Pan-Seared Scallops

pan seared scallops

The Spruce / Leah Maroney

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 10 mins
Total: 15 mins
Servings: 2 to 4 servings
Yield: 1 pan

Pan-seared scallops with browned butter are so simple yet so delicious. They're fancy enough for a dinner party or special occasion, but they're easy enough for a weeknight meal. There are a few tricks and tips to make them turn out perfectly—there'll be no sticking and no over-cooking with this recipe.

You only need four ingredients and a non-stick pan to make these beautiful nuggets of flavor. Add a sprinkle of tarragon or parsley for freshness. Serve pan-seared scallops over parmesan polenta or creamy risotto to absorb the buttery sauce, or try them alongside a salad with some crusty bread. You really can’t go wrong.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound jumbo scallops
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil (or other high-heat oil)
  • 3 tablespoons butter

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather your ingredients.

    pan-seared scallops ingredients

    The Spruce / Leah Maroney

  2. Pat the scallops dry with paper towels. Get them as dry as possible. Sprinkle them with salt.

    sea scallops dried on a paper towel

    The Spruce / Leah Maroney

  3. Heat the grapeseed oil in your nonstick pan or cast-iron skillet on high heat. Add the scallops to the pan. Shake the pan once and then leave the scallops alone.

    pan seared scallops

    The Spruce / Leah Maroney

  4. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until lightly browned. Flip and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes or until the scallops are just slightly translucent when you look at them from the side. They should still feel springy to the touch and not firm. Remove them from the pan and place them on a paper towel-lined plate.

    pan seared scallops

    The Spruce / Leah Maroney

  5. Add the butter to the pan and heat on medium heat until just browned. Pour the browned butter over the scallops. Serve them immediately with your favorite sides.

    browned butter in a cast iron skillet

    The Spruce / Leah Maroney

Tips

The top problems with cooking scallops are sticking and overcooking. Here’s how you can avoid it:

  • Make sure you dry the scallops thoroughly before cooking.
  • Even if your scallops were previously frozen, as long as they are dried well, you will be fine. 
  • Get your pan very hot before adding the scallops.
  • Use a high-heat oil like grapeseed oil. 
  • Don’t overcrowd your pan when cooking the scallops—this will make it difficult for them to sear properly and difficult to flip. 
  • Shake the pan once when you first add the scallops. Don’t move them after you shake the pan. You want to leave them alone so they get a nice sear and so they don’t stick. 
  • To avoid overcooking, make sure to only cook for a few minutes per side and check to make sure the scallops are still springy and not firm.

What Kind of Pan Is Best for Cooking Scallops?

You must use a nonstick pan or a cast-iron skillet as well as oil to avoid scallops sticking to your pan. Use a pan that is shallow so that you can flip them easily.

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