Have you ever tried to make golden, crispy-topped yet tender perfectly seared sea scallops at home only to find out that they are a little more difficult than they seem? Nobody wants to go through the effort of buying expensive sea scallops and cooking a special meal for them to turn out a rubbery, pale mess of liquid. Bummer, right? Well, we’ve researched the best and here’s what works for us – fool-proof golden, caramelized, tender seared sea scallops, every time. Every. Time.
The first rule of a perfectly cooked scallop is to make sure that you don’t have “wet scallops”…and yes, it is a real thing and it can make a difference. If you’ve ever tried to pan-sear the perfect scallop at home and it ended up being a soupy, non-caramelized mess, you can most-likely blame moisture content. Try to search for “dry scallops” (which means that they do not contain additives that keep them dense with moisture). If you can’t find this, move on to the next section.
Secondly, even if you have dry scallops, sometimes the moisture content can affect your perfect sear. My favorite technique comes from Serious Eats and its simply to pat the scallops down with a paper towel, then set them out on a dry paper towel lined plate in a single layer and dust with coarse sea salt. The sea salt draws the moisture out of the scallops and they should be dry to the touch in about 15 minutes. If any moisture pools on the tops, pat them down again.
Use a larger pan than what you need to put the scallops in, so the hot surface area will also burn off any additional moisture that comes out of the scallops. Add fat to the pan and get it hot – really hot. Heat the fat over high heat and when it starts to smoke, add the scallops. It is important to note that if you are Primal and want to use butter that you only use clarified butter – regular butter has a lower smoking point than clarified and will start to brown and/or burn, causing there to be little black chunks – and as we’re cooking on high, you don’t want your fat to burn…not pretty.
The goal here is to sear the side without cooking them all the way through – if you do, they become rubbery. So, high high heat, place them down, then DO NOT TOUCH THEM…not until you see the crust forming. When you flip them, be kind and only let the second side sit on the hot pan for a moment…the goal is to have one side caramelized and golden and the other just lightly brown. More than this can endanger your scallops, and nobody wants rubbery, stringy scallops!
If you are using a sauce, you’ll want to remove the scallops at this point and let the lighter side sit on a paper towel. Always place caramelized side up for presentation.
It has been my experience that when cooking with a sauce, like for our Paleo Ginger Citrus Glazed Sea Scallops, that you remove the scallops from the pan, make the sauce, then spoon it over the scallops.
If you add the sauce to the pan, you’ll have to adjust for heat, so the scallops don’t get overcooked, and also for the flavor, so the sauce doesn’t overpower the actual flavor of the scallop, which is delicate and should be treated as such.
And that’s it! Perfectly seared to a golden, crispy, caramelized brown with a soft, tender texture in the middle that will no-doubt impress!
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes