Difference Between Scallops and Scallops and How to Cook Both

With the exception of lobsters and some crabs, few marine foods seem as decadent as scallops. They are like little oceanic marshmallows – soft, white and sweet. If you visit seafood counters regularly, you have probably noticed that they mainly come in two sizes, small and not so small. The small ones are scallops and the larger ones are scallops. The difference matters.

Where do scallops and scallops come from?

Scallops, as the name suggests, are fished year-round in the deep, cold ocean waters, although for sustainability reasons, farmed scallops have been gaining popularity over the years. Scallops are expensive boys and there are usually 20-30 per pound.

Scallops are fished in estuaries and bays on the East Coast and account for about a third of the size of scallops (50–100 per lb). You can also see scallops (even smaller ones) marketed as “jellied scallops,” but are caught in the warmer waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf Coast, as well as Central and South America. Calico scallops are the smallest and cheapest – you can get 100-200 a pound.

Does it matter which one you use?

All scallops are fairly sweet to taste, although jellied scallops may be a little sweeter. Scallops are also more tender than scallops, which is great news because they are cheaper anyway. (It is easier to get scallops from the bay than from the sea. It all boils down to labor!)

You can use them interchangeably – just keep in mind that smaller scallops cook faster than larger ones, so shorten the cooking time by a few minutes if you replace scallops with a bay scallop, and increase it to the opposite. I cook all the scallops over high heat, usually butter, until they are crusty on each side. Neither large nor small combs like to be crowded, so make sure there is little space between them, otherwise they will fog up and steam is the enemy of darkening.

No matter what kind of scallop you cook or what size, it should be opaque all over when you take it out of the pan. A seasoned scallop cooker can probably determine the readiness of one by pressing on it – it should be firm but still have some pliability – but I recommend cutting up the steam after cooking to check the opacity if you’re new to this particular clam. …

What are “wet” and “dry” scallops?

Scallops are treated with sodium tripolyphosphate solution, which retains them and helps them retain more water. This means you end up paying for more water and fewer scallops, which is not my goal as a scallop buyer. Some people say that moist scallops have a firmer texture and a more “soapy” taste.

Dry scallops are untreated with sodium tripolyphosphate and are usually slightly tan in color. They roast better due to the lower humidity level, because all the water does not leak out during the cooking process, which prevents browning. Look for combs labeled dry or chemical free. (I personally hate the phrase “no chemicals” because everything – even scallops – is made of chemicals, but in this case, the chemical is sodium tripolyphosphate.)

How to distinguish

If you’ve already bought a scallop and don’t know if it’s wet or dry, you can use this Cook’s Illustrated Microwave Test to find out:

Place the scallop on a paper towel on a plate in the microwave and place in the microwave for 15 seconds. If the scallops are dry, there will be very little moisture on the paper towel. If they are wet scallops, there will be a noticeable ring of water around them. You can still use the scallop for cooking anyway.

In any case, be sure to blot the scallops before cooking. You won’t be able to remove all the moisture left over from the sodium tripolyphosphate treatment, but at least the surface will be slightly better.

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