What do Scallops Taste Like?

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What do Scallops Taste Like?

Tackle Village is reader supported. If you buy a product through links on the site we may make a small commission

Updated on:
What do scallops taste like feature image

Scallops are one of the tastiest creatures in the ocean.

Scallops have a light, buttery and slightly sweet flavor. In terms of texture, they are soft and squishy – kind of like a marshmallow.

Some people consider that scallops taste like lobster, with a different texture of course. They both have a sweet slightly nutty taste and go well with similar flavors. Prepared right, scallops taste just as nice as lobster and are cheaper and more versatile in terms of how they can be prepared.

Scallops are a great fresh food to cook with as they absorb the flavour of cooking sauce thanks to their soft texture.

What Are Scallops?

Scallops in shells showing both the adductor muscle and the scallop roe

Scallops are a kind of shellfish. Sometimes you will see them in a restaurant served in the shell – it’s a rounded shell about the size of your hand with grooves in it on the outside.

Scallops are in the mollusc family and are a type of bivalve (meaning they have two shells). One of the notable things about them is they can move relatively rapidly. If they sense danger, they can flee using jet propulsion by squeezing their shells together to expel water.

Scallops also have up to 200 eyes arranged around the edge of their mantle!

Scallops are found in all the world’s oceans. They live on the ocean floor and favour sandy substrates.

Fresh scallops are one of the tastiest foods in the ocean.

From a cooking and eating point of view, probably the most important parts of the scallop are the adductor muscle (the white ‘meat’ of the scallop) and the roe (the orange reprodutive organs). Both can be eaten, but many recipes and ways of eating scallops involve just the adductor muscle.

What are The Different Types of Scallops?

In the US there are three types of scallops available in seafood shops and markets.

Sea Scallops

These are the larger type of scallops sold in the US that you sometimes see plated in the shell when they are served in seared in restaurants. Sea scallops can be up to an inch and a half in diameter.

Bay Scallops

Bay scallops are the smaller slightly sweet scallops that are ideal for serving in a seafood marinara sauce or in stir fries or similar dishes.

Calico Scallops

These scallops are harvested off of the US Gulf and Southern Atlantic coasts.  You have to steam calico scallops before cooking to open their shells.

How are scallops caught?

Scallops are caught commercially by two methods:

Trawling with a net that scrapes the ocean floor picking up the scallops as it goes. This is the most cost effective and common way of harvesting scallops, but it is quite damaging to the undersea environment.

Hand harvesting by divers. This is a more environmentally friendly way to harvest scallops and the main way in which scallops are taken by recreational fishermen and women. Hand harvested scallops are more expensive, but are better from a sustainability and environmental point of view.

Pancetta, bacon and chorizo are greater flavor pairings for scallops

How to Choose Fresh Scallops

Purchase scallops based on sight and smell. They should look moist and not dried out at all and smell fresh and clean. Fresh scallops do not have a strong fishy smell at all. Scallops taste best when freshly caught, but it is fine to buy scallops frozen when that’s all that’s available.

What Are Wet Packed Scallops?

Scallops go bad very quickly after they are caught, so fishing operators will usually freeze them as soon as they are caught. One method of ensuring scallops don’t dry out is by treating them with sodium tripolyphosphate (STP). This chemical encourages the scallop to absorb more moisture before it is killed by freezing. Wet packed scallops are fine to eat but are an inferior product to dry packed scallops and don’t have the same flavour and cooking characteristics because all that extra moisture is released during cooking diluting the taste and making it harder to brown the scallop. These scallops are OK in a seafood marinara or stir fry where this isn’t critical.

What Are Dry-Packed Scallops?

Dry packed scallops have been snap frozen without any additive. These are the best scallops to buy if you can afford it as they don’t shrink when cooked and have more flavour. Dry packed scallops are an obvious choice if you are going to grill or sear the scallops and serve them on their own.

What flavours do scallops go well with?

Buttery sauces are a great match for scallops

Because of their sweet flavor and relatively mild taste, scallops can be paired with a wide range of flavours. Because they have a delicate flavor, it’s best to avoid flavors that can overpower their sweet taste. Some of the best flavor pairings for scallops are:

  • Butter
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Olive Oil
  • Tarragon
  • White wine
  • Pancetta, chorizo or bacon
  • Avocado

How To Store Scallops?

If you are going to eat scallops within a day or two, they can be stored in a refrigerator. Put them in a sealed container on paper towel.

For longer storage periods, scallops need to be frozen and can be stored for up to three months in this way.

How Do You Thaw Frozen Scallops?

Don’t thaw scallops in th microwave. Ideally thaw them in the refrigerator. This makes sure they don’t overeat and spoil, which they can do in hot climates if thawed on the bench.

What Are The Health Benefits Of Eating Scallops?

Scallops are a very health source of lean protein. They are low in fat and are more than 80% protein. They are a good source of phosphorus, iron, potassium, selenium and vitamin B12.

Can Scallops Be Eaten Raw?

Scallop sushi is a delicious way to eat raw scallops. Serve with a little wasabi and soy sauce

Yes, sashimi grade or freshly harvested scallops can be eaten raw. Raw scallops are a popular dish prepared as sushi (with rice) or sashimi in Japan and this is the best way to ear raw scallops. As they don’t have a strong taste, they should be accompanied with a little wasabi and soy sauce.

How Can Scallops Be Prepared?

What do grilled scallops taste like?

Grilling scallops over a high heat is a great way to cook scallops. Because they are small in size and relatively delicate they only take a few minutes each side. A grill with ridges in it helps to give them that scored effect to improve the presentations. Season scallops with a bit of salt before marinating them briefly in olive oil, fresh lemon juice can make them even tastier.

What do pan fried scallops taste like?

This is another great way to prepare scallops. The advantage that pan searing scallops has over grilled scallops is that you can create a simple sauce to give them a nice buttery taste and creamy richness, depending on what ingredients are used. Pan frying scallops really lends them to being served in the shell with the sauce on top. For a good sauce consider butter, white wine, lemon, garlic and capers. The scallop roe can also be used in the sauce to give it extra taste.

Other Cooking Methods for Scallops

Scallops are great in a seafood marinara, risotto or paella and this is a good way to eat scallops. Scallops can also be used in stir fries and many seafood dishes to make a delicious meal.

What do Scallops Taste Like: Final Thoughts

We hope this article answers the question what do scallops taste like and gives you some ideas about ways to cook scallops and enjoy the health benefits of eating this tasty form of seafood.

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AUTHOR
Rick Wallace is a passionate angler and fly fisher whose work has appeared in fishing publications including FlyLife. He's appeared in fishing movies, founded a successful fishing site and spends every spare moment on the water.