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!



  • 2
    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, 2011 at 13:12
  • 1
    +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. May 11, 2011 at 15:44

3 Answers 3


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).

  • 1
    +1 for bringing the scallops closer to room temperature before cooking.
    – ESultanik
    May 11, 2011 at 13:06
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    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. May 11, 2011 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 :) May 11, 2011 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.
    – Cascabel
    May 11, 2011 at 20:07

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.

  • This is the restaurant method. Do this.
    – daniel
    May 11, 2011 at 18:50

My question was answered about letting my scallops warm up a little at room temperature. But searing scallops all the way through makes them tough as shoe leather.

First of all, I pat my scallops as dry as possible before putting in the skillet. What I do is sear my scallops until a nice brown occur on one side, not moving them around. And then flip them over not moving them around until the other side has a nice brown crust. But, you can't go by such a restrictive time as 90 minutes either, depending on the thickness of the scallop and the temperature of the skillet. I use oil in a non-stick skillet and non-stick spray in a regular skillet.

When I get done with my scallops, they are raw in the middle but verily warm. But I love them cooked this way. And it is a bit tricky so it is important to sear these on high heat preferably in a heavy skillet.

  • 2
    I assume you mean 90 seconds. 90 minutes will result in charcoal.
    – Jay
    Nov 13, 2015 at 17:29
  • "it is important to sear these on high heat" - but isn't this her problem in the first place? She already uses high heat and ends up with burnt, but raw scallops. Nov 14, 2015 at 14:25

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