Scallops can make a delicious addition to any meal. Anybody who has tasted well-prepared scallops at a restaurant will testify to their crispy, golden crust and soft, sweet interior. However, when preparing them at home, you may have found different results. Rest assured – this may not be your fault.
Wet scallops – as opposed to fresh ones – are treated with preservatives that make them retain water. There are several solutions to remove water from your scallops. Most of these involve salt to draw the moisture out of the scallops before cooking. Alternatively, leave them in the fridge overnight.
There is a major difference between wet scallops and dry scallops. You will need the dry variety if you aim to create the best possible meal with your scallops. Thankfully, however, there are some methods you can employ to get your wet scallops sufficiently dry to achieve a similarly satisfactory result.
How Do You Get The Water Out Of Scallops?
Suppose you are at home trying to recreate a delectable scallop dish you tried at a restaurant weeks before. You place the scallops into the hot pan. As the scallops cook, you find that increasing amounts of water are coming out of them, and the scallops are starting to become steamed instead of fried.
This occurrence is common, and it is generally the result of store-bought scallops that have been treated by soaking in a solution of sodium tripolyphosphate. This chemical helps preserve the scallops and prepares them for freezing. However, this treatment also causes the scallops to retain excessive water, up to 30% of their original weight.
While this is beneficial to stores selling scallops by weight, it is extremely disadvantageous to your average home cook attempting to cook scallops with a delectably crispy outer crust. Thankfully, there are a few tricks to draw the water out of the scallops to allow you to fry them properly and achieve that desirable crust.
Soak Scallops In A Solution of Brine Water & Lemon
One of the best methods of drawing the moisture out of your wet scallops is to soak them in a solution of brine water and lemon. This method helps to rinse the phosphates out of the scallops.
By removing as much of the phosphate treatment as possible, you will remove the tendency to hold onto water. You will then be able to allow the scallops to release the water they have been retaining before you attempt to cook them.
In a large bowl, mix together a quart of water, two tablespoons of salt, and ¼ cup of fresh lemon juice. Place your wet scallops in this solution and allow them to soak for half an hour.
Once your half hour is up, rinse the scallops off using fresh water. This will rid the scallops of the phosphates and the soapy taste associated with wet scallops.
Next, sandwich the scallops between two layers of paper towels and press gently. The scallops will release any remaining liquid, and the paper towels will absorb it. Your scallops should now be sufficiently prepared for cooking. Hopefully, there will be far less water released during the cooking process, allowing you to sear them to perfection.
Refrigerate Scallops Uncovered Overnight
Another alternative is to leave your scallops uncovered in the fridge overnight. This method is only advisable if your scallops are fresh, as the last thing you want is for them to go off before you have the chance to cook them.
A great deal of the moisture will be removed by leaving the scallops uncovered in the refrigerator. Unfortunately, if the scallops have been treated with phosphates, the chemicals will still force them to hold onto whatever liquid they have retained.
Simply Salt The Scallops
Another method to get the water out of your scallops is to salt them on all sides before putting them on a layer of paper towels. Add more towels to the top of the scallops and pat them dry thoroughly.
Next, place the salted and covered scallops into the refrigerator, leaving them to rest for fifteen minutes. Once the fifteen minutes is up, remove the scallops from the fridge and pat them dry for a second time. Season the scallops lightly with a bit more salt, and they will be ready to cook.
Par-cook Scallops In The Microwave
This method is not highly recommended, but it can be somewhat effective in a pinch. Simply place the scallops in the microwave for a short period to par-cook them and hopefully force some of the internal water to evaporate. However, with this method, there is no way to really control how cooked the scallops will become.
Wet Vs. Dry Scallops
The difference in your scallop-cooking success often lies in whether they are wet or dry. The high-quality scallops you receive in a restaurant that come standard with a golden, caramelized crust are generally of the dry variety.
This simply means that the scallops have not been treated with any chemicals and are fresh. Where possible, purchase dry scallops. They are generally more expensive, but the result is worthwhile.
On the other hand, Wet scallops have been treated with a solution of tripolyphosphate. This preservative treatment is usually performed to prepare the scallops for freezing. However, the phosphate treatment causes the scallops to soak up and retain water.
One of the side effects is an increased weight that is highly beneficial to sellers who price the scallops according to weight.
While dry scallops will allow you to easily create the desirable golden crust, wet scallops will become steamed as they release water during the cooking process. The resultant scallops will often be soggy with a rubbery internal texture.
If you aren’t sure whether your scallops are wet or dry, simply place one on a paper-lined plate in a microwave. Microwave the scallop for fifteen seconds on high power. If the scallop is dry, it will leave very little water on the paper towel.
If the scallop is wet, you will see a significant ring of moisture left on the towel.
The scallops you have consumed in restaurants with the crispy, golden outer crust are most likely dry scallops. Obtaining dry scallops is your best bet to recreate this dish at home. However, it is possible to draw out the preservatives and retained moisture from your wet scallops to achieve the best possible result.