Are you the kind of person who loves ordering scallops from a restaurant menu, but rarely cooks them at home? We’ve been there. Scallops can seem like an extra-special dish that’s reserved for nice dinners out—but they’re far too tasty to eat only on rare occasions. Plus, this shellfish is quick cooking and the perfect addition to your 30-minute meal repertoire. Let’s resolve to cook more scallops! Keep reading to learn the basics, get answers to your searing questions, and take in tips from top chefs and foodie sites.
Scallops are a kind of bivalve mollusk. Translation: The interior muscle is surrounded by two shells, a structure shared by clams, mussels, and oysters. Inside the shell, scallops have two parts: a white adductor muscle (the part we eat) and a bright orange section called the coral (technically edible, but not often consumed in the U.S.) There are two kinds of scallops: bay scallops and sea scallops. Bay scallops are smaller, about the size of a dime, and are more tender than their sea scallop counterparts, which may grow as large as two inches. Most scallops are sourced from the East Coast—where they’re found in the seagrasses of estuaries, shallow waters, and bays—or flown in from Mexico or China.
Low in fat, high in protein, and a good source of vitamins such as selenium and iron, scallops make a smart ingredient choice for a range of diets. According to the USDA, a half-cup serving (about six scallops) contains approximately 18 grams of protein, plus a variety of nutrients such as phosphorus, selenium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and calcium.
Cooking scallops doesn’t have to be intimidating. Here are some tips to get you up to speed on how to cook perfect scallops.
Lesson number one is how to sear scallops, which is one of the most popular cooking methods around. Food Network star Alton Brown is known for bringing science into the kitchen and has three essential tips.
Scallops don’t take long to cook. In this recipe, The New York Times sears scallops in a cast iron pan for even browning, but uses a low and slow approach for the perfect color (which still only takes about five minutes!). The general rule of thumb is:
This technique is just as speedy as pan-searing—all you need to do is preheat your broiler before getting started. Brush your scallops with a combination of oil and butter, then broil about four inches from the heat, for between six and 10 minutes. Done!
For the best results, use the largest scallops you can find. They’ll be more forgiving on the grill grates. Slide two wooden skewers into a row of three scallops, which will give you an easy way to turn them.
Let the scallops ride by themselves on the skewer for easy, fast cooking times (without worrying about how done the other skewered bits are). If the skewers are wooden, remember to soak them in warm water for about 45 minutes before cooking.
Cooking times remain the same even when you’re cooking scallops on a grill—five minutes is the magic number. Cook the scallops on one side for about four minutes, which will give you beautiful grill marks. Then, cook scallops on the second side until they’re just opaque in the middle, about one minute more. And when it comes to flavors, Food52 recommends keeping things simple. “Scallops grill best naked. Marinades can hide the scallops’ delicate flavor and cause flare-ups that create a scorched crust. You only need a simple finishing glaze with a sweet undertone and a finishing kick.”
There are a few ways you can check to be sure your scallops are cooked thoroughly. First, see if the scallops break apart slightly along the edge—this is a tell-tale sign of doneness. Or, you can insert a small knife into the middle of one scallop to test it. If the scallop comes apart easily, it’s ready to go. Resistance? It might need another minute.
Now that you’re ready to tackle this ingredient at home, here are two flavorful (and easy!) recipes to try. One is a comforting soup that’s deliciously creamy yet dairy-free, and the other is a date-night-worthy dish featuring tender risotto and pan-seared scallops.
This cozy chowder is paleo-friendly, ketogenic, and believe it or not, dairy free. Ladle up a bowl at your next dinner party if you need to accommodate a few different diets.
Yield: 4 to 5 servings
Active Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
1 pound Thrive Market Wild Caught Scallops, patted dry
2 teaspoons sea salt, divided
2 teaspoons Thrive Market Organic Ground Pepper, divided
1 tablespoon Thrive Market Organic Virgin Coconut Oil
6 slices Thrive Market Sugar-Free Bacon, cut into lardons
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 (13.5-ounce) can Thrive Market Organic Coconut Milk, Regular
4 cups Thrive Market Organic Chicken Bone Broth
1 medium celery root, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
1 bag (31-40 pieces) Thrive Market Wild Caught Shrimp, cut into small pieces
Chopped parsley, for serving
Arrange scallops on a sheet tray. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper on both sides.
Heat coconut oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high. When hot, add bacon and cook until crisp, about 3 to 5 minutes; remove with a slotted spoon to drain on a towel-lined plate. Add scallops to bacon fat and sear on both sides, about 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to plate and cool.
Add onion and garlic; sauté until soft, about 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in cauliflower, coconut milk, chicken bone broth, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1 teaspoon pepper to taste. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and let cauliflower cook until tender, about 10 minutes.
Using an immersion blender, purée until smooth. (Alternatively, you can purée the soup in batches in a high-speed blender.) Add celery root and simmer until pieces are easily pierced with a fork, about 5 minutes. Cut scallops into smaller pieces, then return them (including any juices) to the pot. Add shrimp and stir. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until shrimp have turned pink and curled slightly.
To serve, ladle soup into bowls and top with bacon and parsley.
Ketogenic diet expert Thomas DeLauer is in the test kitchen to share an elegant dinner you can make in 45 minutes. Instead of arborio rice, this risotto is made with riced cauliflower, and perfectly seared scallops finish the dish.
Yield: 2 to 3 servings
Active Time: 45 minutes
For the risotto:
1 large or 2 small heads cauliflower, cut into florets
2 tablespoons Thrive Market Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, plus more as needed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 ½ pounds mixed wild mushrooms (maitake, oysters, and creminis), cleaned
4 to 5 thyme sprigs, leaves removed
Thrive Market Organic Ground Pepper
¼ cup dry vermouth
2 cups vegetable stock
½ cup mascarpone cheese
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
For the scallops:
10 to 12 Thrive Market Wild Sea Scallops, rinsed and patted dry
2 tablespoons Thrive Market Organic Ghee
3 tablespoons minced chives
Make the risotto:
Working in two batches, add cauliflower florets to a food processor and pulse 10 to 15 times, until broken down into rice-sized pieces. Turn out into a large bowl; you need approximately 5 cups of riced cauliflower.
Warm a medium Dutch oven over medium heat; add olive oil and butter; cook until butter has browned and smells nutty. Add shallots and garlic; cook 2 minutes, or until softened and fragrant.
While the shallots and garlic cook, thinly slice cremini mushrooms and gently tear maitake and oyster mushrooms. Add ⅓ mushrooms to the pot; wait until they begin to brown before adding the next batch. Once mushrooms have cooked down, add thyme and season with salt and pepper to taste. If the pan gets too dry while cooking, add 1 tablespoon olive oil as needed.
Deglaze pan with vermouth, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom. Once liquid has absorbed, remove ⅓ of the mushrooms to a small bowl.
Add riced cauliflower and cook 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Season with salt and pepper, then add vegetable stock; increase heat to medium high until almost all the liquid has been absorbed (about 10 minutes).
Reduce heat to medium and stir in mascarpone and parmesan cheeses; cook until thick and the rice is tender; taste for seasoning. Cover and keep warm over low heat while you sear the scallops.
Make the scallops:
Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium high; add ghee. Working in batches, add scallops and cook 2 minutes per side, or until golden. Remove to a plate and season with salt and pepper.
To serve, add a scoop of risotto to 2 shallow bowls, followed by reserved mushrooms. Sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and black pepper. Next, place 5 to 6 scallops on top and finish with chives; serve immediately.
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