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Easy Pan-Seared Scallops

Ali Rosen

Chef notes

Scallops always feel like a dish for a special occasion, but the truth is they couldn’t be easier to prepare. With a handful of ingredients and piping hot pan, you can have restaurant-quality scallops in minutes. 

When it comes to shopping for scallops, there’s a few things to keep in mind. Like with any seafood, you want to look out for any signs of discoloration, which indicate a scallop that is past its prime. The two most common varieties of scallops are bay and sea scallops. The names refer to where the scallops were harvested, regardless if they are wild or farmed. Bay scallops tend to be smaller and sweeter, while sea scallops are larger in size with a brinier flavor; we prefer sea scallops for searing and bay scallops for chowders and stews

As with any protein, make sure to pat the scallops completely dry with paper towels before cooking. This process absorbs any excess moisture that might get in the way of getting a hard sear, which is an indicator for when the scallop is done cooking and adds incredible flavor – no one wants a steamed, rubbery scallop. 

To get a perfectly cooked scallop, start with a searing hot pan. While you can use any seasoning, salt is all it takes to make scallops sing. Once added to the pan, let the scallops sit without moving until a good crust has formed before flipping them over. Keep in mind that scallops should be just cooked through and still opaque in the center, so try not to overcook them. 

Technique Tip: To cook scallops on the grill, follow the same steps here. Since you don’t want scallops to fall through the grill grates, opt for sea scallops which have a wider circumference. 

Swap Option: Scallops and thyme are delicious, but you can use any type of herb to add extra flavor in here, like rosemary, sage or even basil. 



  • canola, vegetable or peanut oil
  • 1 pound sea scallops, cleaned
  • 1/8 teaspoon flaky salt
  • unsalted butter (optional)
  • 2-3 sprigs thyme (optional)
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Put a pan on high heat and add a layer of oil to coat the bottom. Pat the scallops dry with a paper towel and then sprinkle flaky salt on both sides. Let the scallops rest on the paper towels for 10 minutes or so while the pan is heating up.


When the pan is scorching hot (and with your fan on), add the scallops to the pan. You want to make sure to leave a bit of space between each scallop. Let them cook for 1 to 3 minutes (depending on the size of the scallop), until a crust has formed at the bottom. Flip the scallops over and cook for an additional 1 to 3 minutes. With a minute to go, if you want additional flavor, add the butter to the pan and allow it to melt, throwing in the sprigs of thyme as well and basting the scallops.


Remove the scallops from the heat and serve hot. You can add the butter on top or any other sauce you would like to use.