How to Sear Scallops

How to…Sear Scallops

Written by Mila Furman, the Girl and the Kitchen

Girl and the Kitchen

How to Sear Scallops

Seafood.  Shrimp. Scallops.  What do all of they items have in common?  Home cooks are terrified of cooking them.  And I am here to put an end to that!

One of the most requested classes I have is how to cook shellfish and seafood.

Funny enough…I was there once.  When I was in culinary school, I somehow convinced myself that the dishes I make in class could not be replicated in my home.  And I built up this fear of buying expensive items such as lamb racks, filets and scallops.  Trust me I am just as appalled by this behavior as you are.

It was my husband who actually changed my mind.  One day, hubs brought home some gorgeous scallops while I was at work and surprised me with perfectly gorgeous pan seared scallops.  I was floored.  HE could make them…at HOME.  And I, a trained chef, was afraid of cooking them?

Mind you he did a fabulous job. They were gorgeously browned and so very tender.  “Butter, my secret is butter.”  He says to me with a smile on his face.  Apparently he learned this technique from some chef on Food Network who’s name he failed to recall.

Nonetheless, they were delicious and after a 13 hour shift on my feet, I gobbled them up and licked the buttery goodness off my lips.

It was hubs that in a sense inspired me that any home cook (let alone a trained chef) can make ANYTHING at home given the right technique and tools.

So here are our vital rules for searing any protein. In this case we are searing scallops.  But the searing TECHNIQUE is the same with any other protein, ie beef, chicken, fish etc.

First, make sure your scallops are dry.  There are stores that sell them soaked in a sodium solution.  Try to avoid those stores.  As a reference, typically, Whole Foods and Costco has fabulous fresh scallops.  Whole Foods are typically wild as well.  These little beauties happened to be from Whole Foods.

How to Sear Scallops

Sometimes they have a “foot”.  Which tends to be a bit tougher than the rest of the scallop meat.  It’s easy to notice as it kind of sticks out. Just gently tear that off and use it in your fish stock…or not if that’s not your thing.  I will confess, I forgot to do this step but the scallops were so fresh and tender I never noticed it.

How to Sear Scallops


Lay your scallops on a paper towel and season them with salt and pepper.  Remember salt will draw out any extra moisture.  And when you have a dry surface you get a better sear.

How to Sear Scallops

In the meantime get your stainless or cast iron frying pan ready.  Notice I did NOT say non-stick.  You do not want to use a non-stick when you are searing your proteins.  They just do not give your food that gorgeous crust because they do not allow the food to stick to the surface which encourages the formation of the crust through the Maillard reaction. (the caramalization of proteins)

Oh and throw in about 2 tablespoons of butter in there.  Let it melt over medium high heat.  ***Side note:  If you are searing chicken or beef I would do a vegetable oil because it has a higher smoke point than butter,***

How to Sear Scallops

Once the butter is all melted and sizzling go ahead and place your scallops into the butter, making sure your placing them carefully into the pan in an “away from you” motion so to not burn yourself with the butter.  You should also know that we only put proteins to be seared in a HOT PAN.  Remember, cold protein, hot pan.  This way your food will sear beautifully and it will only stick until it itself is ready to be flipped.

How to Sear Scallops

Now here is the most important part.  DO NOT TOUCH THEM.  Let them cook.  It will take about 5 minutes on the first side.  Seriously.  Leave them alone.  And only flip them when they freely pull away from the pan.  You can test this with a tong by gently lifting the scallop in a GENTLE wiggle back and forth motion.  If it comes off easily it’s all done on that side.  And they will be brown and glorious.



Now we let them cook for another 3 minutes on the other side and then finish off with a drizzle of lemon over them in the hot pan.  Remove the scallops and serve them with a few lemon wedges.  OPTIONAL: You can make a quick pan sauce by adding in a 1/4 cup of wine to the pan along with 1 tbsp of butter.  Let it reduce by half and then drizzle over the scallops.

I served them up with my yummy Lemony Parmesan Asparagus and a glass of crisp white wine.  I served them to my dad for dinner who is not at all a fan of seafood and he practically licked the plate clean.

Now let’s recap…in order to get a nice sear you need…
1.  Dry protein.  Dry off your protein with a paper towel and salt it so that the sodium draws the moisture out.

2.  Use a STICKY pan.  Cast iron, stainless steel or a combination of the two.  A nice thick bottomed pan will do you.  Pretty much anything but non-stick.

3.  Always heat up your pan first before placing your protein in it.  Remember: Hot pan cold protein.

4. Let. It. Cook.  Do not try and lift until it easily lifts and that takes at LEAST 5 minutes.

5.  Cook the second side for half the time that the first side was cooked.  That avoids the overcooking and drying out of the protein.


By: Mila Furman

Categories: Blog, Mila Furman