I really enjoy scallops, but I had a bit of trouble learning how to make them. Now that I know what I did wrong, I no longer have any trouble making seared scallops.
What was I doing wrong? I was buying the wrong scallops. It’s that simple.
Now that I know what scallops to buy, seared scallops are a quick, and easy to make, and work as an appetiser, or a main course. They cook in minutes, and are easy to master.
Bay Scallops vs Sea Scallops
When talking about scallops, the first distinction that comes to mind is bay scallops vs sea scallops. Bay scallops are the smaller ones, whereas sea scallops are the larger ones.
Bay scallops, as the name suggests come from shallow waters of bays, found along the east coast of North America. They tend to be much smaller than sea scallops, and are usually less than a half inch in diameter.
Sea scallops come from deeper, colder sea waters, and tend to be much larger. These can be two inches in diameter. These are the scallops that you want to get when you are making seared scallops.
Dry Scallops vs Wet Scallops
Now that we know that we want Sea Scallops, the next decision when buying scallops is, “dry scallops” vs “wet scallops”. This wet vs dry isn’t referring to the scallops being in water or not, but with how they are treated after they are harvested.
Wet Scallops are treated with a chemical called “sodium tripolyphosphate” (or STPP). STPP helps preserve the scallops after they are harvested, and helps plump them up a bit more, retaining more water. Dry scallops are not treated with STPP.
When making seared scallops, you want Dry Scallops. The extra water retained due to the STPP prevents a nice crust forming on the scallops, and will give you a sub par finished product.
If the scallops are not labeled as “wet” or “dry”, if they are sitting in what looks like a white, almost milky liquid, they are probably “wet” scallops.
Wet scallops tend to be cheaper than dry scallops because they have a longer shelf life, and because they are plumped up with water, so they tend to be heavier. If you can find them though, dry scallops are worth the extra cost.