How To Put the Perfect Sear on Sea Scallops

Because where delicious sea scallops are concerned, it's crust or bust.

The key to amazing sea scallops is to develop a crust on the outside while preserving a tender but firm middle. Chef John nails the crust on his sea scallops every time with this simple technique. Here's how he does it in four simple steps. To see him in action, be sure to watch the video above.

1. Choose Dry-Pack Scallops

If you can find them, choose dry-pack scallops (a.k.a., day-boat scallops) instead of wet-pack scallops. The key, though, is to dry them thoroughly. You don't want the scallops cooking in their juices; to get the beautiful brown, you want them searing in the oil.

Dry Scallops on Plate
Photo by Chef John.

2. Lightly Season Your Scallops

Season the scallops with sea salt and pepper. (Chef John likes a little cayenne pepper.)

Dry Scallops Seasoned with Salt and Cayenne
Photo by Chef John.

3. Sear Them in Oil with a High Smoke Point

Fry them in flavorless cooking oil with a high smoke point. Chef John is using grapeseed oil. Canola oil, safflower oil, and peanut oil are other options. But not olive oil, because it's a Smoky Joe. And the key here: use high heat. And don't add the scallops until the pan is super-hot.

Scallops Searing Over High Heat
Photo by Chef John.

4. Create the Crust

Depending on the size of your scallops, sear them for 2-to-4 minutes per side. (If they start cooking in their own juices, they were not dry. Drain the juice from the pan, pour in a little more oil, and start again. No worries.)

Get Chef John's recipe for Seared Scallops with Jalapeño Vinaigrette. By the way, it's easy to make those gorgeous orange segments. Chef John will show how it's done.

And once again, here's that searing technique in a nut, er, scallop shell:

Perfectly seared scallops.

Now try your searing technique on some 5-star scallop recipes:

Get tips on how to buy, clean, and cook scallops.

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