A simple and elegant dinner of tender Pan Seared Scallops made with only 3 ingredients and in less than 10 minutes! Kissed with a touch of fresh lemon and served with a side of creamy risotto for the perfect restaurant quality meal at home.
Whenever I think of pan seared scallops, I think of romance, sophistication, and expensive. Scallops are not served as an everyday meal due to the high price point.
They are saved for special occasions, for when you want to impress someone in your life.
One of my favorite romantic dinner ideas for two at home
I love making this dish for Hubby J whenever I want to show him some extra love, like for Valentine’s Day. Why is it this holiday of love always seems to fall on the worst day for going out to dinner?
Having to drop everything in the middle of the week to get dolled up to fight with other couples for an annoyingly difficult-to-score Valentine’s Day reservation at some crowded fancy restaurant just isn’t my idea of fun.
Here’s the good news, this scallop recipe is every bit as delicious as the one you’d get at any upscale trendy restaurant. Save the big bucks by NOT going out to dinner and use the money to buy something more useful…like chocolate, or champagne, or more scallops!!
What are scallops?
Scallops are a marine bivalve mollusk of the Pectinidae family. Never found in fresh water, always in saltwater. They are also related to clams, oysters, and mussels.
There are 2 different kinds of scallops: bay and sea.
- Bay —>> smaller and found on the US East coast in the shallow waters of bays and estuaries. Peak season is during the fall months and they are only about a half inch wide, so they cook quickly.
- Sea —>> larger and found in the deep, cold ocean year-round and can be up to 2 inches wide.
This sea scallop recipe is best made with local, wild Atlantic scallops. They are readily available all over the country and typically found already shelled in seafood markets and grocery stores.
Fortunately, sea scallops are also sustainable. They are not overfished and are not at risk for overfishing, according to the NOAA.
A few tips about using fresh seafood for seared scallops:
- Know your source and only buy from a reputable fish market or grocery store seafood department. Ask where the scallops are from, if there is no label.
- Always make sure the scallops are as fresh as possible. They should smell of the ocean (not fishy) and feel dry, not slimy on the outside. They should be firm, intact, and whole, not soft and tearing or falling apart.
- Buy dry packed scallops, if possible. Dry packed scallops contain no additives and have a natural color of ivory to beige. They cost a little more, but they retain less water, so they end up not shrinking as much as wet scallops do when you cook them.
- Store fresh scallops in a tightly covered container, in the refrigerator, for up to 2 days before using.
How to sear scallops
Scallops have a delicate taste that’s moist, buttery, and sweet, but overcooked ones are rubbery, tough, and flavorless.
Here are some tips on how to properly cook them:
- Always rinse prior to use and dry well with a paper towel. Make sure each scallop is completely dry before cooking, so it will sear properly in the pan. If it produces too much water in the pan, the scallop will steam instead of developing a nice brown crust.
- There is an extra piece of muscle that lies on one side of a scallop (the side-muscle). It has a tough texture to it and is unpleasant to eat, so it’s best to remove it before cooking.
- Season scallops lightly with salt and pepper.
- Cook in a large skillet, over medium-high heat, in a combination of a little butter and olive oil. Two minutes on each side is all it takes to produce a fully cooked and tender scallop.
- Remove scallops from the pan to prevent further cooking and serve immediately.
What to serve with pan seared scallops
Why an easy risotto recipe, of course! Creamy risotto is the perfect side for these pan seared scallops and this leek mushroom risotto recipe doesn’t disappoint.
Not a fan of mushrooms? Leave them out or try this recipe for spinach artichoke risotto.
Serve this Pan Seared Scallops recipe with a side of risotto and enjoy a wonderfully romantic and impressively tasty meal with the one you love. Or when you just want some easy food to make for dinner!
Pan Seared Scallops
- 12 large fresh dry sea scallops , about 1 pound
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- salt and pepper
Optional: lemon wedges
- Remove the tough side muscle flap from each scallop, rinse under cold water, and dry well. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and set aside.
- In a large skillet, over medium-high heat, add the butter and olive oil to pan. Once the butter melts, add the scallops in a single layer and cook 2 minutes on each side.
Recipe Notes & Tips:
- Buy only fresh scallops and remove the side muscle
- Best when eaten immediately after cooking
- Any leftovers can be stored, in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days