When I am searing scallops, they often stick in the pan and most of the time, they are very hard to turn.

I use only a little oil 1-2 tablespoons.

Am I not using enough?

  • I found stephen's answer to be very useful, but his answer is a very general answer that could fix a lot more problems than just scallops. i did a search and couldn't find a general question asking about correct pan heating technique. would you kindly rephrase your question to be more general so more cooks will find out about this great trick? Commented Jan 28, 2011 at 23:28
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    Another HUGE thing for proper release is having the protein DRY!! If there is water, this cools down the pan.. Also, allow the protein - chicken, beef, fish, scallops,etc.. to come up to as close to room temperature as ou can and time allows. Sure, bacteria will start to grow, but you are about to cook the stuff! Minimizing the temperature difference will reduce the rebound time for your pan to get back to temp. Most food in standard pans stickas a little at first, but then releases. This is critical. Leave them alone for the first 1-2 minutes... Commented Mar 11, 2020 at 14:20

7 Answers 7


Most likely, you're not heating your pan enough before placing the scallops in. Without knowing your exact method it's hard to say what's going wrong, but 1-2 tbsp of oil should be enough for a normal amount of scallops.

To learn about properly heating your pan, I recommend this link:


  • Nice (with eleven more to go) Commented Jan 30, 2011 at 23:33
  • WARNING: That link no longer works, but will send your browser through a sketchy series of redirects like it's the year 2000.
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    Commented Apr 10, 2021 at 2:35
  • Your link is spam now. Commented Apr 21 at 6:14

Most likely, your pan is not hot enough before you put the scallops in. The pan should be hot enough for a drop of water to bounce around on the pan instead of just evaporating. There have been other similar questions:

How do I prevent food from sticking to a standard (non-coated) pan?

  • Wow, almost the same exact post, within minutes of each other! +1 for that :) Commented Jan 28, 2011 at 22:11

My first advice is to use a bit more oil, maybe.

I recently did scallops with a recipe from Thomas Keller, and his recipe calls for quite a bit of oil--probably 3 tbs or more (don't remember precisely, but it was way more than I would have put on my own). This was also my most successful pan-seared scallop batch to date, so I think he's onto something. And to my surprise, they were not at all greasy when served.

You will need your oil to be quite hot too, as you want to be able to caramelize the scallops on the outside fairly quickly without overcooking the inside.

Another thing is to leave the scallops alone after you first place them, and turn them only once. When the proteins are properly caramelized, the scallops will release from the pan much more easily. Just place them, leave them alone until that side is nicely browned, turn them over, brown and serve.


Like the other comments mentioned you need to make sure that the oil is very hot before you add the scallops. Also, for a very nice color take a small amount of butter, about half a teaspoon, and add it to the oil. This is might go against your intuition, however, it is the technique used by most high end French restaurants to sear Scollaps, Veal, Ris de Veau, and other light colored meats.


Dont use s nonstick pan- a pan that is hot enough to get a good sear is also hot enough to burn the nonstick coating- which is very bad for you (the fumes also kills birds).

Nonstick pans also tend to be aluminum and thin, they don't hold enough heat- the pan cools down and you don't get a good sear.

Use cast iron or carbon steel pans if you can, they're the best for searing. Get it very hot - water should sizzle vigorously when it hits the pan.

Use more oil than you think you need. A 1-2 mm layer will get in between the cracks of the scallop and allow for better heat transfer. Use a oil with a high smoke point, not olive oil. Grape seed oil works great and is neutral. Corn oil is cheaper, so is canola.

Make sure theyre dry when they go in. Pat them on paper towels, then season.

Don't use frozen scallops, buy dry scallops. frozen scallops give up juice when they hit the hot pan. Plus they are usually soaked in a solution to make them heavier. You can tell if they were frozen because they're be sitting in a pool of milky liquid and will likely be white/milk colored. Dry scallops are pink, light orange or cream colored.

If you use butter, add it when you flip. Otherwise the water cools the pan too early. You can baste the scallop with a spoon, but keep the butter frothing by turning up the heat.

Don't mess with it, sear it. Let it sit. Flip once. Keep them apart otherwise they steam.


Its normal for scallops to stick to a non-stick surface sautee pan. Let them sit until they come loose from the pan. It may take a few minutes but when they do thei will be browned perfectly. Turn and cook another 2 min. on the other side and spoon melted butter over them during this time. YUMMM!


I use a non-stick pan, make it really hot, season the scallops and give them 30 secs - 1 min a side, only touching them to turn once. I find it gives a really good sear, but with a tender centre.

  • You don't want to make a non-stick pan really hot. "There’s a whole chemistry set of compounds that will come off when Teflon is heated high enough to decompose,” says Wolke. “Many of these are fluorine-containing compounds, which as a class are generally toxic" (from goo.gl/xb7ao) Commented Jan 28, 2011 at 22:09
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    If you read the article, you will notice that the danger point for teflon is 500 degrees Fahrenheit, which is beyond the smoke point of almost all cooking oils. As long as the oil does not smoke, you are OK. Commented Jan 31, 2011 at 0:23
  • Walter, I have to disagree. First, if you're heating it without oil (which is bad anyway, but I know a lot of people who do it), it says: "In GHRI’s tests, each of the three empty nonstick pans we heated on high reached temperatures above 500 degrees in less than five minutes — and the cheapest, most lightweight pan got there in under two minutes. Even pans with oil in them can be problematic; our cheapest pan zoomed to more than 500 degrees in two and a half minutes." Also on page 3 it says: "Most nonstick manufacturers, including DuPont, now advise consumers not to go above medium." Commented Jan 31, 2011 at 3:39
  • Most importantly, it says "Don’t broil or sear meats. Those techniques require temperatures above what nonstick can usually handle." - if you're getting a good sear on scallops in 30 seconds a side, your pan is WAY too hot for nonstick. A pan with 2 tbsp of oil (see their chart on page 2) became over 500 degrees in less than 3 minutes on high heat; an empty pan took under 2 minutes. I simply don't see the point of risking any chemical issues with a nonstick when you could accomplish the same thing, with no health concerns, using a stainless steel or cast iron pan. Commented Jan 31, 2011 at 3:40
  • Sorry to have so many comments here, but I wanted to make sure my facts were straight. Another article (goo.gl/qu7NJ) brings the "danger" number from 500°F to 446°F by DuPont's tests - and has a nonstick pan reaching over 700°F in under 5 min. A third article says "According to peer-reviewed studies as reported by the EWG, nonstick cookware, including Teflon, begins outgassing particles at 396°F" (goo.gl/ZRyM). I tend to trust the EWG's recommendations/numbers (ewg.org/reports/toxicteflon) more than the first and second. Commented Jan 31, 2011 at 3:58

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