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Undercooked Scallops: How To Cook Shellfish To Perfection

Seafood can be such a delicious meal and an excellent alternative to meat. Eating it once or twice a week can make an incredible difference in your diet.

There is only one downside to cooking seafood at home: its preparation. Fish, and especially shellfish have to be properly cooked, otherwise, it can put your health and safety at risk, including scallops.

It does not mean you cannot eat raw shellfish or specifically scallops, though. Seafood has to meet specific parameters to be consumed raw and not be a danger to people’s health.

How do you know when scallops are done?

Scallops have a short cooking time. It takes just a handful of minutes to have them ready to serve, but the process can be tricky.

Scallops are usually ready when you are able to see a golden, sometimes brownish color on both sides of them. Your scallops should have a nice, brown crust on the edge and a golden color on each side.

To achieve these results, you should take the scallops out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before you start cooking.

After doing that, rinse the scallops and it is absolutely essential you pat them dry properly, either with a paper towel or a clean kitchen cloth. It is extremely important to absorb the excessive moisture from scallops, otherwise, they will not brown as nicely and easily.

If the scallops are quite big and thick, it is best to cut them in half to make sure they will cook thoroughly.

While you cut and season your scallops, set a pan or a skillet on medium-high heat, adding a teaspoon of olive oil when it is hot enough.

Add them to the hot pan and allow them to sear for two minutes on each side on high heat. It should require four to five minutes to have properly, fully cooked scallops.

If you keep them on the stove for too long, they will overcook and become chewy with a rubbery texture. If you keep them for less than five minutes, however, there is a high possibility you will have undercooked scallops.

Undercooked scallops go from a pink to an off-white color, sometimes they are even clear looking as well. They smell a little off, and they can even be warm on the outside but cold on the inside.

Scallops texture, when undercooked, can be a little off too. It can present itself as very soft and bouncy. If you have opaque scallops instead, you know for a fact they have been cooked properly and they are safe to eat.

What happens if you eat undercooked scallops?

It depends. It is generally advised not to consume undercooked or uncooked scallops. If the product is not fresh or it is not of good quality, it can be risky for your health.

Experts usually advise against eating raw seafood. They not only mention eating raw scallops, but the list also includes oysters, mollusks, and clams.

Seafood frequently contains bacteria that are not harmful to the shellfish itself. But if ingested by humans, it can put them at a high level of risk.

One specific type of incredibly dangerous bacteria for humans is Vibrio parahaemolyticus. The only way it can be eradicated is by cooking seafood properly.

The bacteria is present not only in fresh shellfish but also in refrigerated ones. So make sure to prepare your seafood thoroughly and carefully.

If your seafood is fresh, so it was fished that same day, and it is sourced from safe waters, it will not be a huge risk to your health, though.

There are certain people that prefer eating undercooked scallops or raw seafood in general. If you do, just pay attention to its source, and be careful to notice if you experience any symptoms starting 4 to 48 hours after ingesting raw seafood.

Some of the symptoms can be nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, and abdominal pain. So, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms after eating raw fish or seafood, call your doctor or your local hospital right away. 

How do you properly cook scallops?

There are a few ways to properly cook scallops and make sure they will not be a risk for your health.

The easiest and most common way to cook scallops is on the stove in a pan or a skillet. The process is pretty straightforward, but it is not time-consuming at all.

Just take your scallops out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before cooking. If you have frozen scallops, allow them to defrost in cold water or overnight in your fridge. Never defrost them in the oven or microwave.

To defrost them in cold water, simply take them out of the freezer, deposit them in a sealed plastic bag and place them in a bowl filled with water. Make sure the spot where you placed your bowl is not hit by direct sunlight or any other form of heat, and let them defrost slowly.

It might require four or five hours, sometimes even more, but this is the safest way to defrost seafood without any repercussions on your health.

Once defrosted, follow these steps to cook scallops on the stove:

  1. Rinse them and pat them dry to get rid of all the excess moisture.
  2. Heat some olive oil in a hot pan.
  3. Cook your scallops for two minutes.
  4. Flip them on the other side and let them cook until both sides have that brownish, golden color.
  5. Now you have fully cooked scallops and they are ready to be served.

Another way to safely cook your scallops is to broil them in the oven:

  1. Preheat your oven on the broiling setting and proceed with the same process above (rinsing, drying, halving, and seasoning).
  2. Take some butter, add salt and pepper to it and brush the mixture onto your raw scallops before placing them in the oven.
  3. Enable them to cook for eight to ten minutes or until they look opaque.
  4. Take them out of the oven and prepare your leftover butter mixture (if you have some).
  5. Graze it over your prepared scallops and serve.

Another relatively unusual method is boiling your scallops. Always rinse them before adding them to boiling hot water for three to five minutes.

This way you will be absolutely certain they are cooked properly throughout, but they will not be as flavorful as seared or broiled scallops.

If you want to boil frozen scallops, defrost them before use. Boiling frozen scallops is quite dangerous for humans, as frozen seafood retains too much moisture that might be harmful.

Last but not least, there is another quite unusual method to cook your scallops: grilling. It is not a very standard way to do it, but grilling is, to tell the truth, the most effortless way to cook your scallops.

The high heat will easily cook the scallops thoroughly. And thanks to the high temperature, they will cook in a matter of minutes, creating that lovely golden, brownish color on each side. 

How do you store scallops?

You can store your scallops both in your fridge or in your freezer, depending on how you purchased them.

If you bought fresh scallops, it would be best to keep them in the fridge and consume them as soon as possible.

It is recommended to keep fresh scallops refrigerated for 1-2 days at most. After that, they will go bad. They might go off sooner than that, depending on how they were handled before hitting the supermarkets’ shelves.

Always make sure to buy the freshest scallops by touching them through the plastic packaging. If they maintain the same shape after being poked, they are fresh and safe to eat.

In the case you’re purchasing frozen scallops, there is not much else you can do. Just take them back home and store them in your freezer until you need them.

If you like to plan your meals in advance, remember to move your frozen scallops from the freezer to the fridge the night before. This will allow your scallops to defrost gradually, releasing the extra moisture.

If planning your meals is not your forte, it makes things a little bit more complicated when it comes to frozen seafood, but not impossible.

Take your frozen scallops, seal them in a plastic bag and place them in a bowl filled with cold water. This way you will improve with the defrosting process and it might not take as long.

Never defrost your scallops in the microwave or in the oven, as the heat will ruin them, making them unsafe to eat. 

Can you eat undercooked scallops?

We hope you’re asking because you made a mistake during the cooking process, and not because you want to. Eating raw seafood might not be the best idea for your body.

In most cases, you can actually eat undercooked scallops, but it’s not recommended. Before you eat any raw seafood, make sure they are fresh.

Fresh scallops, oysters, or mollusks are less likely to make you feel sick when eaten raw, but the risk is never low with seafood.

In order to avoid eating see-through, chewy scallops, pay attention to the various ways you can cook them, from cooking them in a pan to grilling them, and even boiling them.

It takes barely five minutes to cook them and they will have a brownish, golden coat on each side to let you know they are ready to be served.

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