If you cook scallops even a little too long, they're better passed across a hockey rink than a table – at least that's the common rap. Which is a shame, because nothing is quite like a well-seared scallop: tender and creamy-sweet, with a caramelized edge. They're also way easier to get right than you think.
The trick? Maximize the heat while minimizing the time. Scallops can take a lot of it – just be sure to give them plenty of space in the pan.
Here's how to sear them right every time, along with a recipe for a buttery cider sauce that's perfect for seafood.
How to Buy Scallops
The two things you need to know:
1. Get them fresh.
Good ones will be ivory-colored and smell clean – i.e., not like fish.
2. Make sure they're dry.
"Undipped" or "dry" scallops haven't been treated with a preservative that causes them to take on water. Dipped ones sweat when cooked, and they'll never brown correctly.
Scallops with Cider Sauce Recipe
- 1 large shallot, minced
- 2 tbsp sherry vinegar
- 2/3 cup quality apple cider, plus a little extra
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- Salt, as needed
- 1½ sticks butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
- 1 lb dry sea scallops (see "How to Buy," left)
- Vegetable oil, as needed
For the sauce:
Set a saucepan over medium heat and add the shallot, vinegar, cider, thyme, and a pinch of salt. Reduce until syrupy, 10 to 15 minutes.
Turn heat to low and whisk in a few pieces of butter at a time, until they're all incorporated.
Cover and move to the back of the stove.
For the scallops:
Blot scallops with a paper towel until dry, then season one side with salt.
Place a large sauté pan over medium-high heat and coat the inside well with oil. When the first wisps of smoke rise from the oil, raise the heat to high and add scallops, salted-side down.
Let sear undisturbed for 2 to 4 minutes. When the undersides are deeply browned, season with salt and flip.
Sear the other side for 1 to 2 minutes, until the scallops are bouncy but still tender.
Remove to a plate; drain oil from the pan.
Add a splash of cider to the pan, and stir with a wooden spoon. Add the juice to your sauce.
Serve the scallops with sauce drizzled on top.