What is the best way to cook frozen scallops when you can't find fresh scallops? So glad you asked! Here's your handy guide to preparing perfect seared scallops using frozen (and thawed) sea scallops.
Fresh seafood can be hard to find if you don't live near the ocean. So learning how to work with frozen seafood is a critical life skill!
For scallops, you have several easy options for preparing frozen and thawed sea scallops. This delicious brown butter seared scallops over charred corn polenta is a rockstar recipe to serve at a dinner party, date night at home, or even Friday night after a long week of work!
Tips for Choosing Quality Frozen Scallops:
- Look for IQF (Individually Quick Frozen) scallops: IQF scallops are individually frozen, which means they won't stick together, and you can use as many or as few as you need. They are also usually higher quality than scallops that have been frozen in a block.
- Check the packaging date: Always check the packaging date on the frozen scallops to ensure that they are fresh. Look for scallops that have been frozen recently and avoid scallops that have been frozen for a long time.
- Check for ice crystals: If the packaging of the scallops shows any signs of ice crystals, it means that the scallops may have been thawed and refrozen. This can affect the quality and flavor of the scallops, so it's best to avoid them.
- Look for natural scallops: Some frozen scallops are treated with a solution of water and chemicals to help preserve them. Look for scallops that are labeled as "natural" or "dry-packed" to avoid scallops that have been treated with chemicals.
Tips for Thawing Frozen Sea Scallops:
- Plan ahead: It's important to plan ahead when thawing frozen sea scallops because for best results they should be thawed slowly in the refrigerator to prevent them from getting mushy.
- Use the refrigerator: The best way to thaw frozen sea scallops is to place them in the refrigerator for 24 hours before you plan to cook them. This will allow them to thaw slowly and evenly.
- Use cold water: If you're short on time, you can thaw the scallops in a bowl of cold water. Place the frozen scallops in cold water and let them sit for 30 minutes, or until they are completely thawed.
- Avoid warm water: Do not use warm or hot water to thaw scallops, as this can cause them to cook partially and can affect their texture and flavor. It can also create food safety issues.
- Pat dry: Before cooking the scallops, be sure to dry them well with paper towels to remove any excess moisture. This will help them brown and sear properly in the pan.
Here's what you'll need to make Brown Butter Seared Scallops with Charred Corn Polenta:
Large or Jumbo Scallops: One pound is all you need for this recipe, but feel free to double it for a dinner party!
Butter and Neutral Oil: Plan to use both - butter for flavor and neutral oil with a high smoke point to keep our fat from burning while we get a nice golden brown crust on the scallops.
Salt and Pepper: Nothing fancy on the seasoning front! We want the sweet scallops to shine.
Polenta or Grits: The perfect foundation for tender sea scallops with a nice sear. If making instant grits, follow package instructions.
Vegetable Stock and Milk: The liquid for cooking our polenta - adds the perfect balance of savory and creamy. Substitute chicken stock, water and bouillon or plain water.
Fresh Corn: We char corn on the cob in a cast-iron skillet then cut the kernels off the cob and fold them into our polenta for the perfect flavor and texture extravaganza. If you can't get fresh corn, an equivalent amount of frozen corn, thawed and then charred, will do.
Fresh Lemon Juice: Squeezed into the brown butter sauce, and sliced into wedges for serving.
Fresh Basil: The perfect herb to top your scallop dish. Substitute chives or flat leaf parsley, if needed.
Full measurements and directions for this delicious meal included in the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post.
Step by step instructions for making Brown Butter Seared Scallops using frozen scallops:
To begin, thaw frozen scallops overnight in the refrigerator. Dry scallops well with a paper towel to remove as much excess moisture as possible. Ensure the adductor muscle is removed from the side of the scallop.
Before searing the scallops, prepare the charred corn polenta. Combine stock, milk, and a few pinches of salt and pepper to a medium saucepan. Heat over medium until simmering. Add dry grits or polenta, stirring to prevent lumping. Stir occasionally, cooking until the liquid has absorbed and the grits are tender.
While the polenta is cooking, heat a large pan or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add your fresh corn cobs to the pan and turn occasionally until charred. Remove from the skillet and cool until you can handle. Cut the corn away from the cob. Add 1 cup of the charred corn to the polenta and stir to combine. Cover and set aside.
Wipe out the skillet where you charred the corn. Heat it over medium-high heat with neutral oil and 2 tablespoons butter. Add sea scallops in single layer. Sear without moving the scallops for 3 minutes, until they achieve a golden brown good sear. Reduce heat to medium and turn scallops to the second side. Add last 2 tablespoons butter to pan. Saute for final minute while basting in butter, until scallops are just cooked through. Remove scallops and tent with foil.
Return the pan over the heat and squeeze the juice of half lemon to the pan. Gently swirl the pan and scrape up any tasty bits at the bottom of the pan. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Portion charred corn polenta into shallow bowls. Top with seared scallops and lemon brown butter sauce. Garnish with remaining charred corn kernels and fresh basil.
FAQ's and Serving Suggestions:
Scallops have a delicate, sweet flavor, so it's best to use simple seasonings that won't overpower them. Some good options include salt, pepper, lemon juice, garlic, and herbs such as basil or parsley.
Scallops can be cooked in a variety of ways, including searing (like in this Brown Butter Seared Scallop recipe), grilling, broiling (like in this Broiled Scallops with Italian Salsa Verde), or baking (Baked Scallops with Crispy Panko Breadcrumbs). The key is to cook them quickly over high heat to prevent them from becoming tough or rubbery.
Scallops should be cooked until they are opaque and firm to the touch. If you have a temperature pen, the proper internal temperature is 120℉. The size of the scallops will dictate the total cooking time, but generally sea scallops need 3-4 minutes on the first side and 1-2 minutes on the second side. Overcooked scallops will become tough and chewy, so be careful not to overcook them.
To store leftover scallops, transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to two days. Once thawed and cooked, the scallops should not be re-frozen.