The Ultimate Guide to Scallops: Types, Benefits, and Cooking Tips


Scallops are a type of seafood that most, if not all, seafood lovers should have on their to-try list. From their delicate texture to their naturally sweet taste, scallops are a delicious and healthy addition to any meal. Apart from their exciting taste, scallops are packed with nutrients that make them a smart choice for your diet. If you are curious about scallops, read on to learn everything you need to know about this fascinating seafood.

The Ultimate Guide to Scallops: Everything You Need to Know

What are scallops?

Scallops, scientifically called Pectinidae, comprise a family of bivalve mollusks that live in oceans all over the world. They have two convexly rounded shells, and the edible part of the scallop is the muscle that opens and closes the shells. Scallops come in different colors, shapes, and sizes, but the most common type is the sea scallop, which is typically 2-3 inches wide.

Types of scallops

As mentioned, scallops come in different types, with the most common ones being sea scallops and bay scallops. Sea scallops are larger, meatier, and typically have a sweet taste as compared to their bay counterparts. Bay scallops are smaller, have a sweeter taste, and a softer texture. Another type of scallop is the Japanese scallop, which is farmed off the coast of Hokkaido, Japan and is smaller than the sea scallop but has a sweet taste and tender texture.

Where do scallops come from?

Scallops are found throughout the world, though most come from the Atlantic Ocean and the Northeastern coasts of the United States. They can be caught either wild or farmed. Wild scallops are caught by dredging, while farmed scallops are grown in estuaries and waters close to shore. Most farmed scallops come from China.

Nutrient profile of scallops

Scallops are a rich source of nutrients and a low-calorie protein option. Three ounces of cooked scallops (about four large) have about 95 calories, 19 grams of protein, and less than 1 gram of fat. They are also an excellent source of vitamin B12, essential to the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system, and selenium, a mineral that helps support a healthy immune system. Scallops are also a great source of vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids.

Culinary uses of Scallops

Scallops are versatile, making them a great option for cooking. They can be baked, fried, grilled, or broiled, and they work well in various dishes, including:

  • Scallop ceviche
  • Scallop risotto
  • Scallop pasta
  • Scallop stir-fry
  • Scallop chowder

A Beginner’s Guide to Preparing and Cooking Scallops

Choosing fresh scallops

Choosing the right scallops can make a big difference in your dish’s final outcome. Look for scallops that are firm, briny, and glossy, without any fishy smell. If possible, choose “dry” scallops, which do not include any chemicals or water added to them. These types of scallops will have a more concentrated flavor and a firmer texture than the “wet” type.

Removing the muscle

Before cooking, you will need to remove the small, tough muscle on the side of the scallop, which can be chewy and unpleasant. Simply, feel for the side of the scallop with the muscle and gently pull it off using your fingers or a sharp pairing knife. Be sure not to remove the fleshy side of the scallop, and discard the muscle after removal.

Cooking methods

Scallops can be cooked using various methods, including:

  • Pan-searing: In a hot, oiled pan, sear each side for 1-2 minutes until crisp and golden.
  • Baking: Preheat your oven, season your scallops with herbs and lemon juice, and then bake at 400 F for approximately 10 minutes.
  • Grilling: Preheat your grill to medium-high heat, thread your scallops onto skewers, brush with oil, and grill for 2-3 minutes per side.

Flavor pairing suggestions

Scallops work well with a variety of flavors, including pasta, rice, citrus, bacon, garlic, and herbs such as thyme and dill. To add some extra zest to your scallops, try pairing them with a variety of sauces such as salsa verde, hollandaise sauce, or a squirt of lemon juice.

Exploring the World of Scallops: Different Types, Flavors, and Health Benefits

Distinctions between different scallop varieties

Bay scallops, sea scallops, and Japanese scallops are the most popular types of scallops. Sea scallops are typically 2-3 inches in diameter, whereas bay scallops, also known as Cape Cod scallops, are much smaller at ½ inch to 1 inch in diameter. Japanese scallops are grown in Japan and are also known as Hokkaido scallops.

Unique flavors of different scallop varieties

As mentioned earlier, different scallop varieties have varying flavors. Sea scallops have a sweet, mild, and almost briny flavor, while bay scallops are also sweet but have a milder taste and softer texture. Japanese scallops, on the other hand, have a sweet taste and tender texture, with more concentrated umami flavor notes.

The health benefits of scallops

Scallops are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals that are crucial to maintaining a healthy diet. They are low in calories, high in protein, and a rich source of vitamins B-12 and E. Scallops are also an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for brain and heart health.

From Sea to Plate: The Fascinating Journey of Scallops

The process of harvesting scallops

Scallops are harvested using dredging or diving methods. Dredging involves dragging a large, cone-shaped net across the ocean floor and harvesting any scallops caught in it. Diving, which is less common, involves using scuba gear to collect scallops by hand.

Sustainability considerations

The high demand for scallops, combined with unsustainable fishing and farming practices, has resulted in wild populations of scallops declining. There are now strict regulations in place to help protect wild populations. Fortunately, there are also responsible scallop farming and fishing practices in place to help reduce the damage caused by overfishing.

Best practices for buying scallops

If you are looking to buy scallops, whether fresh or frozen, do your research to get scallops that have been sustainably harvested. Look for scallops that are “dry” and have no chemicals or water added. Always check the packing and sell-by dates to ensure you get the freshest catch possible.

Scallops 101: Tips on Buying, Cleaning, and Serving the Best Quality Scallops

Tips for buying high-quality scallops

When buying scallops, be sure to purchase them from a reputable source that practices sustainable fishing and handles scallops properly. Look for scallops that are crisp, glossy, and smell fresh. Choose “dry” scallops that do not have any added chemicals or water.

Cleaning and preparing scallops

Before cooking, clean your scallops by removing the muscle and any remaining debris by rinsing them under cold water. Dab the scallops dry using a paper towel and place them in the refrigerator. You may also want to marinate your scallops in olive oil or lemon juice before cooking.

Plating and serving suggestions

When it comes to plating and serving scallops, less is more. Place your seared or grilled scallops on a simple bed of greens or with a side of perfectly cooked rice. Drizzle with hollandaise or lemon juice for an extra pop of flavor.


If you are a seafood lover, scallops are definitely worth a try. These delicious and healthy mollusks are easy to prepare and versatile in many dishes. With so many types and cooking methods available, the possibilities are endless, making them perfect to experiment with at home. Remember to choose high-quality scallops, practice sustainable fishing and farming practices, and experiment with different flavors to find your perfect dish.

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