What Do Scallops Taste Like?

what do scallops taste like

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Did you know in addition to having up to 200 eyes and tasting absolutely delicious, some scallops produce pearls just like oysters? 

Yes, my friends, wild Atlantic Sea Scallops can produce pearls

But, before you decide to go pearl hunting, you must know the pearls are so rare, it’s not economically feasible to seek them out. 

What do scallops taste like?

Scallops have a unique, mild taste that easily absorbs flavors. When properly cooked they have a buttery, delicate, slightly sweet flavor. Scallops taste “light” and “rich” at the same time. Scallops are succulent. They are not overly “fishy tasting” but do have a briny, saltwater “essence.” Scallops have a flavor similar to lobster and crab with a firmer texture.

As I said before, scallops taste similar to crab and lobster but with a slightly firmer texture.

Others have said scallops taste similar to mild white fish with a bit of crab taste mixed it.

To give you some perspective, I enjoy fried freshwater fish like largemouth bass, crappie, shell cracker, and catfish.

But I do not like salmon, tuna, flounder, mahi-mahi, or any other saltwater fish. To me, they are too fishy tasting.  I NEVER eat them.

And let’s not forget oysters or clams. I am not a huge fan of either unless they are fried. I don’t do slimy!

However, I absolutely love snow crab legs, king crab legs, lobster, shrimp, and scallops. 

So, if you enjoy lobster, crab legs, and shrimp, you’ll likely love scallops.

Now that you know how a scallop tastes, let’s take a look at some related Frequently Asked Questions regarding scallops.

What’s a scallop?

For you science geeks, scallops are bivalve mollusks found in all of the world’s oceans. 

Scallops are classified as follows:

  • Kingdom: Animalia Phylum
  • Mollusca
  • Class: Bivalvia
  • Order: Pectinida
  • Superfamily: Pectinoidea
  • Family: Pectinidae

Now, for the rest of us….

According to the NOAA, scallops are a bivalve mollusk meaning their external covering is a two-part hinged shell that covers a soft-bodied invertebrate.

In layman’s terms, scallops are classified as shellfish.

There are technically two edible parts of the scallop: the meat which is called “scallop” and the roe called “coral”.

The edible part we call a scallop is technically its’ adductor muscle. 

It’s white and round and is the part that opens and closes the shell.

The roe is the eggs of the scallop and in many parts of the world, roe is considered a delicacy, like caviar.

In the U.S., you will almost always find only the scallop and not the roe. 

It is my understanding that in other parts of the world such as Australia and the UK, you can find scallops with and without the roe (coral). 

I don’t do roe. Not fish roe or scallop roe or any kind of roe.

So, I personally have no idea what scallop roe tastes like but I love scallops and believe I can help you make an informed decision as to whether or not you want to try them. 

What do scallops feel like?

When raw, scallops are a little slippery but not slimy.  

Ok, some scallop haters swear they are slimy but there is a difference and I believe raw scallops are more on the slippery side than slimy.  

Scallops are NOT  slimy at all when cooked. 

What do scallops look like?

Fresh scallops can range from white, a grayish-white, to light tan, to a rosy pink, or orange. The color of your scallop could depend on whether it is a male or female when spawning.

Scallops should be round or cylindrical in shape. They should not have frayed edges, which could be a sign the scallop is going bad or that it was not handled properly.

Why do scallops smell fishy?

Like I said before, scallops have a mild, unique taste similar to crab and lobster. Scallops should not have a strong, fishy smell. If your scallops smell very “fishy”, it’s likely because they are old and possibly already spoiled.

Instead, fresh scallops should not smell at all. They should have no odor except possibly a slight “oceanic” smell or a faint “sweet” smell.

Why do scallops smell and taste like ammonia?

Scallops that smell or taste like ammonia are spoiled and should NOT be eaten. It doesn’t matter if the ammonia smell is from raw or cooked scallops, do not eat them if they have even a slight ammonia smell.

How to tell if scallops are bad?

Scallops are the most perishable commercially available shellfish. Most of the time, they are shucked (removed from their shell) and packaged before the boat every makes it back to shore. However, you may be able to find “fresh” wild or farmed scallops if you live in a coastal region.

Your scallops may be bad if:

  • they have a brownish hue or tint to them
  • they have a strong “fishy” or pungent odor
  • they have a rank or “off” smell
  • they were frozen and have a lot of frost in the packaging
  • you tap the shell of the fresh scallop and it does not close
  • they are sticky or slimy with a dull appearance
  • they smell or taste like ammonia
  • they have frayed edges and are not round or cylindrical in shape.

What scallop varieties are available in the United States?

In the U.S., there are three main varieties of scallops consumed. They are sea scallops, bay scallops, and calico scallops.

Sea Scallops

Sea scallops are by far, the most popular commercially sold scallop in the United States.

They grow up to about 2” in diameter.

Bay Scallops

As indicated by their name, bay scallops are generally found in shallow estuaries and bays.

They are the smallest and sweetest variety of scallop but most difficult to cook properly because of their small size.

Overcooking these little beauties isn’t hard to do.

Bay scallops are seasonal. They are generally available from sometime in October through about the end of March.

Calico Scallops

Calico scallops are found off the Southern Atlantic and U.S. Gulf coasts.

They are small like bay scallops but keep their shells tightly closed. 

They are less sweet than bay scallops and often require a two-step cooking process as they must be steamed first to get their shells opened.

Why are scallops so expensive?

First of all, not all scallops are expensive as you may think. The cost of a scallop depends on its type, where, and how it was harvested. The cost also depends on the scallops were wet-packed or dry-packed.

How to buy scallops?

In the United States, there are three main ways to purchase scallops: fresh, dry-packed, and wet-packed.

If you are fortunate enough to live in an area where you can purchase fresh scallops, do so.

Even though I live only a few hours from the ocean, I usually purchase scallops frozen.

Scallops can be purchased wet packed or dry-packed.

What are wet packed scallops?

Wet packed scallops are treated in a phosphate solution to help extend their shelf life.

The solutions, tsp, causes them to absorb a lot of water and to turn white. 

And sometimes, the solution can leave a bit of a soapy or “off” taste to the scallops.

What are dry-packed scallops?

Dry-packed scallops are preserved naturally without any additional preservatives.

The scallops are often ivory beige, slightly grey and sticky.

How to tell if my scallops are wet or dry-packed?

If you are unsure as to whether your scallops are wet packed or not, watch this video from Cook’s Illustrated.

This video shows you how to test for the preservatives and how to brine the scallops if they are wet-packed to give you the best results. 

How to store scallops?

You should store fresh scallops in the refrigerator wrapped in paper. 

How long can scallops be stored in the refrigerator?

Raw scallops can be safely stored in a refrigerator set at or below 40° F for up to 2 days, at which time you will need to cook or freeze the scallops.

If thawed in the refrigerator, scallops should remain safe for 1 to 2 days after thawing.

However, if you thawed scallops in the microwave or in cold water, they should be cooked immediately.

How long can scallops be frozen?

Technically, properly frozen scallops can be frozen indefinitely but for best quality use within 3 to 8 months.

How to thaw frozen scallops?

Scallops can be thawed in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave.

The refrigerator gives the best, safest results in my opinion. To thaw overnight in a refrigerator that is set at or below 40° F, take them out of their packaging and put them in a bowl covered lightly with plastic wrap and thaw overnight.

If you want to thaw scallops in cold water, place them in a resealable plastic bag and place them under cold running water until thawed.

Or, you can submerge the scallops in cold water in a leak-proof plastic bag until thawed. You must change the water every 30 minutes and cook the food immediately.

Per the USDA, thawing about a pound of scallops will take up to 1 hour while larger packages may take 2 or 3 hours.

Should you choose to thaw frozen scallops in the microwave, follow these tips.

First, place the frozen scallops in a microwave-safe dish covered with a paper towel.

Then, defrost in 30-second increments, rotating the scallops in the bowl until all are defrosted but not cooked.

After they are defrosted in the microwave, cook immediately per the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

What are the health benefits of eating scallops?

Scallops are a low-fat protein source that has many vitamins and minerals including Omega 3 fatty acids, B12, selenium, and zinc.

However, as with many shellfish, scallops are high in sodium.

A 3 oz serving of steamed scallops has 90 calories, 0.5 g fat, 35 mg cholesterol, 5 carbohydrates, and 570 mg of sodium.

Can scallops be eaten raw?

I believe it is best to eat scallops that have been cooked to an internal temperature of 145° F. However, some people do eat raw scallops.

The Food and Drug Administration advises if you must eat raw fish, it is best to eat fish that has been previously frozen as the cold temperatures will kill any parasites present in the fish.

If you choose to eat raw scallops or undercooked scallops you could be putting yourself at risk for foodborne illness.

You’re especially susceptible to foodborne illness if you are a child, are pregnant, an older adult, or a person with a weakened immune system.

How can scallops be prepared?

Scallops can be prepared in many ways including:

  • Deep-fried 
  • Sauteed
  • Pan-seared
  • Broiled
  • Grilled
  • Baked
  • Stir-fried
  • Poached
  • Raw

Here are a few recipes for you to try from some fellow bloggers:

How do I know if my scallops are cooked?

Per the USDA, scallops are fully cooked when they reach an internal temperature of 145° F.

How should you try scallops for the first time?

I believe the most cost-effective way for your to try scallops for the first time is to try them at a reputable seafood restaurant. 

Then, you could order some kind of combination meal that included scallops or maybe order a “side” of scallops if available.

That way, if you hate them, you wouldn’t starve or have wasted too much money.

I would not recommend trying scallops for the first time cooked at home. I say this only because you have no reference point to know if they were cooked properly or not.

Keep this in mind…overcooked scallops are rubbery and chewy.

Remember, if you try scallops at a restaurant, they should not be chewy or rubbery and they should not have a strong fishy or ammonia order. If you feel your scallops are not good or overcooked, don’t hesitate to send them back to the kitchen.

related informational guides:

Final Thoughts

If you are looking to eat out less by serving more restaurant-quality meals at home, scallops could be part of your meal rotation.

Scallops are simple to cook and can be a great addition to your cost-effective kitchen.

Just be sure you do your homework on how to buy scallops and that you buy them from a reputable fishmonger.

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