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What are Scallops?

  • 7 min read

Scallops, in a culinary context, refer to the delectable and prized shellfish that is a staple in seafood cuisine worldwide. But there’s more to scallops than meets the palate. In the broader biological perspective, scallops are a type of marine bivalve mollusk residing within the family Pectinidae.

Scallops in Nature

Dwelling in all the world’s oceans, scallops are quite an intriguing species. These sea creatures are characterized by their brightly colored, fan-shaped shells that display a series of ridges and grooves, often emblematic of the shell’s age. Unlike other bivalves like clams and mussels, scallops have the unique ability to swim short distances by clapping their shells together.

Types of Scallops

When it comes to scallops in the kitchen, there are two main types that you should be aware of: sea scallops and bay scallops. Sea scallops are the larger of the two, often measuring up to two inches in diameter, while bay scallops, as the name implies, are typically found in bays and are smaller, usually about a half-inch in size.

Scallops Nutrition Facts

Not only do scallops offer a unique, sweet flavor and tender texture, but they are also a nutritious powerhouse. Rich in protein and low in fat, they are a great source of micronutrients, including vitamin B12, iodine, zinc, and magnesium.

Scallops are a very nutritious food, with a high protein content and low fat content. They are also a good source of vitamins and minerals, including:

  • Vitamin B12: Scallops are an excellent source of vitamin B12, which is essential for brain function, red blood cell production, and DNA synthesis. A 3-ounce serving of scallops provides over 100% of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin B12.
  • Zinc: Scallops are also a good source of zinc, which is important for immune function, wound healing, and cell growth. A 3-ounce serving of scallops provides about 16% of the DV for zinc.
  • Selenium: Scallops are a great source of selenium, which is an antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage. A 3-ounce serving of scallops provides about 250% of the DV for selenium.
  • Magnesium: Scallops are a good source of magnesium, which is important for muscle and nerve function, and blood sugar control. A 3-ounce serving of scallops provides about 20% of the DV for magnesium.
  • Choline: Scallops are a good source of choline, which is an important nutrient for brain function and liver health. A 3-ounce serving of scallops provides about 130% of the DV for choline.

In addition to these nutrients, scallops also contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for heart health.

Here is a table of the nutritional information for scallops:

NutrientAmountDV (%*)
Protein17 grams35
Fat1 gram1
Carbohydrates5 grams2
Fiber0 grams0
Sugar0 grams0
Vitamin B122.5 micrograms100
Zinc1.8 milligrams16
Selenium25.5 micrograms420
Magnesium44 milligrams20
Choline129.4 milligrams260

*DV = Daily Value.

As you can see, scallops are a very nutritious food that is low in calories and fat. They are a good source of protein, vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids. If you are looking for a healthy and delicious seafood option, scallops are a great choice.

Fresh Scallops vs Frozen Scallops

When shopping for scallops, you’ll likely come across both fresh and frozen varieties. Each has its merits, and your choice may depend on the intended use, the available options, and your personal preference.

How to Cook Scallops

One of the attractive aspects of scallops is their versatility in cooking. They can be pan-seared, grilled, poached, or baked, each method offering a distinct texture and flavor. To ensure the best results, pay careful attention to the cooking time; overcooking can result in a tough, rubbery texture.

Preparing and Cleaning Scallops

Before cooking scallops, proper preparation is critical. The part we eat is the adductor muscle, and it should be cleaned thoroughly, ensuring any grit is removed. If you’ve purchased scallops in their shell, you will need to open the shell and remove the muscle inside.

Scallops Recipes

The delicate sweetness of scallops allows them to shine in a variety of dishes. From simple pan-seared scallops served with a lemon butter sauce to more elaborate preparations like coquilles St-Jacques, scallops are a fantastic main ingredient in many recipes. They also pair well with a variety of other flavors, such as bacon, citrus, cream, and herbs.

Scallops in Pasta Dishes

The succulent nature of scallops makes them an excellent addition to pasta dishes. Whether it’s spaghetti aglio e olio topped with seared scallops or a rich and creamy scallop fettuccine, the combination of pasta and scallops never disappoints.

Scallops vs Clams

Although both are bivalves, scallops and clams differ significantly. Aside from the obvious distinctions in shape and size, their flavors vary greatly. While scallops have a delicate, sweet taste, clams possess a stronger, brinier flavor.

Wine Pairing with Scallops

Like many other seafoods, scallops pair beautifully with a variety of wines. A crisp, acidic white wine like Sauvignon Blanc or a buttery Chardonnay can complement the sweet, delicate flavor of scallops perfectly.

Storing Scallops

Fresh scallops should be stored in the refrigerator and consumed within two days of purchase. If you have frozen scallops, they can be kept in the freezer for up to three months.

Thawing and Reheating Scallops

If you’re working with frozen scallops, proper thawing is crucial. The best method is to let them thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Avoid thawing scallops at room temperature or using hot water, as it can make them tough and rubbery. When reheating cooked scallops, do so gently to avoid overcooking.

Scallops: A Sustainable Seafood Choice

When purchasing scallops, it’s important to consider their source. Many types of scallops are considered a sustainable seafood choice because they’re plentiful and well-managed. Look for certifications from organizations like the Marine Stewardship Council to ensure you’re buying sustainably sourced seafood.

Nutritional Value of Scallops

Scallops are a nutritional powerhouse, offering plenty of protein, vitamins, and minerals with low fat and calorie content. They are a great source of vitamin B12, which is essential for nerve function and the production of DNA and red blood cells.

Scallops in Different Cuisines

Due to their widespread availability and delightful flavor, scallops are a common ingredient in many world cuisines. In French cuisine, scallops are often used in dishes like Coquilles St-Jacques, while in Chinese cuisine, they might be stir-fried or used in soups.

Scallops Allergy

While scallops are a delight to many, some people may have an allergy to shellfish, including scallops. Symptoms can range from mild reactions, such as hives or indigestion, to severe, like anaphylaxis. If you suspect you have a shellfish allergy, it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional.

Bay Scallops and Sea Scallops: What’s the Difference?

While both are scallops, bay and sea scallops differ in size and where they are found. Sea scallops are larger and are generally found in deep sea waters, while bay scallops are smaller and are found in shallow waters near the coast.

The Final Word on Scallops

Scallops are a diverse and delicious seafood choice. Whether you prefer them grilled, baked, or seared, they offer a sweet, delicate flavor that’s truly unique. As with any seafood, the key to a great scallop dish lies in the quality and freshness of the ingredients. So, the next time you’re at the seafood market, why not pick up some scallops and try them for yourself?