Butter-Fried Sea Scallops

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So simple. So yummy.

There are a zillion recipes out there for pan-fried scallops. This is one of mine.

The fresher my ingredients are, the less I usually fuss with my food. This recipe combines a few simple ingredients that complement each other—and still let the individual flavors shine through.

For this recipe, fresh sea scallops are seared in a thyme-infused butter, then drenched in white wine. They simmer for just a few minutes, and the sauce cooks down into a brine-y, buttery, herb-laced reduction.

It’s fresh, fast, easy, and oh-so-delicious.

This article will explain:

+What to look for when buying fresh scallops
+The difference between sea scallops and bay scallops
+How to cook Butter-Fried Sea Scallops

How to buy fresh scallops

When I was a little mouse, my mother would always take me food shopping with her. She’d give me a running commentary on the things we saw, which was really my first culinary training (and to this day, still some of the best).

Mom always told me that she’d never buy seafood from a place that actually *actively* smelled like fish. It’s good, common sense, and she couldn’t be more right.

So, when you head to the fish counter or market, use your sniffer the minute you walk in the door. If your first reaction is, “Something’s fishy!”, it probably is…and you should probably pass.

Fresh sea scallops should smell, well, like the sea. Not like the tide. Certainly not like low tide. They should smell clean and salty.

They should be plump, glossy, and creamy to light pinkish in color, like this:

When you touch them, they should be mildly tacky in the way that raw, skinless chicken breast is�but not gluey, slimy, or sticky like honey.

What’s the difference? Sea scallops vs. bay scallops.

Sea scallops are larger than bay scallops, and are wild caught. They’re not currently overfished, and are a good choice in terms of sustainable seafood. (Bay scallops are the best choice for sustainability, because they’re generally farmed.)

Bay scallops average a half-inch wide, and tend to be slightly more tender than sea scallops, which are typically about 1 1/2 inches wide.

The sea scallops that I got were huge, and came from Georges Bank, right off the New England coast.

Butter Fried Scallops: The basic technique

This couldn’t be easier. They cook fast, so get the rest of your meal set before you cook your scallops. Make them right before you’re going to serve them.

+Heat butter and thyme in a non-stick pan
+Toss in the scallops and cook for a few minutes
+Flip them over
+Deglaze the pan with a little white wine
+Turn the heat off to let them finish cooking for a minute or two
+Serve and enjoy!


Butter-Fried Sea Scallops

1 lb. fresh sea scallops
2 Tbls. butter
2 sprigs fresh thyme
kosher salt
freshly cracked black pepper
1/4 – 1/2 cup of dry white wine

Serves 2 for dinner.

Butter-Fried Sea Scallops: Infuse the butter with thyme

Set a non-stick pan on the stove over medium-high heat. Add the butter to the pan to get it melting.

Pull the thyme leaves off the sprig and toss them in with the butter. Don’t make yourself crazy with this. A little stem in the pan is just fine. (It’s mainly there for flavor.)

As the pan heats up, the flavor of the thyme will infuse into the butter.

Pick the pan up and tilt it around a little to coat the bottom in butter.

Butter-Fried Sea Scallops: Add the scallops

Put the scallops in the pan. Space them out.

Leave the heat on medium-high the whole time the scallops are cooking. Once you put the scallops in the pan, don’t move them around until you flip them. This will help them develop a nice crust.

Sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper.

Cook over medium-high heat like this for 2-3 minutes.

When they develop a handsome brown crust on the bottom (take a peek), flip them over gently with a pair of tongs.

Butter-Fried Sea Scallops: Deglaze the pan

Cook for 1-2 minutes on this side, then pour in the white wine.

The wine will bubble up and let off a poof of steam.

Butter-Fried Sea Scallops: Kill the heat

Cook for another minute (literally) like this, then turn the heat off. Leave the pan on the burner for another 3-4 minutes.

The residual heat from the pan will finish cooking the scallops�without overcooking them.

During this time, a lot of the wine should evaporate.

How do you know when sea scallops are cooked?

Good question. There’s a fine line between cooking scallops and overcooking them, which can make them rubbery. If you keep an eye on them and fry them hot and fast, you should be just fine.

That said, your final cooking time is going to depend on how large your scallops are. The bigger they are, the longer they’ll take.

When you press on a cooked sea scallop with your finger, it should feel relatively solid�not at all squishy or jiggly. If you cut into one, it should be opaque�but still very moist�throughout (even in the very center), like this:

If it’s still translucent in the middle, leave them in the pan for another minute or two.

Butter-Fried Sea Scallops: Serve and enjoy!

When the scallops are done, transfer them right to your serving plates. Drizzle the remaining pan juices over them. There won’t be much sauce, but what’s left will be deeply flavorful.

Butter-Fried Sea Scallops

For this recipe, fresh sea scallops are seared in a thyme-infused butter, then drenched in white wine. They simmer for just a few minutes, and the sauce cooks down into a brine-y, buttery, herb-laced reduction.

Save Recipe

Ingredients

1 lb. fresh sea scallops
2 Tbls. butter
2 sprigs fresh thyme
kosher salt
freshly cracked black pepper
1/4 – 1/2 cup of dry white wine

Instructions

  1. Set a non-stick pan on the stove over medium-high heat. Add the butter and thyme leaves into the pan. Pick the pan up and tilt it around a little to coat the bottom.
  2. Put the scallops in the pan. Space them out. Leave the heat on medium-high the whole time the scallops are cooking. Once you put the scallops in the pan, don’t move them around until you flip them. This will help them develop a nice crust.
  3. Sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
  4. Cook over medium-high heat like this for 2-3 minutes.
  5. When they develop a handsome brown crust on the bottom (take a peek), flip them over gently with a pair of tongs.
  6. Cook for 1-2 minutes on this side, then pour in the white wine.
  7. Cook for another minute (literally) like this, then turn the heat off. Leave the pan on the burner for another 3-4 minutes. The residual heat from the pan will finish cooking the scallops, without overcooking them.
  8. When the scallops are done, transfer them right to your serving plates. Drizzle the remaining pan juices over them. Serve immediately. Enjoy!
http://www.thehungrymouse.com/2009/01/23/butter-fried-sea-scallops/


43 COMMENTS

  1. scallops are delicious, but it’s a bit disingenuous to describe wild scallops as “sustainable”. While catch numbers might be sustainable, scallop fishing is one of the most environmentally damaging forms of fishing. They’re caught by dragging enormous dredges along the bottom of the ocean, destroying pretty much everything in their path.. It’s a bit like catching pheasant with a hand grenade.

  2. Sea Scallops are one of my very favorite seafood items, and I have certainly cooked my share over the last 50 or so years.

    But, mine never turned out as pretty as yours!

    GREAT photos!

  3. I love scallops and have them as often as I can. I have been afraid to look to see if they sustainable. I am so glad they are. I am trying this recipe next time I make them. Great info!

  4. Thanks, all!

    Mommy gourmet–Take a peek at JP’s comment above. What he says about the dredging is sadly true, but all the resources that I’ve linked in this article list them as an OK choice. So, I think when it comes down to it, it’s an individual decision.

    Cheers!
    +Jessie

  5. oh how i wish that scallops WERE more sustainable!
    yours look perfectly caramelized and beautiful, and i’m just guessing that they were uber-delish. yum!

  6. Just a quick note: the Grand Banks are off the coast of Newfoundland NOT New England. This might seem picky but the coast off New England is extremely contaminated due to the heavy shipping corridor. The coast of Newfoundland is pristine in comparison and shellfish found there is much more desirable.

    Also, scallops have a distinct sweet (not salty) odour, when fresh.

  7. Jessie!

    I see a definite improvement in your food pictures. New camera? Not to talk about the beauty of the dishes!!

    Cheers (I am back),

    Gabi @ Mamaliga.

  8. Thanks, all!

    Fluffy–Thanks for stopping by! You’re quite correct about the location of the Grand Banks. My scallops, however, came from the Georges Banks, as I noted (and which are off the New England coast). 😉

    As for the smell of fresh scallops, I think we’re likely describing the same thing with different words. I’ve heard them described as both sweet and slightly briney (i.e. salty). I think the main thing to note is that they should never (ever, ever) smell fishy.

    Gabi–Thank you, honey pie! I have a new trick or two up my sleeve! Glad to see you weren’t trapped by a sourdough starter gone wild! 😀

    Cheers!
    +Jessie

  9. For some reason after 2-3 minutes there is so much moisture came out of scallops that they became half height boiling in their solution. It took me 20 minutes to cook to get rid of the liquid. In the end the scallops came up very tasty, not rubbery but no brown crust… Maybe I thawed them right before cooking? Any ideas how to go ‘drier’?

  10. I also had the issue of a lot of water, however mine can’t be saved. The suggested way of defrosting them sadly just wasted 25 dollars worth of scallops.

  11. Just made these for my family, followed the instructions exactly and they were perfect….a BIG hit! Thanks so much!

  12. Absolutely the best – and defacto – method of cooking these gems. Thanks. I usually go the chilli/lime/garlic/coriander route but this way is very french and delicious. For those of you who are having problems with water, it may be that you’re using frozen or wet (soaked in phosphates as a preservative) and it’s difficult to get the water out of them prior to cooking. They’re are great for lots of seafood dishes but pan-frying needs fresh (dry) scallops.

  13. These scallops were FABULOUS!! I’m not what one would call a good cook but your instructions were perfect, I followed them exactly and they came out perfect!!! I love scallops and this totally took care of my craving without a ton of calories. thank you so much!!!!

  14. Thank you for the post! Excellent and easy to follow instructions! Made them as a treat for myself and they were delicious! Beringer Moscato 2010.

  15. Just made these for my dinner tonight and they were perfect! I even used frozen sea scallops and they turned out wonderfully! I did take the time to defrost them, then carefully squeeze the excess water out of them, hand dry them, and then air dry them in the fridge for a couple hours though. So there was not a lot of excess water to deal with when I pan fried them. They were without a doubt the best scallops I have ever made or eaten anywhere for that matter! Thanks for the great recipe and the wonderful easy to follow picture directions!

  16. I have been looking for a foolproof scallop recipe for a long time! This is the one! The scallops were delicious, simple and perfectly cooked!! Thank you!

  17. I know your blog/recipe was written several years ago but wanted to say your pictures drew me in. I will be making the scallops for my husband to help celebrate our wedding anniversary. We have been married for 28 years and your beautiful scallops will be an added bonus to help celebrate the occasion.

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