3 Ways to Cook Scallops

Scallops are the perfect summer catch -- light, delicious, and easy to prepare.

Medically Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD on July 12, 2013
From the WebMD Archives

Famous for their delicate flavor and buttery texture, scallops are the ultimate "starter seafood," says chef and conservationist Barton Seaver. He is director of the Healthy and Sustainable Food Program at Harvard School of Public Health. Scallops are also easy to prepare at home.

These nutritious delicacies are packed with protein: One 4-ounce serving provides about half the daily value women need. Scallops also offer a modest amount of heart-healthy omega-3 fats and have very little saturated fat. And they’re low in mercury, a toxic metal common in some seafood.

Fresh scallops are a treat, but frozen scallops can be delicious as well. "As soon as they hit the dock, they hit the freezer, which means they’re frozen at the peak of quality," Seaver says. To thaw scallops, he recommends placing them on a plate in the fridge, covered with a damp paper towel, on the morning of the day you plan to cook them for dinner. "I would absolutely avoid running them under cold water unless they’re wrapped in a protective plastic film."

Scallop Cooking Tips

  • Remove any remaining tough muscle and membrane before cooking scallops.
  • The part of the scallop usually eaten is the adductor muscle, which helps keep the shell closed.
  • Bay scallops are generally smaller and typically used in soups, stews, and salads. Sea scallops are bigger and are often served seared.
  • Patting scallops dry with paper towels helps them to brown as they cook.

1. Scallop Gratin

Fast and elegant, this dish works well with a mixed-green salad and crusty whole grain rolls.

Makes 6 servings


2 lbs bay or sea scallops, patted dry

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup white wine

1 cup low-sodium ­vegetable stock

3 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 tbsp chopped fresh ­tarragon (or 1 tsp dried)

pinch sea salt

freshly ground pepper

½ cup plain panko bread crumbs

3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

1 tbsp cooked, crumbled bacon


1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Spray six individual gratin dishes or one large dish with cooking spray. Divide scallops evenly among the gratin dishes, or place all in the large dish.

2. Heat ½ tbsp olive oil in a large nonstick skillet. Add garlic and sauté 2-3 minutes. Add wine, vegetable stock, and lemon juice. Bring to a boil and cook until reduced by half. Add tarragon, salt, and pepper. Spoon sauce over each dish.

3. Make the gratin topping: In a small bowl, combine panko, parsley, bacon, and ½ tbsp olive oil, and distribute over each dish. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until topping is golden brown.

Per serving: 255 calories, 37 g protein, 7 g carbohydrate, 5 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 79 mg cholesterol, 1 g sugar, 319 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 18%.

2. Cajun Scallops on Mixed Greens With Champagne Vinaigrette

This entrée salad features a range of flavors and textures: tender scallops, crisp-sweet Asian pear, and delicate vinaigrette.

Makes 6 servings


1½ lbs bay or sea scallops, patted dry

1 tsp low-sodium Cajun seasoning

6 cups mixed baby greens

2 Asian pears, sliced

⅓ cup thinly sliced red onion

½ cup toasted, chopped walnuts

1 tsp olive oil


¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup Champagne vinegar

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp honey

¼ tsp freshly ground pepper

pinch sea salt


1. In a small bowl, gently toss scallops with Cajun seasoning. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes to 1 hour.

2. Prepare salad: In a large bowl, combine greens, pears, onion, and walnuts.

3. Make vinaigrette: In a small bowl or jar, combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly. Toss salad with vinaigrette. Divide salad among six dinner plates.

4. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add scallops and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Place scallops on salads, and serve immediately.

Per serving: 218 calories, 21 g protein, 10 g carbohydrate, 10 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 37 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber, 4 g sugar, 327 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 41%.

3. Seared Scallops Over Succotash

Celebrate summer’s bounty and pair scallops with fresh corn succotash. For extra color and flavor, add a broiled, Parmesan-topped tomato to each plate.

Makes 6 servings


2 ears corn, husked

3 tsp extra virgin olive oil, divided

1 onion, finely chopped

1 red pepper, chopped

1 medium zucchini, chopped

1 10-oz package frozen lima beans, with no added sauces or sodium, defrosted

2 tbsp minced fresh marjoram, with more for garnish (can substitute fresh basil or Italian parsley)

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

2 tsp lemon zest

1 tsp unsalted butter

2 lbs bay or sea scallops, patted dry

¼ tsp sea salt

freshly ground pepper


1. With a sharp knife, cut corn kernels off cob.

2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1½ tsp oil, onion, and red pepper and cook 3-4 minutes until soft.

3. Add corn, zucchini, and lima beans and cook 5-8 minutes. Stir in marjoram, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Cover and remove from heat.

4. Prepare scallops: Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1½ tsp oil and butter. Add scallops and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side.

5. Divide succotash among six plates. Top with scallops, sprinkle sea salt and pepper, and garnish with additional marjoram.

Per serving: 274 calories, 31 g protein, 28 g carbohydrate, 5 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 51 mg cholesterol, 6 g fiber, 5 g sugar, 358 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 15%.

Pantry Picks for Scallops

Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD, offers a peek at the brands she keeps in her own kitchen for these kinds of recipes.

Better Breadcrumbs: Japanese breadcrumbs, known as panko, absorb less oil and stay crisp longer than regular crumbs. Zelman’s faves include Ian’s Whole Wheat Panko Breadcrumbs (low in sodium and fat), and Kikkoman Panko Bread Crumbs (light and airy).

Bubbly: For light, delicate vinaigrettes, Zelman uses Champagne vinegar, made from the same grapes used in sparkling wine. She likes Archer Farms Champagne Vinegar (available at Target) and O Champagne Vinegar (available online) as a pricey but delicious indulgence.

Cool Beans: Maybe you avoided lima beans as a child, but Zelman recommends you give these hearty beans another try. Choose brands without added sodium or fat. Zelman likes Birds Eye Fordhook Lima Beans as well as Kroger Baby Lima Beans.

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Barton Seaver, director, Healthy and Sustainable Food Program, Center for Health and the Global Environment, Harvard School of Public Health, Cambridge, Mass.

CDC: "Nutrition for Everyone: Protein."

National Geographic: "Seafood Decision Guide."

U.S. Food & Drug Administration: "Food Safety for Moms-to-Be: While You're Pregnant-- Methyl Mercury."

Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD, director of nutrition, WebMD.

Rhode Island Sea Grant: "Scallop."

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