Why Do You Soak Scallops In Milk?

Scallops are easy seafood to cook if you know how to do it correctly. However, some recipes require you to soak the scallops in milk before cooking them. Why must you soak scallops in milk? And how will it affect the recipe if you don’t soak scallops in milk before cooking?

Milk helps to tenderize the scallops. The scallops will be tenderized and relieved of any fishy odors or tastes by soaking them in milk before cooking. Soaking the scallops in milk also helps to remove any grit or sand trapped in the scallop. The result is a fresh, tender, and clean scallop.

Now, this answer might be somewhat confusing. Therefore, this article gives a detailed discussion of why scallops are soaked in milk before cooking them. We will also discuss how to cook scallops perfectly and if you need to soak all scallops in milk before cooking them.

Why Should You Soak Scallops In Milk Before Cooking Them?

Scallops are delicious, tender mollusks prized for their taste worldwide. However, sometimes the scallops can become tough and have a fishy taste. Therefore, some scallop recipes will ask you to soak the scallops in milk before cooking them. Why should you do this?

There are three parts to this answer. First, soaking the scallops in milk helps to tenderize them. Then, in case your scallops are tough, they will be tenderized enough to resolve this problem.

Second, soaking scallops in milk can help to remove any fish odors and tastes from the seafood. Although scallops should smell and taste like the ocean, you don’t want them smelling like a harbor. Finally, soaking the scallops in milk before cooking them will help rinse them from sand and grit. This is an essential factor because there’s nothing worse than biting on sand when enjoying seafood.

You might wonder how milk can tenderize the scallops, remove fishy odors, and rinse the scallops of sand and grit.

How Does Milk Tenderize Scallops?

Milk is not only used to tenderize scallops. Many cultures use milk or some form of milk, such as yogurt, to tenderize meat before cooking it. Milk contains calcium that breaks down the protein fibers in meat, tenderizing it. Milk also contains lactic acid, which breaks down the collagen fibers in the meat to help it tenderize.

Other agents, such as vinegar and lemon juice, can also be used for tenderizing meat, but they are often too strong for seafood. They will start to cook the scallops while tenderizing them. The result is a dry and rubbery outside and a tough inside. The scallops will also cook unevenly if they are tenderized with acids.

Therefore, milk is the perfect agent for tenderizing scallops. It has enough lactic acid and calcium to break down the protein fibers, tenderizing the scallop. However, it is gentle enough not to dry out the scallop or start cooking it.

How Does Milk Remove Fishy Odors And Tastes From Scallops?

Fresh scallops shouldn’t have a particularly fishy smell. Instead, they should smell salty, like ocean water. However, suppose you bought frozen scallops or scallops that have been harvested a few days before. In that case, they might start to develop a more pungent fishy smell.

Although these scallops are perfectly safe to eat, they aren’t as pleasant to work with. Therefore, you can soak them in milk beforehand to reduce the fishy odor and taste that develop when scallops are out of the ocean for a while.

The components in milk work to reverse the chemical reaction that causes the scallops to develop that fishy scent. Therefore, the milk doesn’t simply mask the odor; it eliminates it. This is a useful tip for any other seafood that develops a fishy smell, and it makes it easier to work with and eat seafood.

How Does Milk Remove Sand And Grit From Scallops?

Milk has no particular effect on removing sand and grit from scallops. However, when you soak the scallops in milk, there is more time for the sand and grit to be dislodged, meaning that there will ultimately be less sand stuck on the scallops.

While you can also rinse the scallop with water to remove the sand and grit, soaking them in milk has other benefits. Removing the sand and grit is simply another bonus.

Should You Always Soak Scallops In Milk?

You might have noticed that we mentioned scallops that have been harvested a few days before when you want to cook them tend to develop a fishy odor and taste. In addition, frozen scallops can potentially be tough when thawed. Therefore, in these cases, it is certainly recommended that you soak the scallops in milk before cooking them.

However, if you have fresh scallops harvested and bought on the day you wish to cook them, you don’t have to soak them in milk. These scallops shouldn’t be tough and will not have a fishy odor. So while you can soak them in milk if you want to, it isn’t necessary.

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How To Prepare And Cook Scallops Perfectly

Although you don’t have to soak all scallops in milk before cooking them, there are other preparation steps that you should take to ensure your scallops are juicy, delicious, and tender. Follow these steps for perfectly cooked scallops.

Step 1: Rinse And Clean The Scallops

When you are ready to cook your scallops, take them out of the fridge and rinse them with cold water. Ensure there isn’t any sand stuck to the scallops and check that all the foot muscles are removed from the scallops.

These muscles are on the side of the scallop and connect the scallop to its shell. While edible, they are tough and tasteless. To remove the foot muscles, pinch and pull them away from the scallop.

Step 2: Soak The Scallops In Milk (Optional)

If you have frozen scallops or scallops that are a couple of days old, you can place the scallops in a bowl and cover them with milk. Place them in the fridge for about an hour. The milk will tenderize the scallops and remove any odors from the meat. Remove the scallops from the milk after one hour and place them on a tray.

Step 3: Dry And Season The Scallops

Once the scallops are done soaking in the milk, remove them from the bowl and place them between two paper towels to dry. Dry scallops are crucial to ensuring a good sear and golden surface. Leave the scallops between two paper towels for about ten minutes. Then, season the scallops with salt, pepper, and any other seasoning you want to use.

Step 4: Sear The Scallops

Place a cast-iron or non-stick pan on medium-high heat and add a bit of oil or butter to the pan. When the pan reaches the smoking point, place the scallops in a single layer in the pan. Leave them untouched for two or three minutes before flipping them over.

Once turned, cook them for another two to three minutes on the other side. Then, serve them immediately while they are still hot.


Soaking scallops in milk helps to tenderize them, eliminates a fishy odor, and removes sand and grit from the scallops. While you don’t have to soak all scallops in milk, it is recommended that you soak frozen and older scallops in milk for one hour before cooking them. Then, once they have soaked, follow the same steps as you normally would to cook your scallops.