I was recently asked, “how do you get that beautifully caramelized crust when searing scallops?” I have seared many Scallops but after thinking about it for a little while, I realized their are some important details to know in order to achieve that perfect crust on the exterior and nice tender interior. Just to be clear, we are talking about sea scallops, not the small Bay Scallops, and preferably scallops that are on the larger side (U12 or larger, meaning 12 to a pound or fewer).
The most important thing you need to do is find the freshest scallops that you can find. Previously frozen won’t work because when you start searing the scallops, water releases, and now you are poaching and not searing and this will cause the scallops to be limp. After you get fresh scallops, start by removing the muscle, and then crowding them together on paper towels to get them as dry as possible. Make sure to bring them to room temperature before you start cooking (out of the fridge for 45-60 minutes). Something you often hear when trying to achieve a nice crust is “don’t crowd the pan”. This is very important when searing scallops so make sure you are using a large enough pan and the scallops are far enough apart from each other. As for the pan: use a cast iron skillet or a stainless steel pan that has an even cooking surface. Also make sure to use oil with a high smoke point, like grapeseed oil or rice oil, and get the pan VERY HOT.
Lastly you want to sear the scallops very quickly, about 2-3 minutes per side depending on the size, and then serve them immediately. Here is the checkoff list for the key points:
- Fresh, never frozen.
- Remove muscle.
- Dry on paper towels to remove as much moisture.
- Bring to room temperature.
- Use a large pan.
- Use grapeseed oil or rice oil.
- Get the pan very hot.
- Serve immediately and enjoy!