How Long Should Scallops Be Cooked For On Each Side?

Scallops are viewed as a true delicacy in the culinary world. Their taste and texture make them a delicious seafood option for nearly any dish. However, you can easily cook scallops at home for a quick and easy seafood meal. How long should you cook scallops on each side, you might ask?

Scallops cook extremely fast and should therefore only be cooked for two or three minutes, depending on the size of the scallop. Ensure the pan is searing hot before adding the scallops, and don’t move them around the pan until you are ready to turn them. Be sure not to overcook the scallops.

Overcooked scallops are tough and tasteless. Therefore, cooking the scallops for the perfect time will ensure they are juicy and tender, with a perfectly golden surface. This article discusses exactly how to cook scallops and what to look for when buying fresh or frozen scallops to ensure they cook perfectly.

How Long Should You Cook Scallops For?

Scallops are a type of mollusk. There are different scallop varieties. Sea scallops, bay scallops, and calico scallops all have a similar appearance and texture, but experts say they differ in terms of taste. However, regardless of the taste of these scallops, they all have similar cooking times.

In addition to cooking the scallops for two or three minutes on each side, other tips ensure your scallops are perfectly cooked. Each step of the cooking process adds to the final result, from buying the perfect scallops to how you prepare them for cooking. Therefore, we will discuss the steps for ensuring perfectly cooked scallops. Here are some tips for cooking scallops perfectly:

Step 1: Buy Dry Scallops

Although you can purchase frozen scallops any time of the year, nothing beats fresh ones. When scallops are in season, head down to your local fishmonger to buy these beauties. Look for dry scallops (that aren’t kept in a liquid), as these will have a better texture. Scallops sold in a liquid formula are full of chemicals and don’t sear as well as dry scallops.

Step 2: Prepare The Scallops For Searing

When you have your fresh scallops and are ready to cook them, rinse them with cold water first to remove any grit or sand. Work delicately to ensure you don’t damage the scallops. Also, check that there are no muscles attached to the scallops.

This muscle on the side of the scallop is called a foot. It is what keeps the scallop attached to its shell. While the foot is entirely edible, it becomes tough when cooked and is tasteless. Therefore, it’s best to remove the foot by pinching and pulling it away from the scallop.

Once the scallops are rinsed, and the muscles removed, pat them dry with a paper towel. Having the scallop’s surface as dry as possible is critical to ensure that golden toasted scallop edge. You can place the scallops between two sheets of paper towel and leave them for about ten minutes. This will allow the towels to absorb any excess moisture.

When the scallops are dry, season them with salt and pepper or any other dry spices you wish to use. Don’t add lime juice or any other liquids to the scallops.

Step 3: Searing The Scallops

Once the scallops are seasoned and ready to go, heat a cast-iron skillet or non-stick pan. The pan should be very hot when the scallops go in to ensure a golden surface. Add a splash of oil or a dollop of butter to the pan and wait for the pan to heat up sufficiently before adding the scallops.

When the pan is sufficiently hot, add the scallops. Don’t overcrowd the pan. The scallops should be placed in the pan in a single layer, with space between each scallop. Don’t move the scallops around. Instead, lay them in the pan and wat for two or three minutes before moving them.

After two minutes, gently turn the scallops around. If the scallop sticks to the pan, leave it before turning for a few more seconds. The pan side of the scallop should be toasted and have a golden-brown edge. Leave the other side of the scallop to cook for another two or three minutes.

When the scallops are turned around, you can add some butter and other herbs to the pan. When the scallops are seared, remove them from the heat and serve them immediately. The outer edges should be opaque when you cut the scallop open, while the center is slightly translucent. The texture should be firm but soft, like set jelly.

Overcooked scallops are tough and leathery. Therefore, don’t wait to serve your scallops, and don’t reheat them once they have cooled. You can serve scallops with various side dishes. Here are some recipes to inspire you:

How Long To Cook Frozen Scallops

Despite their delicate textures, scallops freeze surprisingly well. This is excellent because it ensures you can enjoy scallops all year round. When buying or using frozen scallops, don’t buy scallops with signs of frostbite or signs that they have previously been defrosted. Never refreeze scallops that have defrosted, as these can make you extremely ill.

To cook frozen scallops, first thaw them slowly by placing them in the fridge. The slower the scallops thaw, the better they will taste. You can also leave the scallops out, but be sure they aren’t exposed to heat. Scallops spoil easily. Don’t place the scallops in water to thaw. They will absorb the water and have a strange texture.

Once the scallops are thawed, clean and sear them the same way as you would fresh scallops. To freeze fresh scallops, clean them and place them in a bag. Top the bag up with milk and freeze them for later use.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Other questions are also frequently asked regarding cooking and storing scallops. To save you the trouble of having to research those answers, we have the answers to three of the most frequently asked questions about scallops below:

1. Can You Cook Scallops In Other Ways Than Searing?

You can cook scallops by baking them or adding them to seafood chowder. However, the scallops won’t be cooked as well in this case. The best way to prepare scallops is to sear them in a hot pan on the stove. This method allows you to ensure the scallops are cooked to perfection. Once cooked, you can add them to any dish.

2. Can You Eat Raw Scallops?

You can eat raw scallops. However, you must ensure the scallops are at their freshest when you eat them raw. Old scallops can be lethal when consumed raw. Therefore, if you are uncertain about the freshness of the scallops, rather sear them for two minutes on each side to be safe.

3. How Long Do Fresh Scallops Keep?

Fresh scallops can keep for about two days in the refrigerator. However, keep the refrigerator set to the coldest setting as they are easy to spoil. It’s best to use the scallops on the same day as buying them to ensure they are fresh and tender when cooked.


To cook scallops perfectly, ensure the pan is hot and the scallops are dry. Then, place the scallops in the hot pan and allow them to caramelize for two to three minutes. Next, gently turn them over and let the other side cook for another two or three minutes. Perfectly cooked scallops are tender to the touch and slightly translucent in the center.