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Bring the Seafood Bistro to Your Kitchen With These Secrets to Perfect Pan-Seared Scallops

Learn how to get a good sear and when to flip them

Most of my knowledge about scallops comes from watching contestants on cooking competitions scramble to cook them perfectly. But just because they’re usually served at fancy seafood restaurants doesn’t mean they’re off limits to a home cook. I’m here to share how to make melt-in-your-mouth, golden scallops that would make any judge impressed. This easy recipe takes just 10 minutes, and I have the secrets to restaurant-quality searing. It’s time to impress everyone you know with these pan-seared scallops.

Choosing your scallops

Scallops come in two main varieties: sea scallops and bay scallops. Sea scallops are larger and ideal for pan-searing, while bay scallops are smaller and often used in soups or salads. Look for ones that are dry-packed, meaning they haven’t been treated with preservatives or added water. This ensures a better sear and flavor. I recommend fresh scallops, but you can also use frozen scallops. But make sure to thaw them in the refrigerator overnight.

Love scallops? Try our Bacon Wrapped Scallops and Prosciutto-Wrapped Scallops.

Chef-grade tips for pan-seared scallops

Achieving restaurant-quality scallops is all about technique and a few key tips:

1. Dry them well

Pat the scallops dry with paper towels to remove excess moisture for a better sear and golden-brown crust.

2. Preheat the pan

Use a hot, heavy skillet like cast iron to ensure a good sear.

3. Season simply

Season with just salt and pepper just before cooking. Too much seasoning can mask their delicate flavor. But for extra flavor, chefs love basting them during the last minute with butter and aromatics (like garlic or thyme).

4. Timing is key

Sear scallops for about one and a half to two minutes per side (longer if larger) until golden brown and just opaque in the center. Avoid overcooking, as scallops can get rubbery fast. It’s better to undercook them and let them rest for a minute to finish if you’re unsure. You also don’t want to overcrowd the pan; work in batches if necessary.

Easy pan-seared scallops recipe

I loved this recipe from Dinner at the Zoo featuring a garlic butter sauce and fresh lemon for acidity. Chopped parsley adds the perfect garnish, but you can also use basil, chives among others.


  • 1¼ lbs. sea scallops, preferably fresh dry packed scallops
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 Tbs. butter
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh herbs of your choice, plus more for garnish
  • Lemon wedges for garnish


  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings
  1. Pat the scallops dry on both sides with a paper towel. Season the scallops on both sides with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over high heat until it’s just smoking. Add the scallops in a single layer and cook for 1.5-3 minutes per side, until just firm and opaque.
  3. Remove the scallops from the pan, then add in and melt the butter. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in the lemon juice and herbs.
  4. Return the scallops to the pan. Baste the sauce over them. Garnish with herbs and lemon wedges, then serve immediately.

Storing your pan-seared scallops

Scallops are best served immediately. But if you want to store leftovers, they can keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. To reheat, place them on the stove over low heat until warmed through.

Try more of our seafood recipes:

Dive Into Creamy Bliss With Our 15-Minute Shrimp Scampi Linguine Recipe

Crab Fries Are The Spicy, Cheesy Twist On Regular Fries That You’ll Wonder How You Lived Without — Easy Air Fryer Recipe

How to Grill Fish: Chef’s Trick Creates Tender Fillets That Won’t Stick to the Grates

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