Cooking scallops in a pan to perfection may seem difficult, but with the right method, it’s easier than you think.
This technique will allow you to enjoy perfectly cooked, golden scallops every time.
Selection, preservation and preparation of scallops
Before diving into the preparation, it’s essential to know a few key points about scallops.
When buying scallops, make sure they’re firm, elastic, slightly shiny and free of unpleasant odors.
You can find them fresh or frozen, but avoid those with frost burns or packages with ice crystals.
If scallops are sold live and in shell, the shell must be intact and close if touched.
Storing and preserving scallops
Fresh or cooked scallops can be stored for 1 to 2 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
In the freezer, they can be kept for up to 4 months.
To thaw scallops, let them thaw in the refrigerator for about 24 hours.
A quicker alternative is to place them in an airtight bag and immerse them in a bowl of very cold water.
Avoid leaving them at room temperature once defrosted.
Cleaning and priming scallops
Before cooking, remove the small muscle on the side of the scallop. Although edible, it’s best to remove it for a better texture.
It’s not always present, but you’ll feel that the muscle is harder and firmer.
Rinse scallops thoroughly under cold running water to remove sand and other impurities, then dry with paper towels to avoid excess water during cooking.
Pan-frying technique for scallops
Now for the important part: cooking the scallops.
Fortunately, there’s no need for complicated techniques or special equipment. Follow these simple steps to get it right every time.
The basic rules
- Use fresh or completely thawed scallops.
- Don’t overcrowd your pan; leave a space between the scallops so they don’t touch.
- Use a very hot pan, where the butter or oil begins to smoke slightly.
- Use cooking butter (clarified butter) or a neutral oil (such as canola oil) and, if possible, a cast-iron skillet for enhanced flavor.
To know when to turn the scallops over, observe the color change on the side of the scallops. They will become increasingly opaque from the base upwards as they bake.
Once half the scallops are opaque, turn them over.
Scallops are cooked when the flesh is opaque and the center is still slightly transparent.
Scallops should be cooked for no more than 2-3 minutes. When overcooked, as is the case with most seafood, scallops harden.
- Salt, pepper
- Neutral cooking oil OR clarified butter
Remove the small muscle on the side of the scallops (this small attachment is not always present).
Rinse the scallops in cold water and pat them dry with paper towels. Personally, I only season them at the very end, but you can also salt and pepper them at this stage.
In a skillet, preferably cast iron, heat neutral cooking oil OR cooking butter (you can be generous with the quantity).
When the pan is very hot and starts to smoke slightly, put your scallops in. Avoid overloading your pan and leave some space between the scallops so they don't touch.
Do not turn down the heat at this stage. Grill the scallops for a few minutes.
To know when to turn them over, watch the progression of the color change on the side of the scallops. As they cook, the scallops become more and more opaque white. This change in opacity occurs from the base of the scallop to the top. When almost halfway through the scallops, turn them over.
Immediately turn off the oven and remove the pan from the heat. Wait about a minute to let the cooking continue. The important thing is to have at least one side well seared and not to overcook the scallops.
Remove any excess butter or oil from the scallops by placing them on paper towels.
Season with a little fleur de sel and enjoy immediately!
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