Mystery Behind Scallops – Secrets Revealed

A scallop from Old French escalope, meaning “shell” is a common name applied to many species of marine bivalve mollusks in the family Pectinidae, the scallops. Scallops are a cosmopolitan family, found in all of the world’s oceans.

  • Many scallops are highly prized as a food source; the name “scallop” is also applied to the meat of these animals when it is used as seafood. The brightly colored, fan-shaped shells of some scallops, with their radiating fluted pattern, are valued by shell collectors, and have been used since ancient times as motifs in art and design.


Before you make scallops, you need to buy the scallops! Unfortunately, that’s not always so simple.

  • The smell of the scallops is a good indicator of the freshness of the scallops.  If the scallops smell strongly, do not purchase them. They should have a slight sea smell, but they should not smell fishy. The stronger they smell, the more likely they are not fresh.
  • Your scallops should not be mushy. When you touch it, it should bounce back rather than caving in. If they are mushy, they are old, and you do not want to buy them.
  • Scallops are going to be white to a light pink or peach color. If they are another color, they have probably been sitting around for a while, and you do not want to buy them.
  • Before picking out your scallops, it is a good idea to make sure that you have looked at your scallop recipes to see what  size of scallop is going to be used in your recipes.

Scallops Sizes:

  • Retailers should describe scallop sizes by using a range of numbers indicating how many of them there would be in a pound. Designating scallops as “20/30″ would mean that it would take between 20 and 30 of them to make up a pound. The smaller the number is, the larger (by weight) the scallops are.
  • You may also see size designations that look like “U/15″ or “U/10.” In these cases, the “U” stands for “under,” indicating that it would take fewer than 10 (or 15) of these to make up a pound. U/10 scallops would be the biggest ones available.


Bay Scallops:

  • Among the smallest of the scallops, corresponding to 70/120 using the numerical scale described above — meaning that there would be between 70 and 120 meats per pound of scallops. Bay scallops are particularly sweet and delicate, but not well suited for pan searing.

Alternate names: Cape scallops, Nantucket scallops, China scallops, Calico scallops, Queen scallops

Sea Scallops:

  • At the opposite end of the size spectrum, sea scallops are the big boys — in the range of 10/40 per pound or even bigger (U/15 or U/10, for instance). Reaching 1½ to 2 inches in diameter, they can be pan seared much like a filet mignon — with high heat producing a crispy outer crust, while leaving the center tender and medium to medium-rare.

Alternate names: King scallops, Great scallops, Diver scallops,  Alaskan scallops, Jumbo scallops

Diver Scallops:

  • Most scallops are harvested by boats dragging chain nets across the ocean floor. Diver scallops are harvested by divers who jump into the water and collect them by hand. The term “diver” does not itself imply a size, but these divers generally pick the largest scallops they can find, so diver scallops tend to be in the 10/30 range.
  • Aficionados say diver scallops are more ecological because the divers only pick the bigger, more mature scallops, while leaving the younger ones, which allows the population to replenish; whereas dragging with chains is indiscriminate and sweeps up other shellfish besides just scallops.

Fresh vs. Frozen Scallops:

  • Just because a scallop has never been frozen is no guarantee that it’s been properly handled on its journey from fishing boat to supermarket. Choosing between frozen and fresh depends on what’s available. If you live near the coast and have a reputable seafood purveyor, fresh might be best. But a good IQF (individually quick frozen) scallop might be superior to a “fresh” supermarket scallop that’s five days old.
  • Thaw frozen scallops overnight in the fridge. Don’t use a microwave and don’t thaw them at room temperature. In a pinch you can defrost frozen scallops by sealing them in a plastic zipper bag and running cold (not warm or hot) water over them.

Wet vs. Dry Packed Scallops:

  • Scallops are often soaked in a phosphate solution that whitens them and makes them absorb more liquid, increasing their weight by as much as 30 percent. So you’re paying $15 to $20 (or more) per pound for water.
  • Also, that phosphate solution is a common ingredient in soaps and detergents, and, not surprisingly, has a distinctly soap-like flavor. When you cook these scallops, all that extra liquid drains out and into the pan, so instead of searing them, you end up steaming them in something closely resembling soapy water.
  • If you want to avoid all that, look for scallops labeled “chemical free” or “dry packed.”

How to make Seared Scallops:

1.  Pull off the white foot from the end of the scallop. This portion gets chewy if cooked

2.  Pat the scallops dry with paper towels and rub them on all sides with a light coating of olive oil.


3.  Heat a skillet over medium high heat until a drop of water sizzles in the skillet.

Hot Pan

4.  Arrange the scallops in a single layer in the pan with about an inch of space on all sides of each scallop.

Pan Seared Scallops

5.  Cook the scallops for 90 seconds on one side or until a golden, crunchy crust develops.

Scallops turned over

6.  Turn the scallops with tongs and cook for an additional 90 seconds on the second side.  Then remove them and your scallops are ready!


There are so many ways you can serve scallops, below are just some examples that I’ve done.  But keep checking our site for updates, as I am sure there will be a lot more recipes posted in the future!

“Seared Scallops with Pear Cous Cous and Fresh Salad, garnished with Thyme”

Seared Scallops with Cous Cous

“Seared Scallops in Mango Coconut Sauce, served with Polenta and Mango Avocado Salad”

Scallops in Coconut Mango Sauce

“Seared Scallops and Vegetable Salad served with Feta Cheese and Lemon Wedges”

Seared Scallops with Salad

“Seared Scallops with Filotea Fettuccini Pasta in herbed butter and white wine sauce”

Pasta with Scallops

I hope you have found this post helpful and will try making scallops yourself.  If you also have an amazing recipe, please share would love to hear back from all of you.




1.  Scallops: Picking them and preparing them like a Pro.  Retrieved July 3, 2013
2.  How to buy scallops.  Retrieved July 3, 2013.
3.  Scallop.  Retrieved July  4, 2013
4.  How to Sear a Perfect Scallop.  Retrieved July 4, 2013

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