Pan Seared Sea Scallops

no-fear pan seared sea scallops

Dinner | March 26, 2015 | By

I didn’t eat scallops, let alone Pan Seared Sea Scallops when I was growing up. No one in my neighborhood did. In fact, a scallop wasn’t even something you ate. A ‘scallop’ was a loopy sort of curved edge at the bottom of your dress. Your very fancy dress. And sear. . .well that was a department store where you bought the aforementioned fancy dress with the scalloped edge among other things like washing machines and tires for your car. I was well into adulthood before I even tasted them in a restaurant. They had a grown-up, special-meal sort of aura. 

Then one day, with the confidence I gained from watching the Food Network like I was practicing for the Olympics (all in the name of good meals for my family) , I decided to take the plunge. I didn’t just dip a toe into the shallow end. Nope. Didn’t even wear a life jacket. I threw caution to the wind and dove head first into the deep end deciding to wow the family with Pan Seared Sea Scallops for an intimate family holiday dinner they wouldn’t soon forget (at least that was how the prayer went).

no-fear pan seared sea scallops

My husband was somewhat skeptical. New dish. Holiday dinner. Oh baby Danger Will Robinson? Do you remember the TV show Lost in Space? Man, did I need luck. Or so I thought. Turns out I didn’t actually need luck — that’s how easy these Pan Seared Scallops are! So esay that even someone as simple as moi  who thought scallops were reserved for fancy dresses could find success in a pan . . . as in pan seared  . . . as in. . .slight crust — caramelized — on the outside. . . tender, juicy inside. . .as in fla-for. 

Side Dish: You’ll want to prepare your side dish before beginning to sear your scallops because (a) scallops cook su-per fast and (b) scallops require your full and undivided attention — think toddler. Think toddler alone to his or her own devices. Leave either alone for long and well . . . you get the picture. Your side dish doesn’t need to be complicated or difficult, but keep it light – a salad or oven roasted asparagus works well. I also like to pair the scallops with lemon-parmesan risotto, shown in this photo.


  • sea scallops (3-4 per person)
  • sea salt
  • fresh cracked black pepper
  • olive oil
  • butter
  • 1 – clove of minced garlic
  • 1 – lemon cut in wedges


no-fear pan seared sea scallops

Blot, blot then blot more!

Gently dry your scallops with a bunch of paper towels. This step is  important because if your scallops are moist, they’ll steam – or boil – and you won’t get that pretty golden brown sear on them. Season both sides with sea salt and fresh cracked pepper. Then . . .hands off – another important part – hands off any other spices in your cabinet. Resist the urge to sprinkle a bit of whatever your go-to is – trust me on this. 

In a large, shallow non-stick skillet melt 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Swirl the mixture around the skillet and once it’s hot, carefully add the scallops a few at a time. Cook in batches if necessary to avoid overcrowding the pan. If the skillet is overcrowded, it won’t maintain the temp you need and, again you won’t get that perfect sear. So give them space — don’t let them touch each other . . .think middle school dance partners. Cook the scallops 2-3 minutes on the first side without moving/touching them. Gently lift one and if it’s the desired color, flip and sear the other side 1-3 minutes. Squeeze some fresh lemon juice on them and remove them from the pan. 

no-fear pan seared sea scallops

After all the scallops are seared and removed from the skillet, reduce the heat, add 1-2 T of butter and the minced garlic to the pan. Sauté a minute or two over LOW heat, moving constantly and watching carefully so the garlic doesn’t burn. Squeeze another small wedge lemon juice onto the scallops and drizzle the garlic butter over the top.

Final thought: whatever you do, don’t dress up your scallops. Don’t baconize them. Don’t marinate them and for the love of all that’s good food, don’t bread them ’cause that’s like putting a fur coat on a dog. Enough said. Enjoy! 



  1. Leave a Reply

    June 20, 2019

    Used my grill skillet on barbecue. Came out perfectly, though adjusted time down due to small size of scallops. Prepared a halibut steak with the scallops in exactly same manner with the longer suggested cooking time which came out perfectly.

    • Leave a Reply

      July 1, 2019

      Hi Trisha – thanks for the follow-up. Great idea with the grill skillet on the barbecue. So glad you enjoyed it! I haven’t tried it that way but now that summer’s here, it’s on my list to do! Enjoy the day 🙂

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