The Perfect Cooking Time for Scallops: A Comprehensive Guide

Scallops are a delicious seafood option that many people enjoy. But, while they are delectable, cooking them perfectly can be a bit of a challenge. Finding the right balance between cooking them through and not overcooking them takes some skill. That’s why we have put together this comprehensive guide to help you achieve the perfect cooking time for scallops every time. Whether you are a novice cook or a seasoned pro, this guide will provide you with all of the information that you need to cook delicious scallops that are cooked just right.

The Perfect Cooking Time for Scallops: A Comprehensive Guide | Eat Urban Garden
The Perfect Cooking Time for Scallops: A Comprehensive Guide

What are Scallops?

When it comes to seafood, few things can beat the sweet and delicate flavor of scallops. But what exactly are scallops?

The Basics

Scallops are a type of bivalve mollusk, which means they have two hinged shells. They are farmed in many parts of the world, including the United States, Japan, Canada, and Europe.

Scallops are not only prized for their flavor, but also their nutritional value. They are rich in protein, vitamin B12, and omega-3 fatty acids, making them a healthy choice for any diet.

The Different Types of Scallops

There are two main types of scallops: bay scallops and sea scallops.

  • Bay Scallops – These scallops are smaller in size and are usually sweeter in flavor. They are often found in shallow, warmer waters such as bays and estuaries.
  • Sea Scallops – These scallops are larger and have a meatier texture. They are found in deeper, colder waters and are usually less sweet than bay scallops.

While both types of scallops can be used in recipes, they have slightly different flavor profiles and textures, so it’s important to choose the right type for your dish.

How to Buy Scallop

When buying scallops, there are a few things to keep in mind. Look for scallops that are firm and dry to the touch. If they feel slimy or wet, it could be a sign that they are not fresh. Also, make sure the scallops have a sweet, sea-like fragrance.

Pro Tip: If you can, buy “dry” scallops, which means they have not been treated with any chemicals. This results in a better taste and texture.

Why is Cooking Time Important?

Cooking time is crucial when preparing scallops as it can greatly affect the texture and taste of the finished dish.

Texture and Taste

Scallops have a delicate and soft texture when properly cooked. Overcooking can make them tough and rubbery, while undercooking can leave them raw and unpleasant to eat. The perfect cooking time for scallops depends on the method of cooking and the size of the scallops.

When the cooking time is just right, scallops have a sweet, crisp, and succulent taste that is both delicate and satisfying. Overcooking can result in a bland and dry flavor, while undercooking can make them taste fishy and unappetizing.

Cooking Methods

The cooking time for scallops can vary depending on the method of cooking. Some common methods include pan-searing, grilling, broiling, baking, and poaching.

  • Pan-searing: Pan-searing is one of the most popular methods of cooking scallops. It involves searing the scallops in a hot skillet for 2-3 minutes on each side.
  • Grilling: Grilled scallops have a smoky flavor and a beautiful charred crust. They take about 2-3 minutes per side on a hot grill.
  • Broiling: Broiling is a quick and easy way to cook scallops. They take about 2-3 minutes per side under a broiler on high heat.
  • Baking: Baked scallops are a healthy and easy option. They take about 10-12 minutes in a preheated oven at 400°F.
  • Poaching: Poached scallops have a delicate and tender texture. They take about 5-8 minutes in a gently simmering liquid.

Factors Affecting Cooking Time

As mentioned, several factors determine the ideal cooking time for scallops. Understanding these factors can help you cook perfect scallops every time.

1. Size of the Scallops

The size of the scallops is the most crucial factor that affects cooking time. Larger scallops will require more time to cook than smaller ones. The size of the scallops can vary from as small as 20 count per pound to as large as 10 count per pound. It means that there are 20 to 10 scallops in one pound, respectively.

Smaller scallops, such as those in 20 or 30 counts per pound, are perfect for pan-searing, and they cook quickly. They take around two to three minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the scallops. Larger scallops, such as those in 10 counts per pound, are usually delicious when grilled or baked. These scallops take approximately eight to ten minutes to cook through.

2. Cooking Method

The cooking method is another important factor in determining the perfect cooking time for scallops. The most common cooking methods for scallops are frying, grilling, baking, and sautéing. Each technique requires a different amount of time to cook the scallops correctly.

When frying, scallops require a short amount of time in hot oil. They need to cook for approximately two minutes on each side, depending on the size. If you are grilling or baking scallops, it would take between eight to ten minutes to cook. When sautéing, you don’t need to have scallops in the pan for longer than five minutes.

3. Desired Level of Doneness

The desired level of doneness is the last determining factor in how long to cook scallops. Some people prefer their scallops to be tender and slightly translucent in the center, while others prefer them to be well done and fully opaque throughout.

If you’re looking for scallops that are slightly undercooked, then cook them for about one minute less than the recommended cooking time. If you want fully cooked scallops, cook them for the recommended time, and if you prefer scallops to be well done, cook them for an additional one to two minutes.

How to Determine Scallops are Cooked?

Scallops are an incredibly versatile, mild-tasting seafood that can be prepared in a variety of ways. However, cooking them can be a little tricky. Undercooked scallops can be chewy and tough, while overcooked scallops can be rubbery and dry. So how do you determine if scallops are cooked to perfection?

Visual Appearance

The easiest way to tell if scallops are cooked is by their visual appearance. As scallops cook, they will turn opaque and firm to the touch. Raw scallops are slightly translucent and have a jelly-like texture, while cooked scallops will appear more solid and white or slightly browned in color.

It’s essential to note that overcooked scallops will become dark and brown, indicating that they are overcooked. This change is not subtle and should be avoided to ensure the maximum flavor and texture of the scallops.


The texture of the scallops is another indicator of its doneness. The fleshy part of the scallop should be firm but still tender. Overcooked scallops will be tough like rubber and undercooked scallops tend to be mushy and lack texture. Cooked scallops have a soft texture that separates into smaller sections, with the center slightly firmer than the surrounding areas.


The internal temperature is a critical element of determining if scallops are cooked. Cooked scallops will have an internal temperature of 120°F to 125°F. A food thermometer should be inserted into the thickest part of the scallops to ensure proper temperature.

It’s important to note that because scallops cook quickly, they will continue to cook even after they are removed from the heat source. To avoid overcooking your scallops, it’s better to remove them from the heat source just when they are slightly undercooked. If you allow them to rest off the heat, they will continue to cook for an additional minute or two and become perfectly cooked.

The Water Test

The water test is an excellent way to check if scallops are properly cooked. Drop a raw scallop into boiling water and time how long it takes for it to float to the surface. Cooked scallops will float in water after approximately one minute of cooking. If the scallop floats before or after this time, it may be overcooked or undercooked.

Cooking Tips and Techniques

When it comes to cooking scallops, it’s important to have the right knowledge and techniques to make them delicious. There are various cooking methods and techniques that you can use when preparing scallops, each with its own distinct advantages and disadvantages.

The Best Cooking Methods

The four best cooking methods for scallops are grilling, pan-searing, broiling, and baking. Each method has its own distinct advantages and disadvantages, such as texture, flavor, and cooking time. Here are some tips for cooking scallops using these methods:

  • Grilling – This method gives scallops a nice smoky flavor. Coat your scallops in olive oil and season with salt and pepper before grilling on a high heat for about 3-4 minutes.
  • Pan-searing – This method produces a nice golden brown crust. Heat up some oil and butter in a non-stick skillet on high heat and add the scallops. Cook for about 2-3 minutes on each side until they are brown and caramelized.
  • Broiling – This method is perfect for those who want a quick and easy way to cook scallops. Coat your scallops in oil and broil them for about 4-5 minutes until they are golden brown.
  • Baking – This method is perfect for those who want a healthier option. Preheat your oven to 375°F, coat the scallops in oil and seasoning, and place them on a baking sheet. Bake for about 12-15 minutes until they are opaque and firm.

Preparing the Scallops

Before you start cooking your scallops, it’s important to prepare them properly to ensure that they cook evenly. Here are some tips to prepare your scallops:

  • Remove the side muscle: This small flap of tissue is tough and chewy, so it’s important to remove it before cooking to prevent it from ruining your scallops’ texture.
  • Dry the scallops: Use paper towels to pat dry the scallops, as excess moisture can prevent them from searing evenly and cause them to steam instead of sear.
  • Season the scallops: Season the scallops with salt and pepper, or any other seasoning of your choice, to enhance their flavor.

Tip: Be careful not to overcook the scallops, as they can turn rubbery and lose their natural sweetness. Cook them until they’re just barely opaque in the center, and remove them from the heat immediately to prevent further cooking.


Here are some common questions regarding cooking scallops:

What is the best way to prepare scallops for cooking?

The best way to prepare scallops for cooking is to rinse them under cold water, pat them dry with paper towels, and remove the muscle on the side of the scallop if it is still attached. It is also recommended to season the scallops with salt and pepper before cooking.

How should I store scallops before cooking?

Scallops should be stored in the refrigerator at 32-34°F. They should be kept in an airtight container or wrapped tightly in plastic wrap. It is best to cook scallops as soon as possible after purchasing them, but they can be stored for up to two days.

How long should I cook scallops?

The perfect cooking time for scallops depends on the size of the scallops. For medium-sized scallops (about 1 inch in diameter), cook for 2-3 minutes on each side over medium-high heat. For larger scallops (about 1 1/2 inches in diameter), cook for 3-4 minutes on each side over medium-high heat. Make sure to cook the scallops until they are opaque and slightly firm to the touch.

What are some serving suggestions for scallops?

Scallops can be served as an appetizer, main dish, or added to pasta dishes. They pair well with lighter flavors such as citrus, garlic, and herb-based sauces. Some popular ways to serve scallops include seared, grilled, or baked with a side of vegetables or steamed rice.

Can I cook scallops in the oven?

Yes, scallops can be cooked in the oven. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the scallops on a baking sheet coated with non-stick cooking spray and bake for 6-8 minutes or until they are opaque and slightly firm to the touch. For an added twist, you can wrap the scallops in bacon before baking.

Can I freeze scallops?

Yes, scallops can be frozen. Place them in an airtight container or wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and freeze for up to three months. To thaw, place the scallops in the refrigerator overnight. Do not thaw scallops at room temperature as this can cause bacteria growth.

Thanks for Reading!

Hopefully, this comprehensive guide on the perfect cooking time for scallops has been helpful to you! Whether you’re a professional chef or a beginner in the kitchen, cooking scallops is easy once you know the right techniques and timings. Remember to always buy fresh scallops and to prepare them properly before cooking. With the right tools and techniques, you can create a delicious and elegant dish that will impress your friends and family. Don’t forget to come back and read more of our cooking tips and tricks!

The Perfect Cooking Time for Scallops: A Comprehensive Guide

Learn the perfect cooking time for scallops with this comprehensive guide! You’ll love these tender and delicious scallops cooked just right.

  • 1 pound fresh scallops
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  1. Remove the muscle from the scallops and pat them dry with a paper towel. Season both sides with salt and pepper.
  2. Place a large skillet over high heat and add the olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the scallops to the skillet.
  3. Cook the scallops for 2-3 minutes on each side until they are golden brown. Add the butter, garlic, and parsley to the pan and toss with the scallops.
  4. Squeeze the lemon juice over the scallops and serve hot.
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