photograph of open scallop shells in fish market

Scallops in a Portuguese fish market.


There are two types of scallops: bay scallops and sea scallops. All scallops are sold shucked. In Europe the whole scallop is eaten, including the orange roe seen at right; in the United States the muscle is the only part that comes to market.

Sea scallops are larger, the muscle often about 1½ inches long and 1-1½ inches thick. Bay scallops are about ½ to ¾ inches in diameter, and often more tender and sweeter.

Photograph of prepared sea scallops

Sea scallops.

© Senic

Chefs buy fresh scallops by the gallon, which will contain about 450 bay scallops. By the time scallops reach the U.S. retail market they are sold by weight. About 7 oz (200 grams) of raw scallop should be allowed per serving; there will be about a 35% loss of weight in cooking. A few specialty dealers do sell sea scallops by count, i.e. “jumbo” at under 10 scallops per pound; “medium” at 20 to 30 per pound.

Scallop meats are often treated with sodium tripolyphosphate, which makes them absorb water, and hence gain weight, as much as 3.4%. Scallops so treated are often labelled “wet”, and untreated scallops, “dry”. The dry cook better.

With the intent of protecting the scallop fishery by reducing the catch of young scallops, a 1982 federal regulation made any catch that, by random check, contained more than 36.3 scallop meats per pound subject to seizure. The regulation is controversial; scallopers say they have no way of knowing the size of the meat until the shell is opened, at which point it's too late to throw it back.


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