What Are the Visible Characteristics of Quality Scallops?

Scallops are molluscs with two hinged shells (bivalves) which filter their food from the surrounding water. Scallops differ from oysters, clams and mussels in their ability to "swim" short distances by the rapid snapping of their shells. This ability develops an oversized muscle referred to as the scallop adductor. The adductor muscle, shaped similar to a marshmallow, is the primary edible portion of the scallop.

The texture of fresh raw scallop meat should be firm and smell pleasing and mild. A healthy scallop whose shell is open should close tightly when tapped.

Are Scallops Safe to Eat?

Harvesting waters are monitored by states and local jurisdictions to ensure that scallops are safe for consumption. If excessive levels of contaminants are found in the water, commercial harvesting is prohibited.

Recreational fishermen should harvest scallops only from waters that are safe and approved for harvesting. State or local health authorities often issue warnings and closures to advise recreational harvesters.

What Are the Major Commercial Species Available?

Sea scallops are the largest and most readily available commercial species of scallop. Sea scallops are harvested off the coast of northeastern and mid-Atlantic states. They are usually shucked at sea so that only the meats are brought to shore. The size of these scallops range between 20-30 meats per pound and they are easily grilled, broiled or used in recipes. They are available fresh and frozen.

Calico scallops are one of the smallest species available. Calicos are harvested primarily in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. Due to their small size, 70 plus meats per pound, calicos are landed in the shell for dockside shucking. The heat treatment used for opening the shells causes the tips of calico scallops to appear white.

Bay scallops average about 60-90 meats per pound. These scallops, harvested from Maine to the Carolinas, are often called Nantucket or Cape Bay scallops. Bay scallops are not as abundant as other species and are usually more expensive. Bay scallops are known for their sweet flavor and delicate texture. Because of their small size, bay scallops are best suited for stir-frying, salads, stews and casseroles.

Pink and spiny scallops are harvested off the coast of Washington and British Columbia. They are approximately two inches in diameter. They are easily recognized by their pink shells and yield 20-25 meats per pound. These scallops are typically eaten whole, either steamed or raw.

What Do Color Variations in Scallops Mean?

Scallop meats have a creamy, beige, light blonde color. Some female sea scallops may have a slight orange color which does not affect odor or taste. The meats become white in color when cooked.

How Should Fresh Scallops Be Handled and Stored?

Fresh scallop meats should be maintained between 38o and 40o F to prolong shelf life and quality. Scallops should not be stored in water because the meats retain water and lose nutritional benefits and flavor. If necessary, a quick rinse to remove any debris is recommended. The rinse should be followed by patting dry to absorb excess moisture prior to cooking. Live scallops should be covered with a clean wet towel to prevent drying and used the day of purchase if possible.

Handle and store raw and cooked scallops separately to avoid cross contamination. Work area and utensils should be thoroughly cleaned. For a "use by" date, if provided.

Can Scallops Be Frozen?

Scallop meats freeze well. Frozen meats should be maintained at 0 oF or lower. They should be thawed in the refrigerator. Refreezing scallops results in loss of the firm texture and nutritional benefits.

What Is the Nutritional Value of Scallops?

Nutritional data for a 3-ounce (85 g) raw edible portion of scallops:

Water 66.78 g
Phosphorus 186 mg
Calories 75
Sodium 137 mg
Protein 14.26 g
Potassium 274 mg
Total Lipid (fat) 0.64 g
Iodine Not given
Carbohydrate 2.01 g
Iron 0.25
Cholesterol 28 mg
Zinc 0.81
Calcium 21 mg


Recipe: Honey-broiled Sea Scallops

  • 1 Pound sea scallops
  • 3 Tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 1 Tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • ¼ Tablespoon ground ginger
  • 2 Tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Combine lime juice, oil, honey, soy sauce, and ginger. Add scallops and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Remove scallops from marinade, reserving marinade. Thread scallops evenly on 4 skewers. Place skewers on shallow baking pan that has been sprayed with a non-stick coating. Broil 4 to 6 inches from source of heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Turn and baste with reserved marinade and continue cooking 2 to 3 minutes or until opaque throughout. Place sesame seeds on wax paper and roll each skewer over the seeds to evenly coat scallops. Serve immediately. 4 servings.

Recipe source: FMI Nutri-Facts

Recipe: Calico Scallops Sauté

  • 1 pound calico scallops
  • 2 tablespoons margarine
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • freshly ground pepper

In a large non-stick skillet, melt margarine and add garlic. Cook until garlic is golden brown. Add scallops and parsley and cook 2 to 3 minutes, stirring often. Sprinkle with pepper and serve. 4 servings.

Recipe source: Taste of Gloucester

Whole scallops are delicious steamed in herbs, wine and garlic; citrus and ginger; or a good hard cider. They are also a colorful, flavorful addition to cioppino, paella or jambalaya.

Consumer Information Message

Recreational fishermen should harvest scallops only from waters that are safe and approved for harvesting. State or local health authorities often issue warnings and closures to advise recreational harvesters.

As in the case with consuming other raw animal protein products, there is a risk associated with consuming raw oysters, clams, and mussels. If you suffer from chronic illness of the liver, stomach, or blood, or have immune disorders, do not eat these products raw.

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