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What Do Scallops Taste Like?

What’s a scallop? What do scallops taste like? Are my scallops bad? How to buy scallops? Answers to these questions and more.

what do scallops taste like

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 that pearls are so rare that 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 in.

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

Let’s not forget oysters or clams. I am not a huge fan of either unless they are fried. I don’t like 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 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 bivalve mollusks, 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, which is 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 scallop’s egg(s), and in many parts of the world, it 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 about whether or not to try them. 

What Do Scallops Feel Like?

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

Okay, 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 to grayish-white, light tan, rosy pink, or orange. The color of your scallop could depend on whether it is 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. They 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 makes it back to shore. However, if you live in a coastal region, you may be able to find “fresh” wild or farmed scallops.

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 had a lot of frost on 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., three main varieties of scallops are consumed: sea scallops, bay scallops, and calico scallops.

Sea Scallops

Sea scallops are, by far, the most popular commercially sold scallops 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 scallops 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. It also depends on whether 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 frozen scallops.

What Are Wet Packed Scallops?

Wet-packed scallops are treated in a phosphate solution to help extend their shelf life. This solution causes the scallops to absorb water, turn white, and can sometimes, leave a bit of a soapy or “off” taste.

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.

So, how do you tell if your scallops are wet or dry-packed? Watch this helpful 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 that is set at or below 40°F, wrapped in paper. To ensure proper refrigerator temperature, invest in an inexpensive refrigerator thermometer.

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 1 or 2 days max, 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 thaw 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, they should be used 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.

According to 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, 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

How Do I Know If My Scallops Are Cooked?

According to Cook’s Illustrated, scallops are cooked when their internal temperature reaches 115° F. Carry-over cooking raises the temperature to 125° F – 130° F.

How Should You Try Scallops For The First Time?

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

Then, you could order a combination meal that includes scallops or, if available, a “side” of scallops. That way, if you hate them, you won’t starve or have wasted too much money.

I would not recommend trying scallops for the first time by cooking them at home. You will have no reference point to know if they were cooked properly.

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.

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Final Thoughts On Cost-Effective Kitchen

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.

In the meantime, learn how long tuna salad lasts in the fridge and what to serve with tuna salad.

Don’t forget to follow me on Pinterest!

Until next time…


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