Quick Air Fryer Scallops with Garlic Herb Butter is the perfect easy dinner idea that’s sure to impress. This easy recipe is the perfect combination of crispy, tender scallops and rich, flavorful garlic herb butter. The best way to make this fast is through the magic of the air fryer. It takes just minutes.
To make this recipe, simply season your scallops with a bit of salt and pepper, then pop them in the air fryer for just a few minutes until they’re golden and crispy.
While they cook, whip up a quick garlic herb butter by mixing melted butter, garlic, fresh herbs, and lemon juice. Once the scallops are done, toss them in the garlic herb butter and serve immediately for a delicious and satisfying meal.
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Air Fryer Scallops: Busy Weekday Main Dish
You don’t have to wait for special occasions to make this dish, but they are wonderful for the Holiday table and entertaining. It is a great way to switch up your usual dinner routine and try something new. However, you can impress your family and friends by making this restaurant quality copycat main dish. They will never know how easy it is to make these delicious scallops.
So easy. Make this for busy weekdays too. Not only is this recipe incredibly tasty, but it’s also a healthier option than traditional fried scallops. The air fryer uses minimal oil to achieve that crispy exterior, so you can enjoy all the flavor without guilt.
What are Scallops?
Scallops are a type of mollusk, specifically a bivalve mollusk, which means they have a two-part hinged shell. They belong to the family Pectinidae and are widely known for their culinary value. Scallops are found in both saltwater and freshwater environments around the world.
The edible part of a scallop is the adductor muscle, which is the part that opens and closes the shell. This muscle is responsible for the scallop’s ability to swim by rapidly opening and closing its shells. The adductor muscle is prized for its tender and flavorful meat, which is commonly eaten in seafood dishes.
Scallops have a round, fan-shaped shell that is often ridged or ribbed. The color of their shells can vary, but they are typically shades of white, gray, brown, or orange. Scallops have a soft body and a mantle that extends beyond the shell, with sensory tentacles called “eyes” near the hinge.
These shellfish are highly valued in the culinary world for their delicate flavor and versatility. Prepare them in various ways, including searing, grilling, baking, or even raw in dishes like ceviche. Serve as an appetizer, in pasta dishes, or as a main course with sauces, vegetables, or grains.
It’s important to note that sustainable fishing practices are crucial to keeping healthy scallop populations and protecting their habitats.
What is the Difference Between Sea Scallops and Bay Scallops?
Sea scallops and smaller bay scallops are two different types of scallops that vary in size, flavor, and texture. Here are the main differences between them:
Size: One of the primary distinctions between sea scallops and bay scallops is their size. Sea scallops are typically larger, measuring about 1 to 1.5 inches in diameter.
Bay scallops, on the other hand, are smaller, averaging around 0.5 to 0.75 inches in diameter.
Flavor: Sea scallops have a slightly sweeter and more pronounced flavor compared to bay scallops. They offer a delicate balance of sweetness and brininess.
Bay scallops, being smaller, are often described as sweeter and milder in flavor, with a hint of sweetness reminiscent of the ocean.
Texture: Sea scallops have a firmer and meatier texture. When cooked properly, they have a tender yet slightly chewy consistency.
Bay scallops, being smaller and more delicate, have a softer and more tender texture. Due to their delicate texture this is the one most people prefer.
Cooking Applications: Due to their size and firmer texture, sea scallops are often used in dishes where they can be seared, grilled, or pan-fried. They hold up well to high heat and develop a nice crust while remaining juicy inside.
Bay scallops, with their smaller size and softer texture. Use in recipes that call for shorter cooking times, such as in soups, stews, pasta dishes, or salads.
Where to Purchase?
Sea scallops are more readily available and commonly found in seafood markets and grocery stores.
Bay scallops, on the other hand, can be more regionally specific and may be less widely available, particularly outside of areas where they are harvested.
Both sea scallops and bay scallops have their own unique characteristics. Enjoy both in different culinary applications. The choice between them often depends on personal preference, the desired dish, and availability in your region.
How Do you Clean Scallops for Eating?
Cleaning scallops for eating is an important step to ensure their freshness and remove any grit or debris.
Here’s a simple guide to cleaning scallops:
Start by inspecting the scallops: Check each scallop for any visible dirt, sand, or fibrous attachments. Look for any broken or damaged shells as well.
Remove the side muscle: Some scallops may still have a tough side muscle attached, which can be chewy when cooked. It is safe to eat, but you may choose to remove it for a more tender eating experience. Simply grasp the muscle firmly and pull it away from the scallop. If the scallops have already been shucked and the muscle is not present, skip this step.
Rinse the scallops: Gently rinse the scallops under cold water. Use your fingers or a soft brush to lightly rub each scallop. This will make sure that it is clean without any sand or debris. Be careful not to apply too much pressure or handle the scallops roughly, as they are delicate.
Pat dry: After rinsing, carefully pat the scallops dry using a paper towel. It’s essential to remove excess moisture, as this will help achieve a better sear when cooking.
They are ready for your favorite recipe: Once clean and dry, the scallops are ready to be for your favorite recipe. See the recipe below for a delicious garlic herb butter. A delicious combination.
Purchasing them pre-cleaned
It’s worth noting that some scallops may come pre-cleaned, particularly if you purchase them from a reputable fishmonger. seafood market, or grocery store. It is still a good idea to give them a quick rinse and remove any lingering particles.
By following these steps, you can ensure that your scallops are clean and ready to be enjoyed in your favorite dishes.
Does Cooking Time Change Based on the Size of the Scallop?
Yes, it’s important to note that these time for cooking scallops are approximate and can vary based on factors such as the heat output of your air fryer, the specific size and thickness of the scallops, and personal preference for doneness.
The cooking time provided serves as a starting point, and you should monitor the scallops closely as they cook to achieve the desired level of doneness.
The cooking time for air fry scallops can vary based on their size, as larger scallops require slightly more time to cook through. Here’s a general guideline for cooking times based on the size of scallops:
Small or bay scallops (about 1/2 inch thick): Cook for approximately 4 to 6 minutes, flipping halfway through the cooking time.
Medium-sized scallops (about 3/4 inch thick): Cook for approximately 6 to 8 minutes, flipping halfway through.
Large scallops (about 1 inch thick): Cook for approximately 8 to 10 minutes, flipping halfway through.
Pro Tip. To ensure even cooking, make sure the scallops are in a single layer without overcrowding the air fryer basket. If you have scallops of varying sizes in a batch, you can remove smaller ones earlier as they may cook faster.
Always use your judgment and rely on visual cues when determining if the scallops are cooked. Look for a slightly golden brown crust on the outside and an opaque, tender texture on the inside. Overcooking can result in tough or rubbery scallops, so it’s best to err on the side of slightly undercooking, as residual heat will continue to cook the scallops after they are removed from the air fryer.
Remember to consider the specific instructions provided by your air fryer manufacturer and make adjustments based on your individual preferences and equipment.
What is the best cooking method for scallops?
Searing is widely considered the ideal cooking method for scallops. It involves cooking them on the stovetop, typically in a cast iron skillet, to achieve a perfect sear. By using butter or oil, the scallops develop a crispy and golden brown exterior while maintaining a tender and savory interior.
When seared, scallops acquire a delightful texture that combines a crisp outer layer with a delicate and tender center. This method allows for the flavors to be enhanced, resulting in a delectable balance between the savory qualities of the scallops and the caramelized notes from the sear.
How to Sear Scallops in a Skillet
To sear scallops, start by heating the skillet over medium-high heat until it is hot. Add a small amount of butter or oil to the pan, allowing it to melt and coat the surface evenly.
Pro Tip. pat the scallops dry before cooking to achieve the best sear.
Then, carefully add the scallops to the skillet, making sure they are not overcrowded in the pan. Allow them to cook undisturbed for a few minutes, until a golden brown crust forms. Flip the scallops and cook for an additional few minutes until the other side is seared to perfection.
One of my go-to resources for learning how to cook scallops is America’s Test Kitchen.
How to Serve Scallops
The seared scallops can be enjoyed on their own as an appetizer or served as a main course alongside a variety of accompaniments. The result of searing scallops is a culinary delight that showcases their natural sweetness and provides an exquisite combination of textures.
Serve with Lemon Garlic Herb Butter or a light creamy sauce.
How to Store Scallops
To properly store scallops, follow these guidelines:
Fresh Scallops: If you have purchased fresh scallops and plan to use them within a day or two, it’s best to store them in the refrigerator.
How to Store Fresh Scallops?
Place the fresh scallops in a container or a resealable plastic bag.
Make sure they are dry by patting them gently with paper towels.
Keep them in the coldest part of your refrigerator, ideally at a temperature between 32°F to 38°F (0°C to 3°C).
Use the fresh scallops within 1 to 2 days for optimal flavor and quality.
If you have purchased frozen scallops or want to store fresh scallops for a longer period, freezing them is a suitable option.
Ensure the scallops are sealed in an airtight container or well-sealed freezer bags to prevent freezer burn and maintain quality.
Label the container or bag with the date of freezing for easy reference.
Frozen scallops can typically be stored for up to 3 to 4 months, but it’s best to consume them within the first month for optimal taste and texture.
Thawing Frozen Scallops
When you’re ready to use frozen scallops, it’s important to thaw them properly.
The safest method is to thaw them in the refrigerator overnight. Place the sealed container or bag in the refrigerator and allow the scallops to thaw slowly.
Alternatively, you can use the defrost setting on your microwave, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Be cautious not to cook the scallops during the defrosting process.
Avoid thawing scallops at room temperature, as this can promote bacterial growth.
How to Store Leftover Cooked Scallops?
To store leftover scallops, first, let them cool down at room temperature for no more than 2 hours.
Then, place them in an airtight container and store them in the fridge for up to 3 days.
For the best results when reheating, use the microwave or a skillet. To microwave heat them for 1-2 minutes or gently warm them in a small skillet with a bit of butter or oil over low heat.
Be careful not to overcook them, as this can make them tough and rubbery. Enjoy your delicious leftovers.
How to Tell If Scallops are Bad
Remember that scallops, whether fresh or frozen, are highly perishable seafood.
It’s crucial to handle and store them safely to maintain their quality and prevent foodborne illnesses. If you notice any signs of spoilage, such as an off smell, sliminess, or discoloration, discard the scallops. Always use your best judgment and prioritize freshness when enjoying scallops.
What to Serve with Quick Air Fryer Scallops with Garlic Herb Butter Sauce?
If you did not add lemon zest or lemon juice to your garlic butter sauce, then serve with thin sliced lemon wedges so your guest can squeeze the fresh juice on by themselves for a pop of flavor.
Scallops can be served with a variety of side dishes. Some popular options include roasted vegetables such as asparagus or Brussels sprouts, a green salad with vinaigrette dressing, or a grain such as quinoa or rice pilaf.
Additionally, scallops pair well with citrus flavors, so consider serving them with a citrus-based sauce or alongside a fruit salad.
For a more indulgent option, scallops can also be served with creamy mashed potatoes or a risotto.
Ultimately, the best side dish for scallops will depend on personal preference and the overall flavor profile of the meal.
Quick Air Fryer Scallops with Garlic Herb Butter
- 1 Pound Scallops Fresh or frozen thawed, and patted dry
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 4 Tablespoons Butter
- 2 Cloves Garlic minced
- 1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice freshly squeezed
- 1 Teaspoon Fresh Herbs such as fresh parsley, fresh thyme, or fresh dill, chopped
- Preheat your air fryer to 400°F (200°C) for about 5 minutes.
- In a mixing bowl, toss the scallops with olive oil, salt, and pepper until well coated.
- Place the scallops in a single layer in the air fryer basket, ensuring they are not overcrowded. Cook in batches if necessary.
- Air fry the scallops for 4 minutes, then flip them over using tongs. Cook for an additional 4 minutes until they are opaque and lightly browned.
- Pro Tip. Cooking time can vary depending on the size of the scallop. The cooking time provided serves as a starting point, and you should monitor the scallops closely as they cook to achieve the desired level of doneness.
- While the scallops are cooking, prepare the garlic herb butter. In a small bowl, combine the softened butter, minced garlic, lemon juice, and chopped fresh herbs. Mix well until all the ingredients are evenly incorporated.
- Once the scallops are cooked, remove them from the air fryer and let them rest for a minute.
- Place the cooked scallops in a serving dish and top each scallop with a small dollop of the garlic herb butter.
- Serve the Quick Air Fryer Scallops with Garlic Herb Butter immediately as an appetizer or as a main dish alongside your favorite sides.
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You can find Victoria crocheting, quilting, and creating recipes. She has cooked in restaurants for over 20 years, including many larger parties. She learned to crochet when she was just 11 years old and has been crocheting ever since; over 50 years now. Over 40 years ago, she loved her first class in sewing and continues to hone her skills in quilting. Many have enjoyed the handmade gifts over the years. In her professional career, she has worked in management in a wide variety of businesses including higher education as a dean of a division. All the while attending college part-time to achieve her doctorate in higher education with an emphasis in e-learning.