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Whenever I cook scallops, they tend to shrink up quickly and burn on the outside. Even though I leave them in the pan for several minutes at a time, despite the shriveling and burning, they always end up raw in the middle. The insides are cold, fishy tasting, and, to be honest, pretty nauseating. What am I doing wrong? I usually saute them in a little oil on high heat, flipping them every so often when the side touching the pan starts to brown and stick. Scallops are my favorite food; please help!

Thanks!

Alyssa

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When I cook scallops I always shoot for the middle to be almost completely raw; I find that that brings a nice textural contrast to what could otherwise be a monotone hunk of lean protein. I've never had the center be fishy tasking, though. Are you using frozen or fresh scallops? Were they wet packed? It's more expensive, but when possible you should always shoot to buy dry packed fresh (not previously frozen) scallops. –  ESultanik May 11 '11 at 13:12
    
+1 to ESultanik - exactly what I was thinking. If the scallops are good quality, you should be able to eat them raw. But that's a matter of preference. –  Mike Baranczak May 11 '11 at 15:44
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2 Answers

High heat and quick cooking are essential for scallops. Several minutes cooking will result in fishy racquetballs.

Firstly, remove the scallops from the fridge half an hour or so before you cook them, so they're not stone cold (but don't put them anywhere warm or in the sun). Heat your olive oil in a pan until it starts to sizzle. Season the scallops, then place them in the oil. Don't move them for 90 seconds so they develop a nice crust. Once that's happened, turn them over and cook for another 90 seconds. That's it.

If you want to see the process, Gordon Ramsay's official YouTube channel has a couple of videos:

Part One Part Two

(Part two follows straight on, so you can see how quickly they're done).

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+1 for bringing the scallops closer to room temperature before cooking. –  ESultanik May 11 '11 at 13:06
    
I completely agree with this answer...except I use bacon fat in place of olive oil :) My arteries probably hate me, but my tastebuds love me! Bringing the scallops to room temperature made all the difference in my attempts to cook scallops, and if you're finding that it's still not as done in the center as you like you can pop them in the oven for a few minutes as per Mike Baranczak's suggestion. –  stephennmcdonald May 11 '11 at 15:56
    
Well, bacon does go well with scallops - some crispy pancetta and a bit of butter is all you really need for a nice dish. In fact you could say that about a lot of stuff :) –  ElendilTheTall May 11 '11 at 19:57
    
I think Mike does have a point - if you have really fat scallops, and after 90 seconds on each side they're about to burn on the outside, but uncooked inside, then as good as this method is, it's failed. –  Jefromi May 11 '11 at 20:07
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How big are the scallops? If they're the really fat ones, then cooking them all the way through on top of the stove might be hard. Sear them on both sides in a pan, then stick the pan in a hot oven for a couple minutes.

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This is the restaurant method. Do this. –  daniel May 11 '11 at 18:50
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