This is how long to cook scallops pan seared, baked, grilled or steamed until tender and buttery. Using fresh large, small or bay with butter this is a healthy dinner we all love. You can even cook frozen scallops perfectly too now.
Cooking scallops is easier than you might think! We will explain step by step how to sear the outside to a golden brown crust in just a few minutes. Baked or steamed they are a tender seafood meal that is family friendly and delicious. (affiliate links present)
How Long to Cook Bay Scallops
Bay are just one type of a small scallop basically that are typically found in shallow, warmer waters such as bays. They are usually less than 2 inches round, have a sweet, delicate flavor and tender texture. Very popular in many seafood dishes such as stews, seafood chowder, pastas, and on top of cold salads.
They are typically more expensive than larger sizes, as they are more difficult to find and don’t stay fresh quite as long. All 8 types are good sources of protein and omega 3 fatty acids for sure.
How to Cook Scallops
There are as many ways to cook these as you have heating devices at home. Love to cook outside? Use your grill to make smoked scallops, just make sure they don’t stick because that would be tragic. 😉 Use your oven for everything? NO problem, baked will be explained below too, same thing goes for keeping them tender steamed on the stove or pressure cooker. Only way I wouldn’t recommend would be boiling, eww.
How Long to Cook Small Scallops
Cook time will definitely depend on their size. The smaller they are the less time it will take to get them fork tender but not overcooked and dried out. You do NOT want to take your eyes off these as one minute too long will yield a tough and rubbery texture. You always want to rinse, pat dry with a paper towel and season to your liking before cooking.
- Scallops on the stovetop: Heat a non stick skillet over medium to high heat and add a small amount of olive oil or butter.
- Add the scallops to the pan
- Make sure they are not touching each other
- Cook for 2-4 minutes on each side (depending on their size) until very lightly browned and cooked through.
- Grilled scallops: Preheat a grill to medium high heat.
- Brush the top and bottom with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
- Grill for 2-3 minutes per side, until browned and cooked through.
- Oven baked scallops: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Place in a baking dish brushed with melted butter or oil.
- Bake for 8-14 minutes, until cooked through.
- Air fryer scallops recipe: A quick way to get a nice crisp on the outsides while still maintaining a tender inside.
- Steamed scallops: Place in a steamer basket into a pot of simmering water, but not touching the water below.
- Steam for 2-3 minutes, or until cooked through.
How do you make sure scallops are fully cooked
Look for an opaque color and when they are slightly firm to the touch to know that they are properly cooked through and should be removed. As a general rule, most will cook in 2-3 minutes per side, but larger pieces may take a bit longer. A golden brown crust is ideal every way other than steamed, you won’t get it that way.
Pan Seared Scallops with Garlic
The ideal color should be a light brown caramelized color to the top and bottom of each one. The middle should remain white and it should NOT be tough to cut at all. Very tender is the desired outcome no matter which way you cook them. A bit of texture on both sides is better in my opinion though, you won’t get that when steamed.
- Rinse and dry scallops patting the outside with a paper towel, salt and sprinkle with pepper.
- Melt the butter in a frying pan and add the olive oil as well.
- Transfer the scallops to the pan and fry them for 2-4 minutes (baby = 2, large = 4).
- Turn the scallops to the other side and fry them for another 4 minutes.
- Transfer the seared scallops to a plate.
Drizzle with lemon juice and sprinkle with lemon zest before serving. Additionally, you can drizzle the scallops with more melted butter for a richer bite.
How to Season Scallops
Salt and pepper is the easiest and most classic way to bring out their natural flavor. Make sure to use high quality sea salt and freshly ground black pepper for the best results.
- You can cook in white wine too which will give your seafood a unique flavor. Have a glass with your meal too. 😉
Freshly squeezed lemon juice over the top when done is a simple and delicious way to add brightness and tang to their flavor. You can also zest the lemon for an extra burst of flavor. Garlic seasoning or freshly minced is our way to go. With it you can then add diced fresh herbs like thyme, parsley, or basil.
Melted butter is a given that adds richness and depth of flavor. You can infuse it with garlic, herbs, or lemon for an extra boost too. You can of course experiment with adding spices like cumin, paprika, or chili powder to the tops too. Just be sure to use them sparingly so that they don’t overpower the delicate fish flavors.
Different Types of Scallops
There are 8 believe it or not. Each one has a slightly different, size, texture and taste. You have bay, sea scallops, calico, pink, rock, Japanese, queen and the final one is called caledonian.
Unless you are visiting a seafood market you will likely only have 1-2 to choose from. Others may be frozen and thus could be bought year round.
How to Freeze Scallops
Freezing is a great way to preserve their freshness and quality for a longer period of time. Especially if you find them on sale you can then load up, cook some now and more later on after defrosting. You first;
- Rinse thoroughly in cold water and pat them dry with a paper towel.
- Place in a single layer on a baking sheet or tray lined with parchment paper.
- Put the baking sheet in the freezer and freeze until they are completely frozen
- which usually takes about 1-2 hours.
- Once they are hard, transfer them to a freezer bag or airtight container.
- Be sure to label the bag or container with the date of freezing.
- Return to the freezer and store them for up to 3-6 months.
Want to see a few of my favorite things that I am totally obsessed with?? Take a peek and see how many you might already have…twinsies!
How Long to Cook Scallops
- 1 pan
- Rinse and dry scallops patting the outside with a paper towel, salt and sprinkle with pepper. Melt the butter in a frying pan and add the olive oil as well.
- Transfer the scallops to the pan and fry them for 2-4 minutes (baby = 2, large = 4). Turn the scallops to the other side and fry them for another 2-4 minutes.
- They are done when the color is opaque, there is a light brown caramelized color on top and bottom and are still easy to slice.
- Transfer the seared scallops to a plate. Drizzle with lemon juice and sprinkle with lemon zest before serving. Additionally, you can drizzle the scallops with melted butter.