9 Tricks for Grilling Scallops

June 20, 2014

This summer, Christine Burns Rudalevige of The Family Fish Project is on a mission to help us cook and eat more seafood at home.

Today: Nine tips for perfectly grilled scallops, plus the grapefruit and chile glaze you should put on them. 

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I recently saw a bumper sticker on a Subaru with Maine plates that read “Real friends visit in March.”

Thankfully, I have several of those types of friends. But I am also grateful for the many more who visit in the summer. These fair weather comrades typically want two things: to go to the beach, and to eat as much seafood as possible. 

In the two years we’ve lived in coastal Maine, scallops have become my après beach summer seafood of choice. They are elegant, easy, and tailor-made for the grill. Because scallops are a bit pricey, I've picked up a half dozen or so tricks to make sure they come out succulent, silky, and sweet after a short stint over the fire. 

1. Buy the biggest dry-packed scallops on offer. The bigger the sea scallop, the sweeter it will be. These big boys are more forgiving on the grill, meaning they won’t go from raw to rubber as quickly as smaller ones do. Go for jumbo (usually about 10 scallops per pound) or giant (usually between 15 and 20 per pound).

2. Scallops grill best naked. Marinades can hide their flavor and cause flare-ups that scorch the scallops. You only need a finishing glaze with a sweet undertone and a finishing kick.

3. Keep your scallops as dry (blotting with paper towels helps) and cold as possible. And get your grill grates as clean as possible and coated with neutral, high-smoke point oil (such as grapeseed or canola). This juxtaposition of cold flesh and a hot, oiled grate prevents sticking.  

4. Let the scallops ride by themselves on the skewer for easy, fast cooking times (without worrying about how done the other skewered bits are).

5. Season them with salt and pepper just before you slap them down on the heat.

More: Get top gear for seafood season in Provisions -- from seersucker-trimmed lobster bibs to our favorite oyster knife.

6. Cook the scallops on one side for about 4 minutes to get great grill marks. Cook on the second side only until they are just opaque in the middle. (Cut one open if you have to.)

7. Slide the thin edge of a fish spatula under all of the scallops on the skewer and then flip them. Using tongs at this juncture would be a mistake.

8. Only apply the glaze to the scallops for the very last minute they sit on the grill. You can certainly reglaze them on the plate.

9. And lastly, eat them while they are hot.

Grilled Scallops with Ruby Red Grapefruit and Chile Glaze

Serves 4

20 large or 12 jumbo dry-packed sea scallops
2 ruby red grapefruits
2 tablespoons plus one teaspoon agave
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon Champagne vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon minced Fresno and/or serrano chile
Skewers (if wooden, presoaked in warm water for about 45 minutes)
Salt and pepper
Canola or grapeseed oil for the grill
4 cups arugula

See the full recipe (and print it and save it) here.

Photos by James Ransom

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Brenda S. August 30, 2018
I adore seafood and this recipe for grilled scallops is going to be our dinner tonight- speaking of the coast of Maine- I must find my summer home somewhere there- it is just beyond to have scallops, lobsters and steamer Ipswich clams all summer - I am looking to find a great guy to share my Florida treasure coast abode in the winter with in exchange for summers at his home somewhere in the awesome Maine coast ! They say if you can envision it- it can happen- well im dreaming and seeing it clearly- and so maybe someday- my dream will be a reality !!!! <br />
Kelcey June 15, 2015
I know I'm about a year late on this, but any thoughts on grill temp? I'm about to try scallop skewers for the first time. I'm at the beach and cooking for a big crowd and am (unfortunately) using a gas grill.
Dia C. July 16, 2015
Gas is an even heat so more control for something like scallops,heat up the fire to about 3/4 throttle and let the grill have time to come to temp. Brush the hot clean grates with oil and then lay out your skewers. Shake some ground pepper and lemon seasoning on them and grill 4 minutes. Flips with a spatula and grill till translucent.. Lay the finished product on a bed of romain and bath with fresh lemon. Drawn butter in s small bowl adds a simple dipping sauce.
Diane C. July 12, 2014
great article, cant wait to try the recipe <br />
Author Comment
cheese1227 July 17, 2014
Hi Diane, Let me know how it turns out!
AntoniaJames June 20, 2014
So helpful! Looking forward to more in this series. ;o)