How to Cook Scallops

McDonald’s has begun running ads for their fish sandwich, which prompts me to think it must be the season of Lent. In light of Lent, I thought I would include a thing or two on here about preparing seafood, mainly scallops.

By the way, all this comes from James Peterson’s book, What’s a Cook to Do? Today’s entry covers three methods of preparing scallops – sauté, poach and steam. Without further adieu…


How to Cook Scallops
However you cook your scallops, pull off the little muscle that runs up the side of each one. Discard this, since it turns very tough once cooked.

To Saute
Because scallops often contain a lot of water that gushes out as soon as they are hot, they need a lot of heat applied very quickly.
1. Select a sauté pan just large enough to hold the scallops in a single layer. Add enough clarified butter or oil to make a thin layer in the pan and heat the pan until the oil begins barely to smoke.
2. Pat the scallops dry, season with salt and pepper, and, over high heat, add 3 or 4 scallops to the pan, each in a different part of the pan. Wait about a minute–if the scallops release water, wait longer–until the scallops are pale brown on the bottom.
3. Add another 3 or 4 scallops and wait again. Continue in this way until you’ve added all the scallops.
4. Turn the scallops, 3 or 4 at a time, to brown the other side. Wait between each series of turns. Saute a 1-inch-scallop about 2 minuntes on each side.

To Poach
Find a sauté pan just large enough to hold the scallops in a single layer. The more tight fitting the pan, the less liquid you need for poaching.
1. In the pan, heat enough vegetable broth or a combination of half wine and half water to a simmer. Add the scallops.
2. Simmer very gently for 2 or 3 minutes. Take out the scallops with tongs or a skimmer.
3. Keep the scallops warm while you reduce the poaching liquid to about ¼ cup per 4 servings.
4. Whisk a little butter or cream into the poaching liquid.
5. Whisk in chopped herbs such as parsley, chives, chervil or tarragon.
6. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve over and around the scallops in heated soup plates.

To Steam
1. Season the scallops with salt and pepper. If you want to make a sauce with the juices released by the scallops, use very little liquid–a cup or so–to steam them.
2. Bring the liquid to a rapid boil in the steamer and arrange the scallops in the steamer. Cover the steamer and steam for about 4 minutes per inch of thickness.
3. To make a sauce boil down the liquid in the steamer to about a tablespoon per serving. Whisk in ½ tablespoon butter per serving or 1 tablespoon cream per serving. If you like, add minced herbs such as chives, parsley or chervil to the sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve the scallops in soup plates with the sauce around them.

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1 Response

  1. Jo says:

    Andrea, thanks. I love scallops but have stayed away since getting some bad ones (at Henry’s, of all places) over a year ago. Maybe I’ll give it another try. I’ve always been bothered by all that liquid that kept my scallops for getting nice and brown. A lot of restaurants serve them wrapped in bacon but I never tried that due to adding fat I didn’t want. Of course, one wouldn’t have to eat the bacon–but who wouldn’t do that? Those in the photo look wonderful and now I’m hungry and it’s bedtime!!!!!

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