Solving common problems when grilling scallops
One challenge when it comes to grilling scallops is that they're not as ideal for the grill as you may think. After all, what could go wrong? Quick heat to give the exteriors a nice crisp, and they'd still be nice and juicy in the center. Unfortunately, this isn't exactly how it goes down – at least not without a little finessing.
Reality of grilling scallops
By the time you get that nice crisp sear on the outside, the inside is chewy and overcooked...#MeatGeek Fail.
Oh yea, the other issue: how the heck do you flip them without them sticking or twirling around on the skewer like tiny dancer ballerinas.
Solving the problems
How do we avoid overcooking the scallops and get them to flip easily?
The overcooking problem
The key is high (really high) heat. We're talking around 600 degrees. The easiest way to generate high levels of heat is to concentrate the fuel. To do this I use a throwaway aluminum pan to place the coals into. This delivers intense heat to focused area on the cooking surface of the grill.
The flipping problem
By using two skewers for each row of scallops we can avoid the spinning dilemma when it comes time to flip the scallops.
To avoid the tender scallops from sticking to the grill we need to coat them (oiling the cooking grate is also a good idea). The method I found that works best, without taking away from the scallop's natural flavors, is to use a combination of flour, cornstarch, cooking oil and sugar to coat the scallops. See the breakdown below taken from the famous America's Test Kitchen.
Don't waste your time with wet scallops, instead buy "natural" dry scallops. Not only are wet scallops pumped with unnecessary liquid (sodium tripolyphosphate), which you pay for in additional weight, but wet scallops tend to have a unnatural soapy flavor when you grill them. Moreover, wet scallops are more difficult to manage over high heat; they're more likely to shrink and slip through the grill grate.
The Perfect Grilled Scallops
Recipe developed by America's Test Kitchen
What You'll Need
Scallops - a pound or two
Aluminum Pan - 13 x 9 about 3 inches deep (be sure to poke about a dozen 1/4 inch holes in the bottom of the pan for ventilation)
Vegetable oil - 2 tablespoons
Flour - 1 tablespoon
Cornstarch - 1 teaspoon
Sugar - 1 teaspoon
Salt & Pepper - to taste
Lemon (or lime) halves, grill them to take things to the next level
Be sure to layout the scallops and pat them dry before putting them through the skewers. Remember to use two metal skewers through each row of scallops. Place scallops back in the fridge while you get the grill going.
Light up a full chimney of charcoal; this will be the perfect amount to fill your pan. While your waiting for the coals to be ready, grab your pan and poke about a dozen 1/4 inch holes in the bottom of it. Place the pan in the center of the grill, then pour in the charcoal once the coals are mostly white.
Next, clean and oil the heck out of the grate. Now we're ready to grab the scallops and coat them with our special mixture.
Mix together the flour, cornstarch, sugar and oil. Brush the mixture onto the scallops then season them with salt and pepper. Now they’re ready for the grill.
Place them on grill directly above the coals. Let them sit for about three minutes, until they begin to get a little brown sear. Flip the scallops to allow the other side to brown, about another three minutes. That’s it, serve them with the lemon wedges and if you choose to, make one of the sauces below to complement these grilled bad boys.
The perfect scallop will be firm on its sides, have a nice seared exterior and the center should be soft and full of flavor. There’s a fine line between the perfectly cooked center and an overcooked one. You’ll know if it’s overcooked as it will be chewy; nothing to lose sleep over, just add some of the vinaigrette sauce below and better luck next time.
The Vinaigrette Three-Peat
Smoky Grilled Scallop Sauces
Tasty Vinaigrette sauces that work well with many different types of grilled seafood, but especially good with the mild smoky flavor of scallops.
Okay, we covered another Sriracha sauce last week in our Stout Beer Pan Sauce article – so we’re on board with Sriracha hype.
Lime zest – 1 tsp.
Lime juice – 2 limes
Sriracha – 1 Tbsp.
Honey – 2 Tbsp.
Fish sauce – 2 tsp.
Vegetable oil – ½ cup
Mix everything together except for the oil. While mixing slowly add the oil until it’s mixed in (emulsified). Be careful not to add the oil in too quickly as it will make your sauce oily and won’t have the consistency you’re looking for.
Fresh Basil – about a full packed cup
Chives – 3 Tbsp. minced
Vinegar (champagne or red wine) – 2 Tbsp.
Garlic – 2 cloves minced
Sugar – 2 tsp.
Salt and pepper – to taste
Vegetable oil – 2/3 cup
In blender/food processor pulse all ingredients except for oil until broken down, then with blender running slowly drizzle in the oil (be sure to scrape the sides of the blender).
Lemon Juice – 1 lemon
Dijon Mustard – 1 Tbls.
Grainy Mustard – 1 Tbls.
Olive Oil (the good stuff) – ½ cup
Salt & Pepper – to taste
Cucumber – 1 sliced
Mix mustards and lemon juice. Slowly add in olive oil until evenly mixed. Add salt and pepper to taste. Arrange cucumber around the scallops and drizzle dressing over the plate.