January 20, 2019

Scallops: Delicate Flavor from the Sea

by Berkeley Wellness

The scallop is named for the handsome, fluted fan-shaped shells that surround the nuggets of tender-firm meat inside. Many people who aren’t particularly fond of fish or shellfish enjoy the mild, sweet flavor of this bivalve mollusk.

Because scallops cannot close their shells tightly and tend to lose body moisture quickly, they die soon after being harvested. To preserve freshness, scallops are nearly always shucked and trimmed aboard fishing boats or on shore shortly after harvesting. For this reason, they are an easy type of shellfish to prepare and cook.

Scallops: nutrition

The pale, creamy flesh of the scallop supplies protein, vitamin B12, vitamin E, potassium, and magnesium, as well as small amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Although scallops contain some cholesterol, dietary cholesterol has less impact on your blood cholesterol than saturated fat does—and scallops are low in saturated fat

For a full list of nutrients, see Scallops in the National Nutrient Database.

Because we do not eat the scallop animal itself but merely the adductor muscle (which holds the two halves of the shell together), there is less chance of contamination by pollutants. Other bivalves, such as clams and mussels for example, filter any pollutants in their environment through their organs, which are included in what we eat. Nonetheless, people in high-risk health categories should not eat scallops raw.

Types of scallops

There are two basic types of scallops available in fish markets—tiny bay scallops and much larger sea scallops. Calico scallops, a tiny variety of sea scallop sometimes sold as bay scallops, can also be found.

Bay scallops: Ivory-colored, with a golden tinge, bay scallops are harvested from protected bays and shallow waters from New England to North Carolina, though they are most abundant from Cape Cod to Long Island. The shell grows to about 2 to 4 inches across, but the edible adductor muscle, or “eye” (what we call the scallop), is only about 1/2 inch in diameter. Bay scallops have a firm texture and very sweet, delicate flavor. There are about 100 bay scallops to the pound.

Calico scallops: These small sea scallops (about 1/2 inch in diameter) are taken mainly from the Gulf of Mexico off of Florida. They’re darker in color, less sweet, and not as firm as bay scallops, and are consequently considered inferior by many scallop fanciers. Because the shells must be steamed to open them, these scallops are partially cooked before sold to the consumer.

Sea scallops: Translucent, ivory-colored sea scallops, harvested from deeper waters mainly along the Atlantic coast (but also from the Pacific) are much larger than bay scallops, with shells reaching 8 inches and the scallop itself measuring up to 2 inches in diameter. Chewier, with a less delicate flavor than bay scallops, they are often halved or quartered for use in recipes that call for the more expensive bay scallops. You get about 15 to 20 sea scallops to the pound.

Scallop Recipe Ideas and Cooking Tips

Scallops are a delicately flavored shellfish than can enhance pastas or seafood chowders, but they are also delicious baked or broiled without sauce.

Availability of scallops

The peak season for fresh bay scallops and sea scallops is October through March, although sea scallops can be found year round. Calico scallops are available fresh from December through May. Both bay scallops and sea scallops can be purchased fresh-frozen or precooked and frozen, either breaded or plain.