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8/19/2014 11:22 AM grooming • 0 Comments

Scallops 101

Before cooking up a batch of delicious scallops, you should take the time to learn a bit about these mollusks and some things to consider when purchasing them.

As when purchasing any seafood, be sure that you’re buying scallops from a trustworthy source—sketchy seafood is a recipe for disaster. If you frequent a local market, go to a fishmonger you trust. Should that not be an option, try a higher end grocery like Whole Foods.


Scallops are like filets or prime ribs in the sense that you probably aren’t eating them too often, so it’s worthwhile to shell out a few extra bucks and ensure the experience is a good one.


When you’re selecting the actual scallops themselves, you’re going to be presented with a few different options:


Sea vs. Bay Scallops
Sea scallops are generally larger and have a more distinct flavor. Their large size and firmer exterior means they will hold up well when pan seared. Sea scallops are generally considered to be of higher quality and are therefore more expensive. Bay scallops tend to be on the smaller side and have a sweeter flavor. They are best used in simpler preparations.


Fresh vs. Frozen
Nine out of ten times, you want to go with fresh scallops. If you live far from a coast and are mildly concerned about the handling of a “fresh” scallop, consider purchasing an IQF (“individually quick frozen”) scallop. Should you purchase frozen scallops, take care when thawing them. It’s best to let them thaw in the fridge overnight. If you need a speedier thaw, run cold water over them.


Dry Pack vs. Wet Pack
Wet pack scallops are soaked in a phosphate solution. This keeps the scallops moist and white. While this may sound like a good idea, it will ultimately have a negative impact on your enjoyment of the scallop. The solution causes the scallop to absorb extra water—as much as 30% of their weight—meaning you’re paying for liquid that’s going to drain into your pan when cooking. Additionally, the phosphate solution is an ingredient found in soaps and can give your scallops a distinctly soapy flavor. Without a doubt, you should purchase dry packed scallops.


Diver vs. Non-Diver
Most scallops are harvested by boats that drag a chain link net across the sea floor. This process is environmentally destructive and its harvest is frequently inferior to scallops hand-caught by divers. The divers are more likely to select only larger, more mature scallops, thus improving the quality of the product and allowing the scallop population to replenish itself.