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Single Best Tip Ever for Seared Scallops

seared scallops on a blue plate with flatware

Seared scallops are one of those proteins that are a deal breaker for some. It’s easy to get intimidated because they are so easy to overcook. This blog will give you the single best tip ever for pan seared scallops. Or griddle seared, which is the method I’ll use for this seared scallops recipe.

Follow my advice on how to sear scallops and they will soon be on your regular rotation. Of course I like to sear scallops on the grill but you can absolutely use a skillet and cooktop for this pan seared scallop recipe.

The most important takeaway from this blog are the tips and technique. I’ll be using my Cajon seasoning and Bayou butter, which I love. But, if you have a favorite seasoning and want to use that, go for it.

scallops on a cast iron serving tray
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How To Prep Scallops

It doesn’t take much to prepare a scallop for searing, assuming you aren’t shucking them yourself which most of as aren’t. The scallop itself just needs to be rinsed under cold water, and to have the abductor muscle removed.

The abductor muscle looks like a little tag, on the side of the scallop. It’s what attaches the scallop to its shell and it can get super tough when cooked. So, simply pinch the muscle between your thumb and forefinger and peel it off — it’s that’s easy. Now your scallops are ready to be dried.

Note the white tag like abductor muscle on the sides of these scallops

How To Select The Best Scallops

The most important part of selecting scallops is to find those that are labeled “dry” or “dry packed” scallops. This is important for a couple of reasons.

First, wet packed scallops have been soaked in a salt water solution. This water absorbs into the scallops to keep them moist, but it also adds to the weight of each scallop. So, you’re paying for water weight as opposed to actual scallop. Tricky right?

Second, because of the added moisture from soaking, searing them is more difficult. More on that later when I discuss the single best tip ever for pan seared scallops.

raw scallops piled in a wooden box

Next is the look and smell. From an appearance standpoint, they should appear moist and bright. They should also be void of any snowflake like bright white patterns. That’s a sign of freezer burn which will make the scallops tough.

In terms of smell, they should smell like the sea. Slightly salty but not fishy or pungent. If the smell is off, avoid them. That’s a sign of old scallops and no matter how you sear them, they won’t taste good.

What Internal Temperature Are Scallops Done?

I prefer scallops to be about 130°F when finished. That doesn’t mean to cook them till they are that temperature. Because scallops are relatively small, and cooked with a very high heat, you’ll see more carry over cooking than you might see in other proteins.

I sear these for about 2 minutes each side and that usually takes them to about 115°F as indicated with a reliable instant read thermometer. Throw in some carry over cooking and they will end up right around the 130° mark.

Single Best Tip For Seared Scallops

The secret to perfectly pan seared scallops is the paper towel sandwich! You have to make sure scallops are completely dry. If you put wet scallops on a hot cooking surface, the water will steam the scallops.

scallop being seared and flipped with tongs

The steam not only prevents them from searing, but makes them chewy. Most references will tell you to blot them with a paper towel. That only partially works.

The surface of a scallop is very porous, so simply blotting with a paper towel doesn’t get rid of all of the water. The moisture on the surface will be dried, but plenty of water will remain inside the crevices.

raw scallops in a wooden box
Note the porousness of the scallops surface. Water in those crevices will impede a proper sear.

Instead, sandwich your wet scallops between paper towels and set them aside for 20-25 minutes. The paper towels wicks water from both sides of the scallop, and the crevices in the flesh.

raw scallops being dried on a paper towel

This allows the scallop to sear the moment it hits the hot cast iron pan. It’s a game changer of a tip and will make even the most novice cook look like a Food Network star.

How to Make The Perfect Seared Scallops

Serves: 4 | Prep time: 30 mins. | Cook time: 5 mins.

Ingredients
10-12 large scallops
1 tbsp avocado oil plus 2 tablespoons for the pan or griddle
3 tbsp cajun seasoning, divided
1 tsp chopped parsley, for garnish
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 small shallot, finely minced

Cajun Seasoning:
2 tbsp smoked paprika
2 tbsp kosher salt
2 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp cayenne powder
1 tbsp red pepper flake 
1 tbsp fine ground black pepper 
1 tbsp white pepper 
1 ½  tbsp oregano
1 tbsp thyme 2 tsp hot paprika

How To Make Cajun Seared Scallops

Step 1: Rinse your scallops under cold water, remove the abductor muscle and place them on a paper towel lined baking sheet. Then place another layer of paper towels on top of the scallops. Let scallops dry like this for 20 minutes.

Step 2: Light your grill and set it up for high direct heat. Over top of the heat source, place a cast iron griddle surface. You can also use a cast iron pan and cooktop.

Step 3: While the scallops are drying, and the grill is preheating, add all the ingredients for the cajun seasoning into a shaker bottle. You’ll only need four tablespoons total for the recipe but this seasoning keeps well and it’s great on just about everything – especially eggs.

Step 4: In a small mixing bowl, mix together two tablespoons of cajun seasoning with one stick of room temperature butter and diced shallots. Set aside.

bayou butter with seared scallops on a table
Tip* Any extra bayou butter can be rolled in plastic wrap or parchment paper into a log and saved for later. 

Step 5: Evenly coat the scallops with avocado oil and season them on both sides with the one tablespoon cajun seasoning.

scallops seasoned and ready for cooking

Step 6: With the griddle surface or pan preheated, evenly coat with two tablespoons of avocado oil. Then place the scallops on the hot surface. Allow them to sear for two to three minutes per side, until internal temperature reaches 115° F.

Step 7: Remove from the grill, top the hot scallops with room temperature bayou butter and allow it to melt. Then garnish with parsley and serve.

pan seared scallops with bayou butter on a blue plate

Cajun Seared Scallops with Bayou Butter

4.12 from 45 votes
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 6 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Course: Entree
Cuisine: American
Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 10-12 Large Sea Scallops
  • 3 tbsp avocado oil divided
  • 3 tbsp cajun seasoning divided
  • 1 tsp fresh parsley finely chopped
  • 1 stick unsalted butter room temperature
  • 1 small shallot

Cajon Seasoning

  • 2 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tbsp kosher salt Morton's
  • 2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp cayenne powder
  • 1 tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp fine ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp white pepper
  • tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp dried thyme
  • 2 tsp hot paprika

Instructions

  • Rinse your scallops under cold water, remove the abductor muscle and place them on a paper towel lined baking sheet. Then place another layer of paper towels on top of the scallops. Let scallops dry like this for 20 minutes.
  • Light your grill and set it up for high direct heat. Over top of the heat source, place a cast iron griddle surface. You can also use a cast iron pan and cooktop.
  • While the scallops are drying, and the grill is preheating, add all the ingredients for the cajun seasoning into a shaker bottle.
  • In a small mixing bowl, mix together two tablespoons of cajun seasoning with one stick of room temperature butter and diced shallots. Set aside.
  • Evenly coat the scallops with avocado oil and season them on both sides with the one tablespoon cajun seasoning.
  • With the griddle surface preheated, evenly coat with two tablespoons of avocado oil and place the scallops on the hot surface. Allow them to sear for two to three minutes per side, until internal temperature reaches 115°F.
  • Remove from the grill, top the hot scallops with room temperature bayou butter and allow it to melt. Then garnish with parsley and serve.

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