The Simple Way to Make Scallops at Home

Mj 618_348_the simple way to make scallops at home
Photograph by Sam Kaplan - Food Styling by Ed Gabriels for Halley Resources

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:

Step One
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.

Step Two
Turn heat to low and whisk in a few pieces of butter at a time, until they’re all incorporated.

Step Three
Cover and move to the back of the stove.

For the scallops:

Step One
Blot scallops with a paper towel until dry, then season one side with salt.

Step Two
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.

Step Three
Let sear undisturbed for 2 to 4 minutes. When the undersides are deeply browned, season with salt and flip.

Step Four
Sear the other side for 1 to 2 minutes, until the scallops are bouncy but still tender.

Step Five
Remove to a plate; drain oil from the pan.

Step Six
Add a splash of cider to the pan, and stir with a wooden spoon. Add the juice to your sauce.

Step Seven
Serve the scallops with sauce drizzled on top.

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