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The Common Types of Scallops Explained


Do you love a succulent serving of seared scallops? If so you'll be happy to know that scallops are a smart food choice, not only nutritionally, but also ethically. 

According to NOAA, US wild-caught Atlantic sea scallops are an environmentally-friendly choice as they are managed responsibly, harvested under U.S. regulations, and aren't endangered like some other seafood species we consume. 

However, if you want to start cooking scallops at home, there's something else you should know about, and that is which types of scallops to buy. Although there are only two main types of scallops, scallops come in a variety of forms. 

These include wet, dry, diver, and dayboat scallops. Sound confusing?

Settle in as we give you a quick rundown of the different types of scallops on the market, which you should buy, and what you should know when it comes time to prepare them.

Bay vs Sea Scallops

The two main types of scallops are sea scallops and bay scallops. If you are wondering what is the difference between bay versus sea scallops, they differ in size, taste, cooking methods, and price. 

Sea Scallops

Sea scallops live in deeper ocean waters and are significantly larger than bay scallops. 

Sea scallops typically reach 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter, whereas bay scallops generally range in size between 1/2 inch and 3/4 inch.

Sea scallops are also known as great scallops, king scallops, Alaskan scallops, and jumbo scallops. 

Sea scallops are ideal for pan-searing and can be cooked similarly to a filet mignon. The high heat from searing creates a crusty outer layer, leaving the centers tender and juicy. You can also poach, grill, and sauté sea scallops. 

However, when grilling you will need to take extra care not to overcook and dry out your scallops. A great way to prevent this is to protect the outer edge of your scallops with something like bacon. If grilled bacon scallops sound delectable, check out our recipe for Bacon Wrapped Maine Sea Scallops.

Because sea scallops are larger are better suited to being pan-seared they command a higher price point and are considered more luxurious than bay scallops. 

Sea scallops have a sweet taste, however, they tend to be tougher and less tender than their smaller cousins the bay scallop. 

Bay Scallops

As their name suggests, bay scallops are harvested from the shallow waters of East Coast bays and estuaries. 

Because they are some of the smallest of scallops, bay scallops aren't considered as much of a delicacy as sea scallops. However, they do have a lovely sweet, and delicate flavor. 

Unfortunately, due to their small size, bay scallops aren't well suited to pan-searing, which will quickly render them rough. Instead, they're better sautéed, deep-fried, made into a gratin, or incorporated as part of a ceviche.

Because of their size and ease of harvesting, bay scallops are considerably cheaper than sea scallops. 

These types of scallops are also known by the names of queen scallops, Cape scallops, China scallops, calico scallops, and Nantucket scallops. 

Diver Scallops

Besides sea and bay scallops, when looking at different types of scallops you might also notice some scallop options labeled as "diver scallops."

Diver scallops are manually dived out and hand-picked from the seafloor. Because of this, they are generally of a slightly larger size as divers typically choose the biggest scallops when harvesting. 

Diver scallops are also minimally damaged, as their hand-picked method reduces trauma to their shells. 

Besides this, diver scallops are also considered to be a more sustainable option. Because they are dived out, this reduces damage to the ocean floor and the other species living there. It also ensures that undersized scallops aren't killed or wasted. 

Dayboat Scallops

Dayboat scallops are more commonly found than diver scallops. The term refers to the traditional method of harvesting scallops, whereby dayboats utilize chain drag nets to bring up scallops from the seabed floor. 

Dayboat scallops are invariably cheaper than diver scallops. However, they may be of slightly lower quality thanks to their mass-scale harvest process. They are also a less sustainable option and pose a higher environmental impact. 

Wet Scallops vs Dry Scallops

When looking at the kinds of scallops available you might also notice that some scallop options are labeled as "wet scallops."

Wet scallops are soaked in a trisodium phosphate solution. This whitens their flesh and makes them absorb liquid. This, in turn, increases their weight, often by as much as 30%. 

There are a few issues with this. For one, because scallops are sold by weight, this means you're paying more for the absorbed water. 

What's more, when pan-seared, wet scallops tend to release their absorbed liquid. This interferes with the crisping process and robs you of that delicious crusty exterior that is the mark of perfectly seared scallops.

Phosphate is also a common ingredient used in detergents and soap. Because of this, wet scallops can often have an unmistakable soapy taste. 

Lastly, a small percentage of people can suffer allergic reactions to phosphates and experience mild-to-dangerous symptoms if they eat wet scallops. 

Dry scallops, on the other hand, aren't processed with phosphate. They don't contain extra liquid or have a soap-like taste. Dry scallops are often also labeled as  "chemical-free" or "dry-packed."

Now You're an Expert on the Different Types of Scallops

If you're on the hunt for good scallops, it's important to know what scallop options are the best. 

Now that you're wise to all the different types of scallops there are on the market, the next step is to source some high-quality, fresh scallops. 

Don't feel like leaving the house? Head on over to our online shop where we stock premium sea scallops, caught fresh daily. Place your order now, and enjoy next-day delivery. 

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