I like my scallops caramelized a bit, but every time I fry them I make an enormous mess. Oil splatters everywhere. Any tips? Should I grill them? Can I use the oven? (I try to use scallops without any sodium tripolyphosphate).
Most people I know who cook scallops actually overcook them. I always buy sushi-grade diver's scallops from my fishmonger. These can be eaten raw, and are most delicious when done so. However if you want to add a little extra flavor, and liven up the appearance of these then sear these briefly on a high heat. If you can get these from a quality source (probably not a supermarket) and you're not hung up on eating raw/rare seafood you'll never look back.
Unless your scallops have been soaked in a brine, and you're buying the quality scallops I recommend you don't need to rinse them. Otherwise, rinse them thoroughly and pat dry with a paper towel.
To sear these properly I simply melt a Tbsp or two of butter in a non-stick pan. I use as high a heat as possible (med-high to high) you want to put the scallops in just as the butter begins to barely smoke. I've often seen people suggest using clarified butter, but I'm too lazy to try. Place your scallops in the pan and cook them for 30-60 seconds per side. Don't move them around in the pan, otherwise they won't sear as nicely. This is for scallops that are the size of a small childs fist. If you have smaller ones you might need to cook them less.
Just a brief update because I feel I didn't stress this enough. Fresh, quality scallops are absolutely not intended to be cooked well done. They will be chewy, period. If you are used to them this way, well you're really missing out.
When you cook scallops use the fresh variety and not those that come in brine. Once you've cleaned and removed the foot, make sure they are dry or at least not dripping with water, as this will cause the oil to splash.
An alternative would be to wrap a each scallop in bacon and skewer then with a cocktail stick or a sate skewer, add a little lemon juice and cook in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes.
I'd suggest you have too much oil. I've found that with a non stick pan you don't really need oil, or just a smidgin. Just get the pan nice and hot put the scallop in leave it alone to sear for a couple of minutes, time will depend on the size of your scallops, then flip and finish the other side, usually for a little less time. serve with the side you seared first facing up.
Making sure they are dry before you put them in the pan is a good idea. and if you have a lot to cook you can do them until the are almost done on the second side and then remove to a tray. then when you have seared them all and are ready to serve you can blast them in a hot oven for a couple of minutes or so to finish off all together, then everything is ready to go at the same time.
If it's also about making a mess, you can use a splatter screen to lessen the oil splatters everywhere. I recently bought one and it helps a lot.
Agree totally with @Hobodave re fresh scallops. You can also buy frozen scallops, and these I dip in light egg, then coat lightly in panko, sea salt, chilli, and crushed black pepper. You have to cook / coat from frozen, so get really tasty scallop morsels with a slightly spicy coating. The smaller scallops come out amazing using this method, and they are a more sustainable produce.