Pan Seared Scallops

I have never eaten scallops before, and the new “Seafood in a Skillet” episode from season 11 of America’s Test Kitchen made me wonder why I hadn’t. Plus scallops happened to be on sale this for $7/lb. Chris Kimball made a big deal about the dry verses wet distinction, and the scallops on sale were dry (the preferred, chemical-free version). So it seemed like destiny. But after I brought them home and was ready to cook them, I realized that I bought super-mini scallops (40-to-50 per pound). They looked nothing like beauties I had seen on my TV screen. Never-the-less, I continued and they came out fine, despite their lilliputian dimensions.  3-1/2 stars.

Very good with a strong flavor of the sea, but tiny.


  1. The wrong size made for tiny meal. I bought 40-to-50 per pound, when the recipe called for 10-to-20 per pound. Not only did their size make them difficult to flip (small size made them more delicate and prone to ripping). But there were also 3 times as many Scallops to flip. Plus their small size meant I had to flip them faster.
  2. The base scallop recipe is available for free on ATK’s website (latest 2 seasons are free; you have to give an e-mail address, but no credit card). However, the sauce is “premium content” (and I don’t have a paid subscription to ATK’s website. Fortunately, the sauce recipe is also available on the Cook’s Illustrated website, to which I do subscribe.
  3. Also I see that my non-stick pan is almost ready to be replaced. These scallops prompted me to go on-line and buy a new one after just 1-1/2 years (I look to replace my non-stick skillet every 2 year). I think what ruined my pan early was this 2003 re-heating pizza trick. Heating scratchy pizza for 5 minutes in a dry non-stick skillet is a bad idea! Fortunately, I found this 2006 re-heating pizza tip which bakes pizza in a preheated 400-degree oven on a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet for six minutes. Hopefully this will save my new pan.

Rating: 3-1/2 stars.
Cost: $9.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low.
Start time 6:00 PM. Ready at 6:45 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original version is here and the sauce recipe is here.  My descriptions of how I cooked it it today are given below:

Scallop Ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds dry sea scallop, 10 to 20 per pound
Table salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

  1. If your scallops have a small side muscles, then remove it. Mine did not.
  2. Place the scallops on of a clean kitchen towel or paper towels on a baking sheet. Using another clean kitchen towel, place on top and blot away the moisture using only slight downward pressure. Let them sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.
  3. While the scallops dry, prepare the sauce (see below).
  4. Sprinkle both sides of the scallops with salt and pepper. Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil to 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat. Working in two batches, add scallops with the flat-side down to the hot skillet. Cook for 1-1/2 to 2 minutes without moving.
  5. Add 1 tablespoon butter to skillet (with the scallops still cooking). Use tongs to flip the scallops . Immediately begin using large spoon to continually baste the scallops with melted butter. It is best to tilt skillet so that the butter is easier to scoop. Continue cook and basting for up to 90 seconds; the sides of scallops will be firm and the centers will be opaque. If any smaller scallops finish first, remove them as they are ready. Place cooked scallops on large plate and tent loosely with aluminum foil.
  6. Wipe out skillet the hot skillet with paper towels and repeat from step 4.

Lemon Brown Butter Sauce Ingredients:

1/2 stick  unsalted butter.
1 small shallot
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon
Table salt and ground black pepper

  1. Mince shallot, parsley and thyme, and juice 1 lemon.
  2. Place a separate, small heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat.
  3. Cut butter into 4 piece and cook until turns dark golden brown for about 4 to 5 minutes, swirling constantly.
  4. Add minced shallot and cook for 30 seconds.
  5. Remove pan from heat, then add parsley, thyme, and lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste, and cover sauce pan to keep warm while you finish cooking the scallops.

6 Responses to Pan Seared Scallops

  1. Foodiewife says:

    Ah, scallops. I call them the filet mignon of the sea. We love them, and I do buy the large ones. I like to pan sear them, and serve them with quickly sauteed chopped tomatoes, white wine, garlic and fresh basil over a bed of linguine. For your first time, you did a great job with the sear. I made the same mistake, the first time that I bought scallops. Plus, I overcooked them to death. They were like rubber!

  2. Eusebia says:

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  3. Anonymous says:

    mmmmm yummy !!

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