The Best Way to Pan Sear Scallops: Techniques, Tips, and More

pan seared scallops

Pan seared sea scallops are a delicious treat, but there is an art to it. It can be difficult for beginner cooks to get a handle on searing scallops. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to ensure your scallops come out crispy, juicy, and delicious.

Table of Contents

Buying the Right Scallops

The key to delicious pan seared scallops is the scallops themselves. While technique is certainly important (more on that below), the right scallops can elevate your dish to another level.

When choosing your scallops, you want to find ones with the following qualities:

  • Fresh
  • Dry packed
  • Free of chemical additives

Thankfully, Cape Porpoise Lobster Co.’s sea scallops fit this description. You can buy 30 scallops per pound through our website.

Gathering Your Tools and Ingredients

You have the right scallops, now it’s time to focus on what you’ll be cooking them with. Both the tools you use and the other ingredients will make a huge difference in how your scallops turn out.

The Tools

You don’t need a set of fancy kitchen utensils to make pan seared scallops. In many cases, the tools you already have in your kitchen will do the job. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Frying Pan: A cast iron or stainless-steel pan is ideal, as these can handle high heat. However, a non-stick pan will work in a pinch.
  • Fish Spatula or Silicone Tipped Tongs: When searing scallops, you’ll need to flip them over so both sides are cooked evenly. Scallops are delicate, so you’ll need a spatula or tongs that won’t tear them. That’s why we recommend fish spatulas, which are specifically for seafood, or silicone tipped tongs.
  • Paper Towels: Dry scallops are easier to cook. Be sure to blot your scallops dry before you season and cook them.
  • Instant Read Thermometer: Some people can tell when food is done just by looking at it, but if you struggle with this, there’s no shame in buying an instant read thermometer. The center of a scallop should be between 115-120 degrees before you eat them. And keep in mind that a scallop will continue cooking for a few minutes after taking them off the pan. As such, aim for a few degrees below then before removing them from the pan.

The Ingredients

Now, let’s turn to our ingredients. Scallops are, of course, the main ingredient, but what else will you need?

  • Olive Oil or Canola Oil: A high smoke point oil is needed to pan sear anything. You can use either canola oil or olive oil, although canola oil has a slightly higher smoke point. Avocado oil is also an option.
  • Salt & Pepper: You always need to season your food before you cook it. While scallops are naturally sweet, they will need some salt and pepper. We recommend using fine sea salt or kosher salt along with freshly cracked black pepper.
  • Butter (Optional): Some people like to add butter in with their oil to cook their scallops, but this is a completely optional step.

The Best Techniques

You’ve gathered your ingredients, you have your tools at the ready, now it’s time to put your skills to the test. This is understandably the hardest part, as many beginner cooks don’t know the right techniques for pan searing their scallops. Thankfully, we have you covered:

  • Dry Your Scallops: We mentioned this before, but it bears repeating—be sure to dry your scallops before placing them on the pan.
  • Season Them Before You Cook Them: You should sprinkle your salt and pepper onto your scallops before cooking, not during or after.
  • Use High Heat: The best pan seared scallops are cooked under high heat. Make sure your pan is fully heated and then pour in the oil. Once you notice the oil bubbling or shimmering slightly, it’s time to put your scallops in.
  • Don’t Overcrowd Your Scallops: Scallops need enough space for them to cook thoroughly. Make sure they’re not touching and cook them in batches if need be.
  • Remove the muscle: There will be a muscle on the side of the scallops. Remove this before cooking.

Pan Seared Scallops Recipe

For some people, the information above is enough to get them started. However, if you’re the type of cook who needs a recipe, we’ve listed ours below:


  • Sea Scallops (typically 5-10 will fit onto a pan)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, canola oil, or avocado oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon butter, optional


  1. Heat the pan over high heat.
  2. Once heated, coat the bottom of the pan with your oil and let the oil heat up.
  3. As the pan and oil are heating, dry your scallops and remove the muscle. Season to taste.
  4. Place the scallops onto the pan. Cook for 1 ½ to 2 minutes without moving the scallops.
  5. Use the tongs or fish spatula to carefully flip the scallops and sear for another minute.
  6. Optional: Reduce heat to low and add the butter and baste before removing from pan.

Now you know everything you need to about pan searing scallops. If you’re ready to try your hand at this technique, get your scallops from Cape Porpoise Lobster Co. today!