How To Thaw Scallops The Right Way: Barbara’s Guide To Defrosting Seafood

Unless you live on the coast (in which case I can’t help but feel a bit jealous), chances are your seafood options are narrowed down to canned and frozen products

I know, it’s not ideal – frozen seafood will never be as delicious as fresh one – but it is what it is.

Frozen scallops can still be pretty tasty, though – the trick is in the way you prepare them, and yes, that means you’ll have to learn how to thaw scallops properly, too. 🙂

How To Thaw Scallops: Three Ways To Do It 

Without further ado, let’s talk about the three most common defrosting methods used for scallops:

1. The Refrigerator Method: Planning Ahead Is Key

  • I don’t like playing favorites, but if you asked me which of these is my go-to method for defrosting not just scallops, but any type of seafood in general, I would, without a doubt, pick the refrigerator method. Yes, it takes time, but it’s safe, as well – and as a mother of two, I’ll always choose safety over convenience. 
  • Remove the scallops from the package, place them in a large bowl, and then just cut a piece of plastic wrap large enough to cover the dish. Of course, if it comes with a lid, feel free to use it – as long as it keeps the contaminants out of the container, and away from the scallops, it will work.

Here are two reasons why the container has to be substantial:

You want all the scallops to fit, of course, but more importantly, it has to accommodate not only them but the melting ice, as well. Trust me; you don’t want to wake up to a fridge full of water.

Now, the most important thing to discuss here is the temperature – if that’s not right, everything else won’t work, either. The rule of thumb is at or, better yet, just below 38 degrees Fahrenheit. I’ve found that adjusting the fridge’s temperature setting to 37 degrees works best – there’s no need to go lower than that.

Don’t forget about the other foods in your fridge, though. There might be something in there that could go bad at this temperature. To avoid wasting food, find it a suitable storage space for the time being.

So, you’ve heard it takes time – but how much time are we talking about here?

Well, in general, leaving them in the fridge overnight should be enough to do the job, but if you want to make sure they’re appropriately thawed when it’s time to cook them, leave them to defrost slowly for up to 24 hours.

You’ll need:

  1. A large bowl 
  2. Plastic wrap 

Here’s The Best Frozen Pizza For Those Lazy Days When You Don’t Feel Like Cooking 

2. The Microwave Method: Think Of It As A Last Resort

You forgot that you have to defrost the scallops in time for dinner?

Don’t panic; it happens to the best of us. I don’t like to admit it, but I’ve had my fair share of last-minute efforts to thaw scallops – and other types of seafood – without partially cooking them in the process. And let me tell you something:

It’s doable, but it shouldn’t be your go-to method. 

Anyway, here’s what I’ve learned about how to thaw scallops in a microwave over the years: 

  • Before we start, check if your microwave has a defrost setting. Using it for the first time on quick-cooking proteins such as scallops is less than ideal – there’s no way for you to know if, or how well it works, but desperate times call for drastic measures, right? If it has a defrost setting, great, but if it doesn’t, set it to 30 percent of its average power – that should do the job.
  • Remove the scallops from the packaging they came in, and place them in a microwave-safe bowl. I prefer to use porcelain or glass dish, only because I don’t like the smell that plastic containers give off when I put them in the microwave, even if they’re labeled as microwaveable. Also, make sure the bowl is large enough to fit scallops without overfilling – it will make the next step a lot easier. 
  • Cover the scallops with a paper towel to minimize the chances of inadvertently cooking them. The thickness plays a huge role here – thin paper towels will get soaked and dissolve when they come in contact with the scallops, so it’s best to stick with the three-ply ones.
  • Now, let’s talk about the actual defrosting. You should set your microwave timer to 30 seconds – no more, no less. Once it goes off, take the scallops out to see if they’re defrosted, and throw them in for another 30-second session if they still feel cold and solid.

You’ll need:

  1. A microwave (obviously)
  2. A microwave-safe dish
  3. Paper towels 

3. The Cold Running Water Method: When The Microwave Method Seems Too Risky

Lastly, here’s a method for those of you that aren’t willing to experiment with the microwave, but don’t have the luxury of leaving the scallops in the fridge overnight, either – a cold water bath.

Here’s how to thaw scallops using nothing but cold running water!

  • Start off by placing the frozen scallops in a resealable plastic bag. After all, they are going to spend at least half an hour under running water. Unless you want to get waterlogged scallops, I suggest you seal them correctly before you put them in the bowl.

As you can see, the preparation process is pretty straightforward.

  • Now, all that’s left is to place the bowl in the sink and fill it with cold tap water. Move the scallops around a bit while the pot is filling up, and then let them sit there for approximately 10 minutes before you replace the water.
  • Depending on the number of scallops you’re thawing, it should take about 30 minutes to an hour for them to defrost entirely, so at least three rounds of adding fresh water to the bowl.
  • Keep in mind that, once you defrost scallops using the cold water method, you have to cook them – there’s no refreezing afterward

You’ll need:

  1. A resealable plastic bag
  2. A bowl or a pot

Speaking Of Pots, You Should Go Check Out My Best Stock Pot Reviews 

Barbara’s Additional Tip: Always Read The Instructions

Sometimes there’s no need to thaw scallops at all. It all depends on the brand.

For instance, if you’re cooking ready-made breaded scallops, don’t bother defrosting them – they’re supposed to be fried directly from the freezer.

Don’t think you know better than the instructions provided on the packaging – if they say "cook frozen,“ then cook frozen. 

That holds true for other types of commercially available foods, too, and not just scallops.

Cooking instructions are there for a reason, you know?

Of course, if you have additional questions about cooking or defrosting a particular brand of scallops, or you’re not entirely sure which one of these methods might work best in your case, don’t hesitate to call the manufacturer’s customer service. They should be able to give you all the information you might need.

Further Reading: Learn How To Thaw Shrimp The Right Way


Final Thoughts 

So, there you have it – a detailed guide on how to thaw scallops and avoid contaminating or damaging them in the process.

Again, I don’t recommend using the microwave method. There’s too big of a risk for cooking the scallops by accident.

That said, these are all valid methods for thawing scallops, and each of them comes with a set of advantages, as well as disadvantages you have to consider. Ultimately, the decision is yours.

Let me know how it goes!

Barbara Whitney
 

For the last 20 years, I’ve been cooking, preparing, researching, and gathering recipes, tools, and knowledge about food and the way we prepare it. Raising two lively boys and spoiling one great husband later, it’s safe to say that I’ve optimized my kitchen to deliver the best possible meal, no matter the occasion.

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