How to cook scallops - Includes grilling, pan-frying, steaming, boiling and deep-frying.

Scallops can be cooked in a variety of ways, all of which require gentle cooking for a very short period of time. If scallops are overcooked they will become tough and rubbery and lose their delicate, sweet flavour. Larger scallops will take longer to cook but most scallops only require a few minutes cooking or 1 - 2 minutes on each side.

The most popular methods for cooking scallops are by grilling or pan-frying (sautéing) them, although they can also be steamed, poached, roasted or cooked over a BBQ. Whichever method you choose, you can tell when the scallops are cooked, as they turn opaque and firm up slightly. It is best to remove the scallops from the heat when the scallop is opaque but still slightly translucent in the middle.

Use 2 or 3 large scallops per person for a starter and 5 - 8 for a main meal.

Steaming scallops

Scallops can be placed in a basket or in the top part of a steamer and steamed for approximately 3 minutes over a simmering liquid such as a court bouillon, wine and herbs, or water.

Poaching scallops

The scallops should be added to a large pot of simmering liquid and just covered with the liquid. They should cook gently and be removed after 2 - 3 minutes. The liquid can be a court bouillon, stock, milk, or white wine with herbs.

Grilling scallops

Grill the scallops under a hot grill for a few minutes, turning halfway through cooking. The scallops can be threaded onto a skewer and marinated beforehand for more flavour.

Pan-roasting scallops (pan-fry)

Melt a little butter and olive oil under a high heat. Add the scallops and season with sea salt and pepper. Cook on one side for 2 minutes or until the bottom of the scallop has caramelised and turned brown then turn the scallop over and continue to cook for 2 more minutes until you achieve the same effect on the other side. The scallops will look like they have actually been roasted. Do not move the scallops about during cooking, as this is how the lovely, brown, crisp outside is achieved.

Deep-frying scallops

This is an option, but try marinating the scallops for 30 minutes in a mixture of olive oil and lemon juice, then season with salt and pepper and coat in flour, egg and breadcrumbs. Deep-fry the scallops in a hot oil of about 180°C (375°F) for a few minutes until the breadcrumbs have turned golden brown.
Below are some recipes for scallops using a number of the cooking methods as described above:

Grilled scallops wrapped in Parma ham

  • 24 medium-sized scallops, corals removed
  • 8 - 12 slices of Parma ham, cut into strips
  • olive oil
  • lemon juice
  • pepper
  1. Preheat the grill to high.
  2. Drizzle the lemon juice over the scallops and season with black pepper.
  3. Wrap each scallop with a strip of Parma ham.
  4. Thread onto a skewer (about 8 per skewer).
  5. Brush the scallops with olive oil and place onto a baking sheet.
  6. Place under the hot grill and cook for a few minutes on each side.

Coquilles St Jacques creamy soup

This is a classic French recipe for a creamy soup. Scallops are called coquilles St Jacques in France.

  • 6 scallops
  • 300ml (½ pint) of dry white wine
  • 300ml (½ pint) of milk
  • 45g (1½oz) of unsalted butter
  • 30g (1 oz) of flour
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 6 parsley stalks
  • 3 tbsp of double cream
  • salt and pepper
  • chopped parsley to garnish
  • croutons
  1. Prepare the scallops for cooking (see our article on scallops).
  2. Cut each scallop into pieces and place into a saucepan with the lemon slices and the parsley stalks.
  3. Add the white wine, cover the pan and simmer for about 15 minutes.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and discard the parsley and lemon.
  5. In a separate saucepan melt the butter.
  6. Add the chopped onion and cook until soft.
  7. Add the flour and stir. Cook the roux for 2 minutes.
  8. Slowly pour in the milk and stir to form the sauce base.
  9. Bring to the boil and stir continuously until the sauce has thickened.
  10. Add the scallops and their cooking liquid.
  11. Season.
  12. When you are ready to serve the soup, in a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the cream and a few spoonfuls of the hot soup mixture.
  13. Add this back to the main pot and stir well.
  14. Serve in individual bowls with sprinkled parsley and croutons.

Pan-fried scallops with chilli, lime and coriander

  • 8 scallops, prepared for cooking
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 tsp of freshly chopped red chilli
  • juice of ½ a lime
  • chopped coriander
  • salt and pepper
  1. Heat the olive oil in a pan.
  2. Fry the scallops for 2 minutes on one side.
  3. Turn the scallops over.
  4. Sprinkle the chopped garlic and chilli over the scallops.
  5. Cook for 1 minute then pour over the lime juice.
  6. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the coriander.
  7. Serve immediately.

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