Seared scallops are a special occasion meal that needs little adornment. But, proper buying and cooking is essential. First, a bit of education on buying scallops. I encourage you to seek out scallops that are dry packed, as opposed to wet packed. Wet packed scallops have been soaked in a solution of salted water, including phosphates, that causes the scallops to swell up with this solution. The solution causes the scallops to be heavy and therefore cost more by volume. These scallops also tend to be older because the salty solution preserves them for a longer shelf-life. The dry packed are just that, dry with no soaking in any salty solution. Therefore, you are not paying for the extra water weight. These may be more expensive in the cost per pound because they are fresher and have a shorter shelf. But they are far superior in taste and quality, worthy of the extra price per pound over the wet packed.
Dry scallops caramelize beautifully like you see in the picture above. Wet scallops rarely reach this level of color as they have too much liquid to cook out, leaving you with a pale, overcooked, not so tasty outcome. How do you know if scallops are wet or dry packed? Ask the fish monger. They should know and tell you. If they do not, shop elsewhere. It is good to have a fish monger you know and can trust.
8 large dry packed scallops
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon oil
3 tablespoons butter for a sauce
Place the scallops onto a paper towel to dry them on each side. Remove the small muscle on the side, which may already have been removed for you by the seller. This part of the scallop is tough and chewy, unlike the silky scallop meat. Season the tops of the scallops with just a soft sprinkling of sea salt and a slight pinch of white pepper.
Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, add the butter and oil. Swirl the pan to combine. Carefully place each scallop into the pan seasoned-side down, allowing space in-between each scallop. Sear on this first side for roughly 2 minutes. You should see the brown crust forming around the edges of the scallop. It's okay to peek underneath to see the progress of how well it is browning. If it is not fully golden, allow it to brown a minute longer, but reduce the amount of cooking time for side 2. You will want this first side to be a richer brown color than side 2. Flip each scallop over to brown the second side, cooking for only 1 minute, maybe 90 seconds. The scallop will be translucent white in the middle. Remove from the pan and place onto the serving plates.
Once you have removed the scallops, place the pan back onto the stovetop with the heat off. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter. Swirl the pan to melt the butter. There is enough residual heat in the pan to quickly melt the butter. Pour the melted butter over the plated scallops. Serve immediately. Enjoy.