Skillet seared scallops

Michael Palin famously stated in a Monty Python sketch, “All I ask of food is that it doesn’t harm me”. Let’s face it; in our over-anxious, cotton wool-lined, bacteria-rein homes it ain’t that easy to be poisoned. We all know the basics (don’t chop your carrot on the meat board and make sure you cook the hell out of that turkey leg). Follow the rules and it is almost impossible to go wrong. And yet when it comes to cooking scallops (or perhaps shellfish in general), so many of us are afraid… very afraid.

In the recipe “fresh mint ice cream” I boast that I am no wuss. Well here’s a confession, folks. There was a time (and not so long ago) that when it came to cooking scallops, I was the biggest wuss of them all. If they didn’t have the texture of a leather belt, I was going to die of salmonella, e-coli and mad-cow disease all at the same time. Worse still, so were my guests! When a recipe called for the scallops to be “seared for 30 seconds on each side”, I decided that either the author was a misguided ignoramus or the recipe had a typo and should have read “30 minutes”. After all, this is seafood, and you can’t eat seafood raw. Right?

Wrong, obviously! Think Japanese, French, Italian. And in a decent restaurant, do we cower at the prospect of eating sashimi, fresh oysters or carpaccio? Au contraire… we relish it.

So go on… be brave and try this:


  • A handful of fresh queen scallops (ideally diver-caught)
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper


  • Skillet
  • Spatula


  1. Season the scallops with a light dusting of salt and pepper.
  2. Heat the skillet to very hot.
  3. Pour a little olive oil into the pan.
  4. Lay the scallops in the pan and don’t touch them for at least 30 seconds and no more than a minute (90 seconds at most).
  5. Turn and repeat.
  6. Remove the scallops to a dish and drizzle with a little olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.

What you should know

I especially like these served with sweet chili sauce on a bed of watercress or rocket (arugula). Also try them Asian style by sprinkling over shredded ginger, scallions and a dash of sesame oil.

Oh, and as a rule, it is always better to undercook fish (and meat of course). You can’t turn back time, but you can always return your catch to the pan.

Re: Seared scallops

When searing scallops, it’s important to remove the muscle and make more than you’d think!

Re: Seared scallops

Champagne is a wonderful compliment to these scallops, especially when served with sweet chili sauce.

Re: Seared scallops