This is partly a continuation of this question, since that one was already closed, but my question is about a specific problem encountered the last time I cooked scallops.

I got the pan up to a reasonable temperature and put the scallops in, and as they were cooking, TONS of water came out of the scallops and filled the pan. I poured it out, continued cooking, and more water came out. Several iterations later, I thought they were done, but they were still very raw inside, so we ended up tossing the batch (it definitely wasn't sushi grade).

Where did all the liquid come from, and is there any way to avoid that the next time?

3 Answers 3


I've had this issue with crappy supermarket scallops before. Alton Brown covered this. From http://www.goodeatsfanpage.com/Season9/scallops/scallop_trans.htm (section 5):

dry scallops are usually ivory, or slightly pink, or even orange in color, not white. Of course, they don't actually look dry. The term refers to the fact that these lovely lozenges have not been soaked in any kind of chemical, say, sodium tripolyphosphate. This solution is used to help scallops retain moisture when frozen. Now there's nothing wrong with that per se, unless the scallop in question is not going to be frozen. You see, treating fresh scallops with S.T.P. causes them to gain moisture, making them heavier, which could be a good thing for a retailer, but it's never good for a cook. Because once this stuff is inside the scallop, they become very difficult to cook properly, and they are impossible to sear properly.

Diver scallops are probably good. Look for a bit of color when buying. The good news is that you probably aren't doing anything wrong, the scallops just aren't going to sear.

When you buy for searing, get scallops that haven't been treated with chemicals. Diver scallops are almost always untreated. Look for a bit of color, which is usually a sign of quality. Don't buy them if they are in a pool of milky liquid (as they usually are in the fish section of the supermarket). Buying diver scallops is also much more sustainable and eco-friendly, since large ships that freeze their stock at sea dredge the floor to get scallops. Divers are much more selective and do negligible damage to the ocean floor.

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    Am I to understand from your answer that diver scallops actually means scallops caught by a diver rather than a specific type of scallop called diver scallops?
    – yossarian
    Commented Aug 18, 2010 at 16:06
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    Yes, diver scallops are picked by hand by divers. Most other scallops are caught by large ships, which package and process on the boat in order to stay out longer (less port time = more fishing time = more $$). I'm not sure if the term is regulated in the states, so it might not be wise to rely on to determine freshness. Commented Aug 18, 2010 at 16:34

Scallops are like little sponges. Don't let 'em soak in water, or they'll absorb a ton of it and then release it all when you start cooking them.

If you need to wash them, put them in a strainer, and run them under the water for a second. Then pat them dry with some paper towels.


Make sure you are not crowding your scallops in the pan. If there are too many, then there is not enough empty surface for liquid released to boil off. This also ends up steaming your scallops rather than frying, which I don't like nearly as much. If you have enough hot, open pan around the scallops, then liquid will boil off very quickly.

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