Scallops are mollusks with two shells and are similar to oysters or clams. The portion of the scallop that is used for culinary purposes is the adductor muscle, a small round meat. Scallops can be difficult for the novice cook to prepare because they can easily be overcooked and become rubbery and tasteless. They tend to taste best with simple cooking methods that let their flavor shine.
Lightly pan sear scallops in oil or butter to get a crispy outer coating that subtly enhances its flavor. Heat your stove to medium high and add 2 tbsp. oil or 1 tbsp. each oil and butter to a nonstick skillet. Add a drop of water to the skillet. If the water sizzles, the pan is hot enough for the scallops. Add the scallops to the pan, making sure they don’t touch. Cook for 3 minutes, then flip and cook for another 3 minutes. The tops should be golden brown, while the sides are opaque. Lightly press on a scallop to ensure it’s firm without being rubbery. Pan seared scallops are flavorful and can be served as a main dish.
Quickly grilling scallops allows them to be gently heated without overpowering their taste. Prepare a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to medium high. Brush scallops with olive oil on each side, then place directly onto the grill. Heat for 2 minutes, then flip and grill for another 2 to 3 minutes. Cut into a scallop to make sure the inside is not translucent. If so, grill for an additional minute per side. Season with salt, pepper or lemon juice and serve immediately. For easier handling, you can soak bamboo skewers in cold water for 20 minutes, then add three to four scallops to each skewer and grill as directed. Shrimp pairs well with scallops, so you can also alternate shrimp and scallops on the skewers. This can stretch a smaller amount of scallops.
For an indoor option with a similar taste to grilling, lightly broil scallops. Preheat your broiler and position the rack 3 to 4 inches from the heat. Brush scallops with olive oil or butter on both sides, then add to a greased broiler pan. Broil for a total of 6 minutes or until the sides of the scallops are opaque. For additional flavor, wrap each scallop in bacon and secure with a toothpick before broiling, then broil for 15 minutes or until the bacon is cooked through and the scallops are opaque.
Scallops can be turn out well baked, but only under careful supervision because they can dry out quickly. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Brush the scallops with olive oil or butter and add to a baking dish lined with aluminum foil. Bake for 12 minutes or until the scallops are firm to the touch and white without being see-through. Serve the baked scallops alone or add to a cream or citrus-based sauce for extra flavor.
Allison Boelcke graduated from Indiana University with a bachelor's in English and a minor in psychology. She worked in print journalism for three years before deciding to pursue Internet writing. She is now a contributing web writer for Demand Studios and Conjecture Corporation.