The Absolute Best Way To Tell When Scallops Are Done

First, what is a scallop? Scallops are mollusks, protected by two shells (like clams or oysters), and are harvested from the bottom of the ocean. Delicate, small, and flavor absorbing, scallops are in high demand but are difficult to harvest, making them an expensive purchase at your local seafood market (via NOAA). It can be a little daunting to buy those small morsels knowing that you'll be out a chunk of change if you mess them up. In fact, many people shy away from buying expensive cuts of meat or seafood not because they can't afford it, but because they are afraid of bungling it. Never fear — here you will find out how to tell when your scallops are perfectly done.

Let's identify the two key mistakes when cooking scallops: under-cooking and overcooking. A surefire sign that your scallops are undercooked is the color. They tend to look milky white in hue if you haven't successfully seared them off. Another sign is that they are difficult to cut through (via Answer Pantry). Overcooking scallops makes them difficult to eat, becoming rubbery and difficult to chew. This is because all the moisture has been cooked out of them (via Reluctant Gourmet). So, now that you know what not to look for when cooking your scallops, let's talk about what to look for.

Perfectly cooked scallops

Scallops are done when they are opaque in the center and golden brown on the outside. They should be firm but buttery, not at all difficult to cut or chew through (via The Kitchn). Scallops only take a few minutes to sear, meaning that they can become overcooked very quickly. So don't leave your pan's side once you start cooking!

How is this perfection accomplished? Well, there are many cooking tips available, but we prefer Christina Musgrave's recipe. She suggests using fresh ingredients like basil and lemon as well as throwing in an optional splash of white wine. It only takes six minutes (three minutes on each side) for her scallops to become perfectly crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. And if you are unsure as to whether your scallops at home are finished, pluck one off the pan. It should cut easily in half, and you should be able to see if it has that wonderful opaque center.