This article was published in the February/March 2006 Wedge newsletter. The following information may be outdated.

Meat & Seafood Dept.

In the United States, before scallops enter the marketplace, they are shucked from their shells and cleaned. The part of the scallop that is widely enjoyed at mealtime is the protein-dense abductor muscle, which snaps the scallop's two shells open and shut, and propels it through the water. Scallops cannot keep their shells tightly closed, and once they are removed from the water, they tend to dry out and can spoil relatively quickly.

There are two types of fresh scallops on the market, dry and wet. Dry scallops are unadulterated, whereas wet ones are chemically treated to extend their shelf life. Scallops lose moisture readily once out of the shell. To reduce moisture loss and increase shelf life, processors treat these scallops with a mixture of water and sodium tripolyphosphate, which can increase shelf life by about four days. Wet scallops are stark white, unusually plump, and when cooked purge water, which prevents them from browning.

Dry scallops, like those carried by the Wedge, have cream-colored flesh, ocean-fresh aroma and superior taste and texture. Fresh dry scallops tend to clump together in a mass and can be stored in an airtight container on ice (in the refrigerator), for up to two days. Dry scallops are available year round, but their quality increases dramatically as the water temperature drops, due to the rise in the scallops' glycogen production. This means that the winter months are the peak time for scallop availability and quality. During the allowable December first through April first season we sell inshore, diver harvested, hand-shucked sea scallops. This harvest method eliminates disruption of the ocean bottom, like that caused by large off-shore harvesters, who harvest scallops by dragging nets across the bottom. These scallops are the best quality sea scallop in the world - their extremely rich and sweet flavor is unmatched. We also carry bay scallops throughout the year. Though smaller than sea scallops, they have great flavor and are suitable for a variety of seafood dishes.

The Wedge does not carry treated scallops; by contrast, the majority of scallops sold in the United States are treated and soaked. Technically, they should be labeled as a water-added scallop product, although they almost never are.

ISSUES WITH TREATED SCALLOPS:

  • Treated scallops may absorb up to 40% of their weight in water. The consumer pays for that water weight, which is lost when the scallops are cooked.
  • They do not brown or caramelize properly due to their high water content.
  • Their taste is inferior to that of untreated scallops.
  • People may have adverse reactions to the chemicals in treated scallops.

BAKED SEA SCALLOPS

The secret to perfect scallops every time!

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Evenly space scallops on an ungreased, non-stick cookie sheet and place in oven.
  3. The scallops are finished when a brown ring is formed on the baking sheet around the scallop.

Cooking time depends on the size of the scallop, usually up to 10 minutes. The key is to watch for the brown ring.