There are a few secrets to cooking perfectly seared sea scallops. The first is buying the right scallops. Most sea scallops out in the marketplace have been soaked in a solution of sodium tripolyphosphate, a process that helps to preserve them, and plumps them so they weigh more, explains Flyfish. These phosphated babies are wet throughout; if you try to sear them, they’ll just give off a ton of water and never form a crust. Beware–if you see scallops that are pure white in color, that’s a giveaway that they’re treated.
For searing, you want “dry scallops,” which haven’t been treated; they’re harder to find and more expensive. You should be able to buy them from a reputable fishmonger, or from a market with a good seafood counter. They’re often labeled “day boat” or “diver” scallops. Buy them and use them the same day.
Once you’ve found your dry scallops, don’t overcook them. Heat cooking oil in a pan until very hot. Hounds recommend using cast iron or stainless. Blot scallops dry, season with salt and pepper, and add them to the pan, placing them well apart. Cook for 1 minute, flip, and cook for 1 minute on the second side. They should have a nice brown crust on either side, and be just barely cooked through in the middle. Any further cooking tends to render them rubbery. Finish them with a squeeze of lemon, or deglaze the pan with a bit of wine or balsamic vinegar to make a nice pan sauce.
Why were my seared scallops so terrible?