There are quite a few simple tips when selecting, cleaning, storing fresh and frozen sea scallops, and these vary depending on whether you are buying your sea scallops fresh or frozen. Ideally, we could all enjoy fresh sea scallops but we will start with a few of the basics of scallop varieties and sizes.
More Great Scallop Information: What to Serve With Scallops
The ultimate guide to scallops!
Scallops are an irresistible seafood treat! To make sure that your recipes turn out completely amazing, there are some great tips shared here!
I cover everything from which type of scallops you may need or want, how to select them, fresh vs frozen, and much more! All of this information combines to ensure that you start with great-quality scallops that are perfectly suited for your scallop dishes!
Table of contents
Bay scallops are a smaller, sweeter variety of scallops that are a less common coastal variety of scallops. Bay scallops feature a softer texture than sea scallops, whereas the larger sea scallops may have a slightly chewier texture.
These smaller scallops are harvested in the shallow waters close to bays and estuaries. Bay scallops are also the scallop variety that many prefer as the best scallop for eating or flavor.
Use bay scallops for casseroles, seafood chowders, and seafood boils.
Bay scallops are also known as Cape scallops, China scallops, Nantucket Scallops, and Queen scallops.
Sea Scallops are the larger variety of scallops. They're also what you see on reality television cooking shows when they serve pan-seared scallops.
These larger scallops are caught further away from land and are harvested in Alaska, Canada, and the Atlantic coast from Newfoundland all the way down to North Carolina. Sea scallops have much larger shells than bay scallops do, and yield a much larger portion of scallop meat.
Use sea scallops for baked scallops, pan-seared scallops, and bacon-wrapped scallops.
Sea scallops are also known as Alaskan scallops, Great scallops, Jumbo scallops, King scallops, and Diver scallops or Dayboat scallops ( which vary in size and could also be called the third type of scallop ).
Calico scallops, also known as the Atlantic calico scallop, are also consumed in the U.S. although they are not as commonly found. These scallops are harvested from the coastal waters of eastern and western Florida. However, this scallop variety ranges from North Carolina to Brazil!
Since calico scallops live in open waters with depths of 100 - 1300 feet, they are not as commercially harvested as bay species in shallow waters. The colorful shells of calico scallops are frequently washed ashore and collected by beachcombers.
What Are Diver and Dayboat Scallops?
These are two additional names for sea scallops that are sometimes confused for types of scallops. However, the name 'diver' and 'dayboat' are both referring the manner in which the scallops are harvested.
Diver Scallops are not a true variety of scallops, it is simply another name for sea scallops. The name refers to the manner in which they are harvested.
Most sea scallops are harvested commercially by dredging the gravel, sand, or mud of the seabed or ocean floor. Diver scallops, however, are hand-harvested by scuba divers.
Dayboat Scallops are another name for sea scallops that refers to the harvesting method, not a true scallop variety. These scallops are harvested by boats that are limited to a 24-hour period of harvesting.
Thus the 'day boats' have to return within a single day. The harvested scallops are returned and sold in a shorter period of time than most commercial scallops, for a fresher scallop!
For the two most common scallops sold commercially here in the States, there are many sizes to choose from! Select your scallop type based on your recipe, then choose the scallop size.
There are typically 70-120 bay scallops or scallop meats per pound. Bay scallop sizes are broken down by how many scallops you will get per pound, as shown in the chart below.
|Package Size||Bay Scallops Per Package||Size of Bay Scallops|
|40/60||40-60 scallops per pound||Roughly ¾ inch in diameter|
|60/80||60-80 scallops per pound||Roughly ¾ inch in diameter|
|80/100||80-100 scallops per pound||Between ½ to ¾ inch in diameter|
|80/120||80-120 scallops per pound||Between ½ to ¾ inch in diameter|
|120/150||120-150 scallops per pound||Roughly ½ inch in diameter|
|150/200||150-200 scallops per pound||Roughly ½ inch in diameter or smaller|
There are anywhere from 8-50 sea scallops or meats per pound.
Packages of fresh sea scallops or frozen sea scallops labeled as U/8, U/10, U/12, or U/15 are the largest of the sea scallops. The 'U' indicates that there are 'under' 8 scallops per pound for U/8, or 'under' 10 scallops in a U/10 scallops package per pound, etc.
In addition to U packages, sea scallops are also sold in package sizes of 10/20, 20/30, 30/40, and 40/50.
Sea scallop sizes are broken down by how many scallops you will get per pound, as shown in the chart below.
|Package Size||Sea Scallops Per Package||Size of Sea Scallops|
|U/8||Up to 8 sea scallops||Between 2 ½ - 2 ¾ inches in diameter|
|U/10||Up to 10 sea scallops||Roughly 2 ½ inches in diameter|
|U/12||Up to 12 sea scallops||Between 2 ¼ - 2 ½ inches in diameter|
|U/15||Up to 15 sea scallops||Between 2 - 2 ¼ inches in diameter|
|10/20||Between 10-20 sea scallops||Roughly 2 inches in diameter|
|20/30||Between 20-30 sea scallops||Between 1 ½ - 1 ¾ inches in diameter|
|30/40||Between 30-40 sea scallops||Between 1 ½ - 1 ¾ inches in diameter|
|40/50||Between 40-50 sea scallops||Roughly 1 ½ inches in diameter|
Selecting Frozen Sea Scallops
If buying online, one of the most important things is to buy from a reputable seafood supplier. As with selecting frozen seafood in the store, once your package arrives inspect the packaging for the following:
- Whether or not the packaging is open anywhere.
- Check to see if the packaging is crushed.
- Inspect the scallops for signs of frost or ice crystals.
This last item would indicate that perhaps the scallops have been frozen for quite a while or thawed and refrozen, which can easily happen during shipping. If any of these are apparent on your selected frozen scallops shipment, contact the seller for replacement.
If you are buying frozen scallops in the store, also check the packaging for the signs noted above. Another thing to note when purchasing in the store is product placement. Packages that are above the frost line, which is at the top of the freezer case, should be avoided.
While shopping, make your seafood selection the last item you select at the store ( whether fresh or frozen ). The package should be evenly cold, and there should be no 'fishy' odors. Look for flash-frozen, if available.
Selecting Fresh Sea Scallops
Dry-packed, chemical-free, diver-caught, and dayboat are the preferred choice and generally offer better quality sea scallops. Check your label for how the scallops were handled, and look for these terms as a start!
Wet Scallops vs Dry Scallops: Which is Best?
Short answer. The dry scallops are the best between the two. Hands down! And for so many reasons. *This is a general answer, as any packaged scallop could be compromised in quality. However, when shopping for scallops it is true that I would buy dry scallops every day over wet scallops.
- Dry scallops do not have added water weight that you are paying for.
- Dry scallops are not packaged with sodium tripolyphosphate (STP) which can also be used to soak scallops prior to freezing!
- Wet scallops will release excess moisture during cooking. This results in soggy breaded scallops and a not-so-great pan-seared scallop.
- The moisture makes the wet scallops tougher and less flavorful when cooked.
The most commonly found scallops available in stores are wet-packed scallops, which are plump and filled with moisture ( typically a brine or STP mentioned above ).
*Not all fresh scallops are necessarily of better quality than frozen!
Storing & Freezing Scallops
When storing your purchased frozen sea scallops (or fresh scallops) store them in the refrigerator if you intend to cook and eat them within 2 days.
Otherwise, wrap the scallops tightly in plastic cling wrap, aluminum foil, or moisture-proof freezer paper for longer storage. If you are not preparing your frozen sea scallops soon, make sure to immediately unpack and store them in the coolest location in your freezer.
Thawing Frozen Scallops
Thaw your frozen scallops by placing them in the refrigerator to thaw overnight. If you need to thaw them quickly, place the frozen scallops in a plastic bag and place them in cool running water.
Do not thaw your scallops in warm or hot water, at room temperature, or in the microwave. Thawing in the microwave will quickly turn to cooking the scallops, and result in rubbery scallops. Yuck!
Also, thawed scallops should not be left at room temperature for more than two hours. I recommend no longer than one hour, especially during summer months and hot weather.
Angela is an at home chef that developed a passion for all things cooking and baking at a young age in her Grandma's kitchen. After many years in the food service industry, she now enjoys sharing all of her family favorite recipes and creating tasty dinner and amazing dessert recipes here at Bake It With Love!