How to Grill Scallops the Right Way

Updated 11/11/19

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Fresh diver scallops are pricey, but their briny sweetness is worth every single cent. Considering the splurge, it’s extra important for those scallops to be cooked to utter perfection — after all, you weren’t craving sub-par scallops, now were you? A scallop is correctly prepared when there is a crisp golden sear on the top and bottom, with a milky white interior that’s just barely cooked. Think of a scallop the same way you’d think of a prime filet mignon: the outside should bear the marks of scorching high heat; the insides should be meltingly tender. A scallop should never be rubbery or firm — a flawlessly seared scallop should sit on your tongue like a rich pat of salted butter.

Getting Started

Grilling the perfect scallop comes down to two things: heat, and time. Now, while you could say that heat and time really apply to all foods, in the case of the scallop they are utterly critical with no margin for error. Scallops cook incredibly quickly, and it takes less than a minute for them to go from succulent to rubbery. This is why, when preparing a meal, scallops should be the absolute last thing that you cook, as they should essentially go straight from the grill to the table. As for the heat: your grill should be as hot as you can get it, which will create that coveted, crispy exterior as quickly as possible, leaving no time for the centers to overcook. 

Remove the Muscle

If your fishmonger has not already done this, remove the side muscle from each scallop. This is a tough, tiny little tag that juts out from a scallops side, and is what affixes it to its shell — they’re completely edible, but a bit tough. Just give it a little pinch and pluck right off. 

Ready the Grill

Preheat your grill over high heat.

Test the temperature by holding your hand out flat an inch away from the grill’s surface; when you can’t stand to hold it there for for than a few seconds, it’s hot enough.

Dip a paper towel into a high heat oil, like vegetable or canola, and use tongs to grease the area of the grill where you'll be grilling the scallops.

Prepare the Scallops

Pat the scallops as dry as you can get them with paper towels, then season with a bit of salt and pepper.

Get to Grilling

Place the scallops flat side down on the grill, leaving space between each to make sure there is plenty of room for steam to escape). Leave the scallops alone without poking, prodding or moving for two minutes, then flip with tongs or a fish spatula. If the scallop sticks to the grill, just let it keep cooking for another 15 seconds, then try again. They’ll release themselves when they’re ready.

Flip 'Em Over

Cook the second side for another two to three minutes until it, too, is a beautiful golden brown, and the sides of the scallop are an opaque white without a hint of translucency. Move them to a plate and serve immediately. 

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