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Home Recipes The Key to Perfectly Seared Scallops

Seared scallops is an easy seafood recipe that’s fancy enough for a date night or special occasion, but quick enough for a Tuesday.

plate of seared scallops.

What are scallops

Scallops are medium-sized shellfish that live in salt water oceans. When the shells are peeled open, the meat is revealed.

Fortunately, unlike other shellfish, like mussels or clams, you don’t have to peel open the shells. Scallops are sold already separated and can be found in the freezer section or at the fresh fish counter at your local grocery store.

When buying scallops, you’ll see that they are identified with a U and a number. The number signifies how many scallops are in a pound. So a bag marked U-10 means there are 10 scallops per pound.

U-8 scallops will be a little larger, because there are 8 per pound, and U-12 scallops will be smaller, because there are 12 per pound.

In addition to size, the bag will also tell you if the scallops are packed in water or are dry packed. Dry-packed scallops are harder to find, but they’re easier to sear, because they don’t contain added moisture that wet scallops have.

When you look at the scallop, some may have a small side muscle that dangles from the perfect circle. Most chefs remove it, because it’s not as delicate and tender. Honestly, I just leave it on most of the time. It tastes fine, it’s just a little more tough.


Ingredients

ingredients: scallops, butter, salt and pepper.
  • Scallops: You can use fresh scallops or thawed frozen scallops. Look for large sea scallops marked U-8 or U-10.
  • Butter: The butter will be used to help sear the scallops. You could also use canola oil, but the butter gives the scallops a rich flavor and that beautiful color. Use real butter, not spreadable butter. Because scallops contain natural sodium from the ocean, unsalted butter is best.
  • Salt and Pepper: Kosher salt and black pepper are all the seasonings you’ll need. But you can get creative if you like adding other flavors like garlic powder or onion powder.
bottles of BBQ rubs on black background

How to sear scallops

  1. STEP ONE: The key to getting that perfect sear is to make sure the scallops are as dry as possible. You will need to use several paper towels to pat the scallops dry, pressing out the moisture.
patting scallops dry with a paper towel.

PRO TIP: If I have the time, I leave the scallops uncovered on a rack over a sheet pan in the fridge over night. This helps evaporate even more moisture.

  1. STEP TWO: Once the scallops are as dry as possible, sprinkle both sides with a pinch of salt and pepper.
scallops seasoned with salt and pepper.
  1. STEP THREE: You can cook these in a large skillet, on a griddle or on the Ninja Woodfire Grill or Ninja indoor grill.

If you’re using a skillet, set it on the stove over medium-high heat.

If you’re using a griddle like a Blackstone or Cuisinart 360 XL, set the temperature to medium high.

For the Ninja Grill, set the function to grill, the temperature to high and the time to 15 minutes.

  1. STEP FOUR: Once the griddle or pan are hot, add a tablespoon butter and spread it around with a rubber spatula. Place scallops on the griddle in a single layer. If you’re using a Ninja, you can leave the lid open as they sear.
scallops searing on griddle plate on Ninja Grill.

Cook them to 4-5 minutes. As long as they were dry before you added them the bottoms will develop a nice sear. After 4 minutes, flip one over to make sure it has the good sear you’re looking for. If it doesn’t check again in 30-60 seconds.

  1. STEP FIVE: Once that first side is ready, flip them all over to sear the second side. Continue cooking for 4-5 minutes.
scallops searing on griddle plate on Ninja Grill after being flipped.
Seared crust on scallops.

How to serve seared scallops

As soon as the scallops are seared on both sides, you can transfer them to a platter or plate and garnish with some fresh herbs like chopped chives or fresh parsley for a little color.

plate of seared scallops.

I don’t recommend squeezing lemon juice on the cooked scallops before serving them, because the juice can rinse away the sear. Instead, serve them with lemon wedges and allow people to squeeze on the juice just before taking a bite.

They go great with a glass of crisp white wine like a Sauvignon blanc.


Storage

While you can store seared scallops in the refrigerator in an airtight container for a few days. They will lose their crispy, charred crust because of the moisture that will build up. They’ll still taste great, but the texture will be different.


GCG Pro Pitmaster Tips

  • Start with dry-packed scallops, if you can find them
  • Use a paper towel to gently press out as much moisture as possible
  • Use unsalted butter to create a sear and for the best flavor
  • Sear the scallops in a very hot pan or on a hot griddle

How to clean the Ninja griddle

To clean your griddle grate, use a rubber spatula to push the brown bits toward the drain. Once the grill has cooled off, you can wash the griddle plate in the sink with warm soap and water.

Also, be sure to wipe down the interior of the hood in case the butter splattered.

scraping griddle with rubber spatula.

Watch my video for more Ninja Grill cleaning tips.



Frequently Asked Questions

How long should you sear scallops for?

It depends on the size of your scallops. U-10 scallops that have been patted dry with a paper towel will take 8-10 minutes.

What is the best cooking method for scallops?

Scallops can be cooked on a grill, in an oven, in an air fryer, on a griddle or in a pan. Personally, I get the best results searing them on a griddle or in a hot cast iron skillet in butter until they’re golden brown on both sides.

Are seared scallops healthy?

Scallops by themselves are healthy. Each scallop has under 30 calories, only a trace of fat, 1 gram of carbohydrates and around 5 grams of protein. They’re also high in potassium. Because they come from salt water, they each have around 60 grams of sodium. This scallops recipe does use butter, so that will had fat and calories to the final dish.

What do seared scallops taste like?

Scallops are very mild. They taste a little like breathing in ocean air. You get just a hint of salt, but no other obvious flavor. Their texture is somewhat similar to a mushroom, but more delicate.

What makes them so delicious and desired is the sear. Once they come in contact with the butter, they caramelize and develop a slightly sweet flavor and salty golden crust.

How do you pronounce scallop?

I didn’t know there was more than one pronunciation, until I visited Maine. We dined at New England Fishmongers, and they pronounced them scaw-luhps, instead of sca-luhps.

This restaurant was really cool, because Tim and Kayla and their crew harvest scallops themselves off the northern coast of Massachusetts. You can buy their scallops online and have them shipped straight from the ocean to your door.

How do you thaw frozen scallops?

If you have a couple days, you can place the bag of scallops in a bowl and defrost them in the refrigerator. This will usually take about 24 hours. If you need to thaw them in a hurry, remove them from the bag, place them in a colander and rinse them with cool water. Be sure to pat them dry before searing.


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5 from 2 votes

Seared Scallops

Seared scallops is an easy seafood recipe that's fancy enough for a date night or special occasion, but quick enough for a Tuesday.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients 

  • 24 large sea scallops, thawed
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter

Instructions 

  • Pat Dry: Lay the scallops on a paper towel-lined sheet pan. Use several paper towels to press out as much moisture as possible.
  • Season: Sprinkle both sides of the dry scallops with a pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Heat: If using a skillet, place it on the stove over medium-high heat. If using a griddle, heat it to medium-high. If using the Ninja grill, use the griddle plate and heat it to high.
  • Sear: Add the butter to the pan or griddle and spread it around. Add the scallops in a single layer. Sear for 4-5 minutes or until the bottom side has a good sear. Flip and cook for another 4-5 minutes.
  • Serve: Remove from the heat and serve right away.

Video

Notes

If you have the time, place the scallops uncovered on a rack over a sheet pan in the refrigerator overnight. This will help evaporate more moisture. 

Nutrition

Calories: 88kcalCarbohydrates: 3gProtein: 11gFat: 3gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.2gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0.1gCholesterol: 29mgSodium: 935mgPotassium: 192mgFiber: 0.1gSugar: 0.01gVitamin A: 93IUCalcium: 9mgIron: 0.4mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
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Hey BBQ Family

Hi. I’m Christie, the head cook and award-winning competitive pitmaster for Team Girls Can Grill. I have won multiple grand championships and have dozens of top ten category finishes. People know me as the girl who is forever hovering over a grill, smoker or campfire with tongs in one hand and a glass of wine in the other.

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