Your Scallops Will Taste Better With One Simple Step

Is there anything quite as sublime as perfectly pan seared scallops? A staple of many fine dining restaurants, both as an appetizer and an entree, it's a simple dish that can be made at home, though it can be tricky to execute well. The key is that perfect sear, which gives the succulent mollusks a delicious caramelized coating. But getting that sear can be difficult, if not downright impossible, if you're buying your scallops from your local supermarket.

According to Serious Eats, most of the scallops you find at supermarkets are "wet," meaning they have been treated with a solution that contains sodium tripolyphosphate (STP). In contrast, "dry" scallops are natural and have not been treated with any chemicals. STP is a preservative that, while safe to eat, can give scallops a soapy taste and worse, cause them to soak up excess water, by nearly 30%! All that excess water gets released as steam as soon as the scallops hit a hot pan, making it incredibly difficult to get that nice golden sear that you really want. There is, however, one simple step you can take that will help you achieve that perfect sear, even when working with wet scallops.

Brining is the key to great seared scallops

That simple step, which adds just 10 minutes to your prep time, is to brine your scallops first. Brining helps to even out the flavor of wet scallops while removing the chemical taste from the STP, explains A Couple Cooks, who recommends mixing 4 cups of room temperature water with 2 tablespoons of kosher salt and letting the scallops sit in the mixture for 10 minutes. Brining also leads to a more flavorful dish as it also seasons the inside of the scallop. For even more of a flavor impact, you can also add a bit of lemon juice to the brine. Just be sure to pat the scallops dry after removing them from the brine.

Brining is especially important for wet scallops, but the technique can be used with dry scallops as well for more tender scallops that have a firmer texture, though it's not quite as crucial, advises The Gazette. To really elevate your scallops, try basting them in a bit of butter at the end to finish cooking them all the way through, recommends Cook's Illustrated. Try these simple steps next time you cook scallops at home for an easy and delicious dish that will delight and impress your dinner guests.