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This recipe first appeared on Gimme Delicious where I am a contributor.

Why go to an expensive seafood restaurant when you can make these Pan Seared Scallops at home yourself for a fraction of the cost? All it takes is a screaming hot skillet and a couple minutes to achieve the perfect caramelized golden brown crust of succulent pan seared scallops that are cooked with a simple garlic butter sauce so the delicate briney flavor of the ocean isn’t overwhelmed.

We love eating the “fruits of the sea” and are always adding to our collection of fish and seafood recipes that can be easily made at home. Some of our favorites are Macadamia Nut Crusted Mahi-Mahi, grilled Alaskan King Crab Legs, or a wonderful, savory Cioppino seafood stew!

An image of pan seared scallops on mashed cauliflower.  

Pan Seared Scallops

We live on the coast in the California Bay Area, which means we are lucky enough to have access to lots of fresh seafood on a regular basis. My favorite place to pick up seafood is at a stall at our local Saturday morning farmer’s market where it is brought in fresh and kept on ice. And our favorite seafood restaurant is Sam’s Chowder House in Half Moon Bay overlooking the ocean.

But my big secret is that I always buy the frozen sea scallops from Costco! Scallops actually freeze really well and I would rather buy them frozen and thaw them myself in the fridge than buy the ones you usually see defrosted for you in the grocery store display.

Whenever we go out and see scallops on the menu, it’s pretty much a given that one of us is going to order them. They have such a wonderful, unique flavor and when they come out with that perfect golden crust there is nothing better!

But restaurant scallops are definitely pricey and it’s much less expensive cooking the scallops at home. And honestly, they taste every bit as delicious, if not even better than the ones made by a professional chef. Plus, it takes almost zero skill to make these seared scallops that are naturally low-carb and packed with protein, so they are perfect if you are on a Keto diet or just looking to eat a little healthier. 

An image of sea scallops being seared in a cast iron skillet with butter and garlic.

What you will need to make pan seared scallops

  • Scallops: Look for “dry scallops” as opposed to “wet scallops” which are treated with added chemicals. Dry scallops have the best flavor and brown better because they haven’t been soaked in a solution.
  • Avocado oil: This type of oil has a high smoke point, which you will want for getting a good sear to develop the crust on the outside of the scallops.
  • Salted butter: Using butter adds healthy fat and tons of flavor to the seared scallops.
  • Garlic: The garlic helps flavor the butter that you use to baste the scallops while they cook. It’s the perfect complement to the natural butteriness of the scallop.
  • Salt & pepper: We keep the seasoning of these scallops simple to allow their natural sweetness to shine through.

An image of pan seared scallops with a golden brown crust.

How to thaw frozen scallops

My preference is to thaw frozen scallops on a wire rack set over a plate in the fridge overnight so they aren’t sitting in liquid as they thaw. But you can also thaw frozen scallops in a bowl of cold water for 10-20 minutes if you are in a rush.

Just be sure to pat them really well with paper towels so they are completely dry before searing or they will steam in the pan instead of developing the hallmark golden brown crust we are going for.

An image of a plate of frozen scallops that have been thawed in the fridge overnight.

How do you sear scallops perfectly?

The secret to perfectly seared scallops is three-fold: a screaming-hot pan, a very dry scallop, and 3-4 minutes of cooking time. It’s seriously so easy!

Start by patting your thoroughly thawed scallops dry with paper towels. Moisture is the enemy of a beautifully seared scallop because it interferes with the creation of that golden crust.

Set a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat to get nice and hot. Scallops, like a good steak, don’t need much more than to a sprinkle of salt and pepper on both sides to bring out their natural flavor. Just season with salt (sea salt or coarse kosher salt is my favorite) and a good crack of freshly ground black pepper and you are good to go.

An image of thawed scallops on a blue plate, seasoned with salt and pepper.

When the pan is hot, add the oil, then place the scallops in a single layer in the pan. They should sizzle immediately but don’t be tempted to move them around. Leave space between the scallops so they don’t steam themselves in the pan.

Cook for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, then flip to cook on the other side and add the butter and garlic right away. Use a spoon to spoon the butter over the scallops as it melts.

Let the scallops cook for another 90 seconds to 2 minutes, just until they are browned on the bottom side and opaque throughout, then remove to a plate. You can squeeze a little lemon juice over them, if you want, but I prefer them as is.

An image of caramelized seared scallops on mashed cauliflower.

What to serve with scallops?

Our favorite sides to serve with these scallops are mashed potatoes with some of the pan juices drizzled over the top and roasted asparagus or another green vegetable on the side. But sea scallops also go well with a nice roasted beet salad or a slice of crusty rosemary & garlic no knead artisan bread.

An image of a plate of scallops and asparagus.

More great seafood recipes

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Pan Seared Scallops
Yield: 4 Servings

Pan Seared Scallops

Why go to an expensive seafood restaurant when you can make these Pan Seared Scallops at home yourself for a fraction of the cost? All it takes is a screaming hot skillet and a couple minutes to achieve the perfect golden brown crust of succulent Pan Seared Scallops that are cooked with a simple garlic butter sauce so the delicate briney flavor of the ocean isn't overwhelmed.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 4 minutes
Total Time 14 minutes

Ingredients

  • 12 large sea scallops (about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons salted butter
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 lemon
  • Chopped parsley, for garnish

Instructions

  1. Pat scallops dry on paper towels. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat a cast iron skillet or large pan over medium-high heat. Add oil and wait until it is hot.
  3. Lay scallops in the pan, leaving space so as not to crowd them. They should sizzle immediately. Cook for 2 minutes without touching them.
  4. Flip the scallops and immediately add the butter and garlic. Cook for another 90 seconds to 2 minutes, spooning the melting butter and garlic over the scallops, until they are browned on both sides and opaque throughout, then remove from the pan to a plate.
  5. Squeeze the lemon over the scallop, then serve immediately with the pan juices drizzled over top.