Wednesday, March 12, 2014

How to Pan Sear Scallops from Sam's Club by Jeanne

Jeanne talks today about how to pan sear scallops she buys at Sam's Club:

Tom and I both love scallops, but simple pan-fried scallops with a great sear on them has proved elusive to me.    

I like the price of scallops at Sam’s Club but am sure they are  wet scallops based on the milky solution that oozes out of them when you try to sear them.  

I recalled a conversation about wet and dry scallops with you many months ago, and with the start of Lent this week decided to investigate how to get a good sear on wet scallops. 

Here is what I found thanks to America’s Test Kitchen:
·        Producing crisp-crusted restaurant-style scallops means overcoming two obstacles: chemically treated scallops and weak stove tops. We wanted to achieve superior pan-seared scallops that had a perfectly brown crust and no hint of off-flavors. We decided to work with wet scallops (those that are chemically treated with STP, a solution of water and sodium tripolyphosphate, to increase shelf life and retain moisture) first. If we could develop a good recipe for finicky wet scallops, it would surely work with premium dry (untreated) scallops. We found that waiting to add the scallops to the skillet until the oil was beginning to smoke, cooking the scallops in two batches instead of one, and switching to a nonstick skillet were all steps in the right direction. But it wasn’t until we tried a common restaurant technique—butter basting—that our scallops really improved. We seared the scallops in oil on one side and added butter to the skillet after flipping them. (Butter contains milk proteins and sugars that brown rapidly when heated.) We then used a large spoon to ladle the foaming butter over the scallops. Waiting to add the butter ensured that it had just enough time to work its browning magic on the scallops, but not enough time to burn. Next we addressed the lingering flavor of STP. Unable to rinse it away, we decided to mask it by soaking the scallops in a saltwater brine containing lemon juice. For dry scallops, we simply skipped the soaking step and proceeded with the recipe.
·        We strongly recommend purchasing “dry” scallops (those without chemical additives). If you can only find “wet” scallops, soak them in a solution of 1 quart cold water, 1/4 cup lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons table salt for 30 minutes before proceeding.  Season the scallops with pepper only. If you are unsure whether your scallops are wet or dry, conduct this quick test: Place 1 scallop on a paper towel-lined, microwave-safe plate and microwave on high power for 15 seconds. If the scallop is “dry,” it will exude very little water. If it is “wet,” there will be a sizable ring of moisture on the paper towel. (The microwaved scallop can be cooked as is.)
So Friday night I tried this technique with frozen scallops from Sam’s and got some very good results.  

For sure,the brining improved the taste of the scallops a ton and I got a fairly good sear on them. 

I still think I am not letting the pan get hot enough, but this time between the brining and hotter pan, no milky solution oozing out of them!  

Definitely a big step in the right direction!


America's Test Kitchen has a comprehensive website at

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