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Sam is a trusted home cook.
Grapeseed oil or better yet bacon fat!
pierino is a trusted source on General Cooking and Tough Love.
I agree on grapeseed oil. High smoke point so that you can your pan sizzling hot.
Did you ever try them without oil? Make sure the surface is dry and dust with a little flour (rice flour is great) salt & pepper, place in your very hot pan and don't move until ready to flip, about 2 minutes.
I use half and half, grapeseed oil and unsalted butter - that allows for a higher temp on the butter which adds to flavour and crispness. Start with a hot pan. Turn once. Don't have to turn until you see a bit of golden on the edge and the scallops move easily on the pan. I use a non-stick.
Unfortunately, adding another oil will not raise butter's smoke point. It's the milk solids that burn first; clarifying is the only solution.
The term "best" is open to interpretation. One approach, and I will argue the best and overriding one, is from the perspective of flavor. Personal preference comes into play as well as the flavor profile you're aiming for. Clarified butter is an excellent choice.
If you're scared of saturated fat -- not that you should be, but many people still are -- you might want to skip the scallops entirely because they'll give you a good dose of cholesterol. Or eat them raw. Or, poach them.
Grape seed oil is mostly polyunsaturated and almost all of that is linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid. High consumption of omega-6 oils has been shown to inhibit the body's ability to process alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3) fatty acids.
Additionally, grape seed oil oxidizes quickly releasing carcinogenic free radicals in the process. That is an important attribute for storage (keep open bottles in the refrigerator) and it also indicates the product is unstable at high temperatures (not a good frying oil despite its high smoke point).
Extra light olive oil would be a much better choice.
I second bacon fat. You really can't go wrong there! Plus, it counts as recycling, right?
Barton Seaver is a chef and author of Where There’s Smoke. He is a Fellow with National Geographic Society and the New England Aquarium.
I only sear scallops on one side so you get the most texture while maintaining control over the doneness. I prefer a light coating of canola oil on the bottom of the pan and then when 2/3 done, add in a pat of butter to help in the browning.
No butter, no oil -- just one magical ingredient.
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