How to Grill Scallops for the Perfect Summer Dish

Simple, easy and delicious: the perfect recipe. Learn how to grill scallops for your new favorite summer dish that's as light and healthy as it is tasty.

When summer hits, we all feel compelled to use the grill as much as possible. After all, some of our favorite recipes get that extra boost from a good sear on the barbie. But there’s more to grilling season than burgers, steak and salmon. This summer opt instead for a new protein: scallops.

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Learning how to grill scallops will help you add another quick, versatile dish to your repertoire, perfect as an alternative to your go-to burger or as an accompaniment to a fruity summer cocktail. And it turns out that grilling scallops isn’t too difficult to master. Here’s what you need to know to grill them.

Go big

When shopping for scallops, keep your eyes out for ones on the larger side. These are more forgiving, while their smaller siblings risk becoming rubbery too quickly. Not sure about sizes? The big ones, also known as sea scallops, will amount to about 10 to 20 scallops per pound and will naturally be sweeter. Looking to get creative once when you start cooking? We’re obsessed with these Cajun shrimp-and-scallop skewers.

Be selective

To prepare the perfect scallop, you have to be selective—not all scallops are created equal. When shopping, look for “dry” or “natural” scallops, or those that are unprocessed and have nothing added to them after harvest.

On the other hand, “wet” scallops are processed with a chemical called tripolyphosphate, which helps with preservation and water absorption to increase mass. However, these won’t cook as well, won’t caramelize, and are less flavorful. A good way to tell what you’re dealing with? If there’s a milk-like fluid in the seafood case, the scallops are most likely wet.

Also keep an eye out if the scallops are fresh or frozen. While frozen may be less expensive, they also won’t be packed with as much taste as their fresh counterparts. Be sure to consume your scallops within three days of purchasing. But with recipes like these spicy mango scallops, you won’t have any trouble finishing them in time.

Prep them right

To make sure scallops don’t stick to the grill and flavor is maximized, keep the seafood as dry and cold as possible. Blot them with a dish towel to absorb excess moisture and keep them in the refrigerator until ready to cook. Meanwhile, make sure your grill is cleaned, coated with an oil with a high smoke point, like canola or grapeseed, and thoroughly heated before you put on the scallops. This will ensure they don’t fall apart when you flip them and will develop that succulent golden crust.

Before you sear your scallops on the grill, though, you can season them with a bit of salt and pepper or whatever your recipe calls for (this scallop recipe uses a nice, bright seasoning blend). Just leave the marinades to your other grilled favorites—scallops will take on too much moisture if you marinate them. If you choose to apply a glaze instead of using dry spices, be sure to wait until the last possible second so they scallops don’t absorb too much.

Cook them quickly

When your scallops are finally ready, again, be sure your grill is coated with oil so they do not stick. Then place them on your grate and grill over direct heat for 2 to 3 minutes per side. Don’t go over 7 minutes—they’ll become rubbery. In the case of scallops, it’s best to err on the side of caution and undercook them. You can always toss them back on the grill for another minute.

When they’ve reached that perfect level of doneness, you can pull them off the grill. Be sure to serve them right away. Your guests won’t be able to wait another minute!

Psst: Seafood is delish, but it has tons of health benefits, too. Read all about ’em here.

Kim Bussing
Kim is a writer and creative consultant with more than a decade of experience publishing content about food and drink. She has told food and wine stories for top brands with household names, including Hilton and Marriott. Kim also writes about health and wellness topics, home decor and baking. For Taste of Home, she’s tackled stories about canned wines, cocktail kits, wine Advent calendars and much more. Kim’s passion is bringing together nutrition and joy in every meal and she’s always on the hunt for the perfect gluten-free cinnamon roll.