Impressive Pan-Seared Scallops Don’t Require a Recipe

This restaurant-quality dish is easier than it looks.

Perfectly cooked pan-seared scallops are a beautiful thing. Like candy from the ocean, they’ve got a nice caramelized crust on the outside and are soft and sweet inside. They’re decadent, sexy, and undeniably showy. And they’re easier to make than they look: Start to finish, you can make scallops with a pan sauce in less than 15 minutes. Serve with some crusty white bread, a simple salad, and a bottle of chilled white wine, and you’ve got an almost-instant, completely elegant dinner for a romantic date at home.

Pan-seared scallops don’t need much to make them delicious, but a little butter basting and pan sauce action certainly never hurts. You can push the flavors of this dish in different directions at three different stages of the preparation: seasoning, basting, and making the pan sauce. So many flavor combinations would work wonderfully with the sweet rich flavors of scallops and butter. All you need to know is this simple four-step method, so go ahead and choose your own adventure.


Decide how many scallops you’re going to cook, and make sure you buy “dry” scallops, not “wet” scallops (which have chemical additives). Pat them dry, and check to see if the little muscle on the side has been removed from each—if not, pull it off with your fingers. Sprinkle them generously with salt and pepper or your seasoning of choice. Get creative with your spice cupboard: try a little cumin or lime zest or smoked paprika.

  1. SEAR

Pick a heavy skillet that’ll fit the number of scallops you’re cooking—you want to make sure you can get them all in the pan with plenty of space between each—then swirl in a bit of oil and heat over medium-high heat until it’s very hot. Gently place your seasoned scallops in the pan and DO NOT TOUCH THEM until they are deeply browned on one side, about three minutes for an average-sized scallop.

  1. Baste With Butter and aromatics

Flip your scallops carefully with tongs, and add a few little pieces of cold butter to the pan (a bit more than you think you should, you won’t regret it) along with an aromatic of choice. You could use a dried chili pepper or a sprig of fresh herbs or some capers or a slice of citrus. Again, this is the fun part of not following a recipe—choose whatever aromatic you think would best compliment your seasoning. Use a large spoon to baste the scallops with the butter continuously while they finish cooking, about 3 minutes longer. Be careful not to over-cook your scallops: if your scallops are on the small side, it may not take as long.

  1. Make a pan sauce

Pull the scallops from the pan and set them on your serving plate. Add a splash of liquid to the butter in the pan: you could use lemon juice, white wine, stock, orange juice, etc, depending on what flavor you think would work best with your seasoning and basting ingredients. Give it a good stir over medium heat, then remove from heat and pull out the aromatics. Add just a bit more cold butter to finish, and some chopped fresh herbs of choice if you like. Pour the sauce around the scallops on your plate and you’ve got a show-stopping scallop dish ready to serve. And best of all, you can say it’s your own creation—I won’t mind—you didn’t even follow a recipe.

Impressive Pan-Seared Scallops Don't Require a Recipe

Read more here: