Alot of people ask these questions when cooking scallops: “Why aren’t they searing?”/ “Why do they look like they’re steaming?”/ “Why are they shrinking?!”
My answer to perfectly seared scallops: Brine and Dry.
You don’t have to buy super expensive ones like $40 – $50 for a box of Hokkaido scallops but if you’re feeling rich or are rich then please go ahead. I either get mine from Giant– I forgot the brand– at $17 (?) for 12, or from Song Fish. I don’t really know how to choose scallops, or how to differentiate between “wet” and “dry” scallops just by looking at them. Look at the ingredients list. “Wet” scallops are usually treated with phosphate solution, a preservative which prolongs shelf life (duh) and makes the scallops heavier and larger. If not prepared properly, all the added water evaporates during cooking, leaving your scallops the size of clams.
“Dry” scallops are not treated with this chemical solution and do not absorb unnecessary water. As a result, they have a shorter shelf life but the taste is sweeter and more natural. And yes, they are far more expensive than “wet” scallops.
I buy “wet” scallops because I am “budgetpantry”. The secret to getting them to sear the way they do in these pictures is to brine them with a lemon juice and salt solution, then dry, dry, dry them before cooking in a hot oiled pan. You’ll be tempted to flip them after three seconds to “check” how they’re doing. Don’t do it. Scallops are like ex-boyfriends. There is no need to check how they’re doing.
I kinda regret not taking step-by-step pictures for you, but these instructions are quite easy to understand. I go by this rule: If you think you’ve dried them enough, dry them somemore. You’ll be surprised how much water really comes out on those kitchen papers. I also don’t use butter because I like them cleaner.
And here’s how to do it.