How To Pick The Best Sea Scallops To Cook In The Air Fryer

Scallops are one of the most expensive kinds of seafood available, with vendors fetching $25 or more for just one pound of the tender shellfish. They're an elegant and delicate entree that is often reserved for special occasions and fancy meals. But if you're looking to prepare some at home, scallops are easily accessible at most grocery stores. There, you can find them in two varieties: bay scallops and sea scallops. Sea scallops come from deep ocean waters around the globe and cook up with a chewier texture, while bay scallops are harvested closer to land and have a sweeter taste than the deep-ocean variety.

Four popular ways to cook your scallops include grilling, pan-searing, poaching, and baking. But with the air fryer booming in kitchen appliance popularity, air-fried scallops are the newest method in the game, producing seriously tasty results. However, cooking scallops in your air fryer takes a little extra attention to make sure you get them right, and that all starts with picking the right kind of scallops for your next seafood adventure.

When it comes to scallops, size matters

Air fryers work by circulating hot air around a cooking chamber to create evenly (and quickly) cooked meals. Because cooking in the air fryer is more hands-off than a method like pan-searing, you'll want to make sure that whatever you put in it will be fine cooking on its own with little supervision.

That makes sea scallops the preferred variety for cooking scallops in the air fryer; their larger size (up to a few inches in diameter) results in a much meatier entree. When picking out your scallops at the store, you'll want to look for an off-white color and a consistent thickness across the scallops you plan to prepare together so that they'll cook up evenly once you close your air fryer and let it work its magic.

Bay scallops, on the other hand, have a more delicate texture than sea scallops and an even quicker cook time. Although you can cook bay scallops in the air fryer — for example, these lemon-garlic bay scallops from Mashed — many recipes on the internet suggest pan-searing is a great preparation option for this variety instead.

But overall, pay close attention to which variety of scallops your recipe calls for. They each have different textures, cook times, and flavors that could alter the outcome of your meal, no matter which cooking method you choose. Most importantly, make sure your scallops are cooked until they're "pearly or white and opaque" — that's when they're thoroughly cooked and safe to eat, according to the CDC.

Static Media owns and operates Tasting Table and Mashed.