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Perfect Pan Seared Scallops (with a Simple Pan Sauce) - A Family Feast

Today we’re showing you how to prepare Perfect Pan-Seared Scallops – served with a simple, flavorful pan sauce!  Scallops are one of our favorite types of seafood to eat, but they can be a little tricky to cook!

You’ll first want to start with the freshest possible sea scallops you can find (sea scallops are the large-sized scallops, not the smaller ones), and ideally you want to use “day boat” scallops which were harvested on a boat that returned to shore the same day the scallops were caught.

You can read much more about what to look for when buying scallops here.

Perfect Pan Seared Scallops (with a Simple Pan Sauce) - A Family Feast

Perfect pan-seared scallops take just minutes to cook, and one of the secrets to ensuring that wonderful golden, caramelized color is to make sure that the scallops are perfectly dry before you start to sear them.  If the scallops are wet, they won’t brown in the pan!

You also want to cook the scallops over very high heat using a combination of clarified butter (which has a much higher smoke point than regular butter) as well as a lighter, neutral-flavored oil such as canola or grape seed so it doesn’t detract from the wonderful taste of the scallops.

Perfect Pan-Seared Scallops - A Family Feast

While sautéing, avoid over-crowding the sauté pan (don’t let the scallops touch each other in the pan) and also, avoid turning the scallops over and over as they cook.  Just allow each side to brown and caramelize and then remove them from the pan once they are cooked through.

Perfect Pan-Seared Scallops - A Family Feast

We love serving our scallops with a simple pan sauce made with vermouth or a dry white wine (such as chardonnay), fresh herbs, lemon zest and a touch of butter!  This light sauce comes together quickly as well, and it is the perfect complement to your perfect pan seared scallops!

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Perfect Pan Seared Scallops (with a Simple Pan Sauce) - A Family Feast

Perfect Pan Seared Scallops (with a Simple Pan Sauce)

  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 8 mins
  • Total Time: 23 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 2


This recipe comes together very fast so you must have all of the ingredients measured out in advance before you begin cooking. Also remember that scallops get rubbery if they are not eaten soon after cooking so do not start this dish until just before you are ready to serve.


  • 1 pound sea scallops
  • 2 tablespoons clarified butter, divided (use unsalted if you have not made clarified)
  • 1 tablespoon good quality light oil such as canola or grape seed oil
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced shallots
  • ¼ cup vermouth or a very dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Few grinds freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter


  1. Prepare the scallops by removing and discarding the hard little muscle that is attached to the side of the scallop. Sometimes that is removed before sale, most of the time not. Rinse the scallops gently under very cold water and pat dry completely with paper towels. If they are not dry, they will not brown.
  2. Prepare all ingredients and set aside.
  3. In a large sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of clarified butter and the oil over hot heat until it just starts to reach the smoking point. If you are using clarified butter it may not smoke so test with a drop of water.
  4. Once the pan and fat are hot, gently place each scallop in, making sure they don’t touch. Do not overcrowd the pan. The heat should be at about medium high to high. Once you set the scallops in, do not touch for two minutes. They must remain in one place so they brown. If you think they are browning too quickly, lift one and check. They should be golden in color. Adjust heat slightly if needed.
  5. Turn each one and again do not touch for two minutes. As they cook on the other side, you can see the center start to turn from a slightly off white color to white. If they are not uniform, you may want to remove the smaller ones first. Once cooked, remove all of them to a plate and lower heat to medium.
  6. Add the remaining tablespoon of clarified butter and the shallots and cook for about one minute then add vermouth. Stir to loosen up brown bits from the pan and reduce the vermouth by half.
  7. Add the parsley, chives, zest, salt and pepper and stir.
  8. When the sauce has started to bubble, add the cold butter one tablespoon at a time and stir to make the pan sauce.
  9. Add the scallops back in along with any liquid from the dish and just turn them around in the sauce to bring them back up to temperature and to coat them.
  10. Remove immediately from the heat and serve with the pan sauce over the scallops.


You may also like:

How to Make Clarified Butter

Sunday Cooking Lesson: Clarified Butter - A Family Feast

Perfect Pan Seared Steak

Perfect Pan-Seared Steak - A Family Feast

Perfect Pork Chops

Perfect Pork Chop - A Family Feast


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  • Linda Mesheau wrote:

    Instructions not clear. The list of ingredients calls for 2 T butter. You add 1 T at the beginning of the recipe. Then later it states that you add more butter, 1 T at a time….. however, there is only 1 T left, correct? Editor, please explain or correct. Thanks.

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Linda – The ingredients list calls for 2 tablespoons clarified butter toward the top of the list, then further down toward the bottom of the list, 2 additional tablespoons cold, unsalted butter. (This butter does not need to be clarified.)
      The first tablespoon of clarified butter is added in Step 3, the second in step 6.
      Then in step 8, that’s where the 2 tablespoons of cold, unsalted butter are added, on tablespoon at a time. Hope that helps clarify the instructions for you!

  • Dela wrote:

    Fantabulous! Best scallops I ever had and so easy! Thank you!!

    • Martha wrote:

      Thank you Dela! Glad you enjoyed the recipe!

  • Vikki wrote:

    This is a fantastic recipe! My husband and I recently made it for our Valentine dinner, delicious, delicious, delish! Super easy and quick too! A definite keeper for us!
    I just sent the link to my wonderful sister in-law to try.
    Thank You!

    • Martha wrote:

      Thank you for sharing Vikki! We’re glad you enjoyed the recipe!

  • NH Giam wrote:

    This recipe was absolutely delicious. I felt like a world class chef. Yummmeeee. Loved it. My husband loved it too but he loves every thing. I am my own worst critic and when it is not so good I have to just forgive myself and move on, but when it is wonderful I burst with glee. Thank you family feast.

    • Martha wrote:

      You’re very welcome! So glad the recipe was a success!

  • Marilyn wrote:

    Love your site and the foods

    • Martha wrote:

      Thank you so much Marilyn!

  • Steve wrote:

    Great recipe! So easy and quick but upscale and very tasty! My family is not big on seafood so I had them all to myself! Yummy! This one is going on my do again list!

    • Martha wrote:

      Thanks Steve! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! (And that you didn’t have to share either!) 🙂

  • Stephanie Picard wrote:

    I made these scallops tonight and they are absolutely delish! My family loved them! I used more herbs and lemon zest because I like a lot of flavor, but they were unbelievably good. A gourmet dish and new fan favorite!! Thanks for the recipe!! You two rock!

    • Martha wrote:

      Thank you so much Stephanie! xoxox

  • Tessa @ Handle the Heat wrote:

    I LOVE seared scallops. They’re one of my favorite foods. Awesome tips! I sooo wish I could reach into the screen and grab a bite.

    • Martha wrote:

      Thanks Tessa!

  • Carol at Wild Goose Tea wrote:

    I forget about scallops. These are nice and big too. So beautifully
    browned. Oh I can’t tell you how I love shell fish and butter dishes.
    Excellent picture—-pulled me right in. I pinned the recipe.

    • Martha wrote:

      Thanks so much Carol!

  • Courtney wrote:

    Mmm, my favorite

    • Martha wrote:

      Mine too! 🙂

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