Learn how easy it is to make a few pan seared scallops with a golden crust and melt-in-your-mouth texture. An elegant dish yet so easy to make! Perfect for a special occasion or any day of the week. Ready in minutes!
Pan seared scallops made with plenty of butter and a squeeze of lemon is one of my favorite ways to eat scallops. Many people are hesitant to cook scallops because of their high price tag. However, when you cook for one you only need a few scallops to make a beautiful meal, and cooking scallops this way is so much less expensive than ordering them in a restaurant - and I think they're much tastier too!
Why This Recipe Works
- The secret to these pan seared scallops is to cook them in a hot skillet with a touch of hot oil and butter.
- These perfectly seared scallops are golden brown on the surface and sweet and silky on the insides.
- Scallops are one of the easiest kinds of seafood to cook and they can be ready in minutes.
- For this scallops recipe, we use sea scallops which are much larger than bay scallops. A few sea scallops go a long way and when you're cooking for one, you will find that you don't need to purchase many for a hearty meal.
- Although scallops can be expensive when serving a crowd, when you're cooking for one they are a simple, affordable pleasure.
- Scallops: You may only need about a quarter-pound of sea scallops, which is about four or five big scallops.
- Olive oil: I use extra virgin olive oil in this seared scallops recipe as well as in every other recipe on One Dish Kitchen that calls for olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil is the least processed form of olive oil. It is an unrefined oil and the highest-quality olive oil you can buy. Because of the way extra virgin olive oil is made, it retains a more true olive taste. It also contains more of the vitamins and minerals found in olives. It's my favorite type of olive oil to use but you may use a lighter olive oil instead.
- Salt and black pepper: I use a total amount of ⅛ teaspoon of kosher salt and ⅛ teaspoon of ground black pepper to season both sides of the scallops.
- Butter: Use ½ tablespoon of salted butter.
How To Buy, Clean, and Cook Scallops
Scallops are often a special treat when dining out, but when you discover how incredibly easy scallops are to cook at home, you won't have to wait to enjoy them again.
Buying Scallops: Buy the freshest scallops you can find. Be sure to purchase scallops from a reputable fishmonger. You will likely find fresh scallops in the seafood section of your grocery store.
Look for scallops that are a uniform pearly white color with firm, slightly moist flesh. They should not be completely dry or dripping with liquid. Make sure they do not look shredded or disfigured, this shows that they were not handled well and can sometimes indicate a lack of freshness.
Cleaning Scallops: Scallops are very easy to prepare for cooking. I usually just rinse them under cool running water and pat them dry with a paper towel.
Cooking Scallops: Scallops cook very quickly and can become tough and chewy if overcooked. Our favorite way to prepare scallops is to simply cook the scallops in a little olive oil and melted butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. This is called "searing the scallops" and will give them a golden crust and are just barely cooked through. They'll melt in your mouth!
Wet vs. Dry Scallops
When shopping for scallops, look for "dry packed" scallops. These have been shucked and shipped packed on ice, with no chemical additives. They tend to have a slightly pink or off-white hue and their flavor is more pure and concentrated. They have a shorter shelf-life but they are also fresher when you buy them.
Wet scallops go into a container filled with cold water and a phosphate solution after they are shucked. This preserves the scallops but also causes them to absorb water and plump up, giving them a less pure flavor and a tougher texture. These types of scallops tend to release a lot of liquid when cooked which causes them to steam rather than sear to a nice caramelized crust.
How To Know Whether You're Buying Wet Or Dry Scallops
Sometimes it can be hard to tell whether the scallops you're looking at are wet or dry. The best way to find out is to ask.
Are Wet Scallops Okay To Use?
Absolutely, especially if you're going to be cooking them right away. My preference is to use dry scallops but wet scallops are delicious too.
How To Make Seared Scallops For One Person
See the recipe box below for ingredient amounts and full recipe instructions.
- Place the scallops on a paper towel-lined plate and pat the outsides dry with a paper or cloth towel. You want to gently press down on the scallops to blot any water or liquid. In order to get a beautiful sear, you need to start with dry scallops. Damp scallops won't brown or sear in the pan.
- Season one side with salt and pepper directly on the paper towel. I like to season the second side when I flip them over in the pan.
- Heat the skillet on medium-high heat. Add olive oil to the pan. Since I use a 6.5-inch skillet, I use only ½ tablespoon of oil. If you use a larger skillet, add 1 tablespoon of oil instead.
- Place the scallops, seasoned side down, in the heated pan. If the scallops aren't sizzling when you place them in the skillet, it isn't hot enough. Make sure to give the scallops enough space between each other. While the scallops are cooking, season the second side of the scallops. Sear the scallops for 2 minutes on the first side. The first side will always get a deeper golden-brown crust than the second side.
- Using tongs, carefully flip each scallop over. If the scallops stick to the skillet, they're not ready to be turned yet. Leave them for another moment or two. When they are ready to be turned, they will let go of the pan. Add the butter and cook for 1 minute. As the butter melts, use a spoon to baste the scallops with the melted butter as they continue to cook. As the scallops cook, the butter will start to brown which adds a wonderful nuttiness to the sauce.
- Use tongs to transfer the scallops to a plate and enjoy immediately.
Optional: I like adding a little lemon juice and freshly chopped parsley to my seared scallops before eating.
- Use a hot skillet: Make sure your skillet is hot before adding the scallops to the pan.
- Leave space between the scallops: Don't overcrowd the scallops in the pan. You want to leave room between the scallops to allow the moisture to evaporate rapidly.
- Do not move or touch the scallops until you are ready to flip them. You'll want to cook the scallops almost all the way through on the first side and just let the second side remain on the pan for a few moments.
- Easy to make extras. This recipe doubles well, so if you're cooking for two just double the ingredients and use a larger pan.
Frequently Asked Questions
Scallops are slightly sweet and have a taste that is similar to lobster. They are rich in flavor and a few will go a long way. When cooked properly, scallops are smooth and tender and will melt in your mouth.
Yes. Be sure to thaw the scallops overnight in the refrigerator. Do not thaw them at room temperature. Rinse scallops and pat them dry with a paper towel before using them.
My favorite pan to use is absolutely a cast iron skillet. Because this type of skillet retains and gives off heat so well, it usually results in the beautiful golden brown sear that we love so much. You may use another type of skillet if necessary. The skillet we use for this small batch recipe is a 6.5-inch skillet which can be found on our Cookware Page.
You might like to serve your pan seared scallops with any of these single serving and small batch recipes:
Other Single Serving Seafood Recipes
For more information on the cooking and baking dishes I use in our “recipes for one”, please visit our FAQ page.
For examples of the dishes used at One Dish Kitchen, please visit our Store page.
If you’ve tried these seared scallops or any recipe on One Dish Kitchen please let me know how you liked it by rating the recipe and telling me about it in the comment section below.
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Seared Scallops For One
See the post above for expert tips,
FAQs and ways to use leftover ingredients.
- 5 large sea scallops (approximately 4 to 5-ounces)
- ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ tablespoon olive oil
- ½ tablespoon salted butter
- Place the scallops on a paper towel lined plate and thoroughly pat dry with a paper or cloth towel. Season one side of the scallops with half of the salt and half of the black pepper.
- Heat a small 6.5-inch skillet over medium-high heat for about 30 seconds. When the pan is hot, add the olive oil. When the oil is hot and shimmery, carefully place the scallops, seasoned side down, into the pan without overcrowding. Cook, without touching the scallops until they are golden brown on the bottom, 2 minutes.
- Season the second side of the scallops with the remaining salt and pepper. Using tongs, flip the scallops over. If the scallops stick to the skillet, they're not ready to be turned yet. Leave them for another moment or two. When they are ready to be turned, they will let go of the pan.
- Add the butter to the skillet and cook until the sides and centers of the scallops are opaque, 60 to 90 seconds more, depending on the size of the scallops.
- Use tongs to transfer the scallops to a plate and enjoy immediately.
- Make sure your skillet is hot before adding the scallops to the pan.
- Don't overcrowd the scallops in the pan.
- Do not move or touch the scallops until you are ready to flip them.
- This recipe doubles well, so if you're cooking for two just double the ingredients and use a larger pan.
- This recipe is written using a 6.5-inch skillet. If you use a larger skillet, use 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.