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You Can Totally Handle Whole Scallops at Home

A simple sear, and a surprisingly easy crudo in five minutes

Whole scallops in the shell
Madeline Muzzi

Making crudo from whole scallops at Greenpoint Fish & Lobster Co. LIC Market

Posted by Eater on Thursday, January 12, 2017

Don’t panic in the face of whole scallops. Adam Geringer-Dunn from Greenpoint Fish and Lobster is here to demonstrate that shucking and prepping this juicy bivalve is actually a breeze.

Buying scallops in a shell is one of the best ways to make sure they haven’t been soaked in a chemical solution before making it to the shelves. While these chemical solutions might sound scary, they aren’t harmful to humans. The solution is a way to give the scallops a longer shelf life, but it also plumps them up with extra water. Not only does this increase the weight of the scallops (and therefore inflate the price), it makes them harder to sear. When a chemically treated, or “wet,” scallop comes into contact with heat it will start to give up that excess water, essentially steaming the scallop instead of frying it.

Try looking for scallops in the shell at a local fishmonger or specialty store. Don’t be surprised by a little movement: The scallops may open or close slightly. Each shell has a flat half and a curved half. To shuck them, Adam starts with the curved half of the shell facing down in his palm. Look inside the scallop for the large adductor muscle — that’s the target. Reach inside the scallop with a knife, and slide the blade along the top of the shell to detach it. Once it’s completely freed, pry the scallop shell open. It’s normal to see a little mud, or even a small fish.

The inside of a scallop shell

There will be a whole mess of stuff inside the scallop shell. The adductor muscle is the cylindrical white chunk near the center. Hold the muscle down with your thumb, and gently tear away the surrounding material. For ambitious cooks, the mantle and roe sac of the scallop can be eaten as well.

Once the abductor is isolated, slide the knife along the bottom of the muscle to completely free it from the shell. At this point it should look like a familiar scallop. Take a close look at it and identify two distinct muscle groups: one is large and circular, and a smaller, rectangular piece is located on the side. Both muscles are edible and tasty, but they will cook at different rates. By the time the larger muscle is cooked, the smaller piece with have a tough, stringy texture. So to remove it, just pinch it and tear it away. Eat it as a snack, sear it separately, or reserve it for later use.

A cleaned scallop, displayed in the shell

Just give the scallop a quick rinse and start cooking. Adam prepares two dishes with freshly shucked scallops: a simple sear and a surprisingly easy crudo.

To see this process in action, check out the video above. For more lessons in seafood, head to Eater’s Facebook page Thursdays at 11 a.m. to catch new episodes of Fresh Catch. Each week Adam will walk live viewers through preparation of a sustainable fish, mollusk, crustacean, or bivalve.

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