you can use various cooking techniques to bring out the sweet and salty flavors. Here’s a quick look at the dos and don’ts of cooking scallops.

  1. Thaw scallops by keeping them in a ziplock bag and placing them in the refrigerator overnight or under running cold water.
  2. Never defrost frozen scallops in the microwave oven or by using hot or boiling water, as this will ruin the texture.
  3. Ensure that the scallops are completely dry before you cook them. You can use a paper towel to remove moisture.
  4. If your recipe calls for marinating scallops, you don’t need to do so for more than 5-10 minutes.
  5. It’s ideal to brine scallops, especially the chemical-treated wet ones. For that, place the scallops in a mix of 4 cups of water and 2 tbsp salt for 10 minutes.
  6. If you grill or sear scallops, cook them for 3-4 minutes on each side. You can also broil them for 6-8 minutes.
  7. Do not use powdered spices while cooking scallops. They can draw moisture and dry the scallops outside. Salt and pepper are enough.
  8. The flavor of scallops can be enhanced by serving them with various types of sauces with simple and mild flavor notes. Avoid super-strong flavors.
  9. Sear scallops on a hot pan or grill them to boost their sweetness and add some beautiful caramelization to the crust.
  10. While searing, moving the scallops around the pan is unnecessary. Let them sit in the pan so that they develop a crust.
  11. Don't overcook them. To know when they're done, look for the golden crust and opaque flesh. If you put a fork into them at this point, it should glide in.
  12. If you have large scallops, slice them in half so that you can monitor whether they are cooked properly on the inside or not.
  13. Keep an eye on the edges while cooking. Once they start to become brown, wait for another 20 seconds before lifting them to see if a crust is formed.
  14. Do not skimp on the amount of oil or butter you use while cooking scallops to prevent them from drying.
  15. If you’re planning on serving your scallops raw, make sure to get fresh, dry scallops only. Prepare and serve them as quickly after buying as possible.

Delicious Scallop Recipes

You must be excited to cook some scallops and dig into them, right? Here is a popular and favored-by-many recipe to help you get inspired in no time!

Garlic-Lemon-Butter Scallops

Garlic-Lemon-Butter Scallops Recipe

Source: All Recipes

Garlic, lemon, and butter - now, that's a tasty mix you can't go wrong with! And when paired with seafood, you'll have a blast of flavors that are hard to beat. Here's the recipe for garlic-lemon-butter scallops.


  • Butter: 3/4 cup
  • Garlic (finely chopped): 2 tbsp
  • Lemon juice (freshly squeezed): 2 tbsp
  • Sea scallops: 2 lb
  • Salt: 1 tsp
  • Pepper: 1/8 tsp


  1. Start by setting a large skillet on medium heat.
  2. Melt butter in the hot skillet and add the minced garlic.
  3. Once the garlic becomes fragrant, arrange your scallops in the pan. Form a single layer. You may need to cook the whole lot in two batches.
  4. Continue to cook for about 2 minutes till the scallops turn golden brown.
  5. Then, use a pair of tongs to turn over the scallops. Cook them for another 2 minutes until they turn translucent and a little firm and springy to the touch.
  6. Next, transfer the scallops to a plate and put the melted butter and cooked garlic in a bowl.
  7. Now, slowly whisk some lemon juice into the cooked butter. Add salt and pepper and mix well.
  8. Finally, pour it over the scallops!

Your delicious six-ingredient scallop dish is ready to serve! It's super quick and easy. You can also add a little lemon zest to the skillet while cooking the scallops.

And if you still fancy a delicious scallop dish but don't have the time to prepare it, you can easily take advantage of Cookunity's mouthwatering scallop recipes anytime. Try Bay Scallops with Fennel and Citrus Salad or King Oyster Mushroom "Scallops", created by award-winning chefs and delivered right to your doorstep.

Scallops: All You Need to Know - FAQs

Q: Can we eat scallops raw?

A: Yes, you can eat scallops raw to enjoy the natural flavors of the sea. However, you should only eat raw scallops at specialty restaurants or if you manage to buy fresh, dry scallops that aren’t harvested in contaminated water.

Q: Are frozen scallops good?

A: Yes, frozen scallops are safe to consume, as long as they have been frozen and defrosted properly. You may not always be able to lay your hands on fresh scallops all the time. In that case, frozen scallops can very well be used in your recipes.

Q: Do scallops have toxins?

A: Unfortunately, scallops may contain toxins if they are harvested in water with contamination or algae.

Q: How can you store scallops?

A: You can safely store scallops in an air-tight container and keep them in a cold place at 40°F or below if you cook them within a day of buying. If you want to store them beyond that, you must freeze them, though it's best to cook them within 2 days.

Related: How to Meal Prep a Salad: Dos & Don'ts (+ Recipes)

Make Your Meals Fancy - with Scallops!

Whether you have guests coming over or you’re feeling self-indulgent, scallops are ideal. And now you know how to buy and cook these buttery delights. Delicious and healthy, scallops are just too hard to say 'No' to, especially if you're an avid seafood lover. Morever, you can add them to various popular dishes, like paella or seafood salads.