How to Thaw Frozen Scallops [3 Easy Options!]

by Charlie
Published: Last Updated on
How to Thaw Frozen Scallops

Fresh sea scallops are one of the great jewels of the ocean. Their sweet and succulent flavor and soft but meaty texture is prized by professional chefs and home cooks alike. Normally, scallops come out of the shell, so they are one of the easiest types of shellfish to prepare for a spectacular seafood dinner.

While fresh scallops are always preferred, sometimes they aren’t available. A less costly choice, frozen scallops make for an excellent substitute as long as they are defrosted carefully and safely. Given their size, thawing frozen scallops can be done quicker than most frozen proteins but there are some very important steps to follow, most importantly that they stay dry.

How do you thaw frozen scallops? Frozen scallops can safely be thawed by leaving in the refrigerator overnight, soaking in cold water, or defrosting in the microwave.

There are several methods for defrosting frozen scallops. Some take longer than others and some are better than others. Which option you choose depends entirely on how quickly you need to use them. Whether you have lots of time or no time at all, there’s a method that will fit your needs. 

Food Safety Tips When Thawing Frozen Scallops

As always, it’s incredibly important to follow proper food handling protocols when defrosting frozen proteins. Maintaining a safe temperature between 35- and 40-degrees Fahrenheit while thawing is essential to preventing any growth of bacteria. Just as important, avoiding any cross-contamination is critical to safe food handling. 

Options for Thawing Frozen Scallops

Thawing Frozen Scallops in the Refrigerator – 12-16 Hours

Since you have planned accordingly, there is plenty of time to thaw frozen scallops using the best method: overnight in the refrigerator. This method takes the longest, but it ensures that the scallops will be perfect when fully thawed. 

A slow and steady gradual defrost almost guarantees that the scallops will be nearly identical to fresh ones. Technically speaking, you should adjust the temperature of the refrigerator to 37 degrees Fahrenheit as this is the optimal temperature for thawing. That said, most modern refrigerators are set to 35 degrees Fahrenheit so you can safely defrost without adjusting the temperature. 

To defrost frozen scallops overnight in the refrigerator, remove them from the original packaging and place them on a plate lined with a couple layers of paper towels. Resting the scallops on paper towels will help to absorb any water throughout the thawing process. Wrap the scallops tightly in plastic wrap to prevent any cross-contamination and leave them on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator overnight.

If you decide not to cook them right away, don’t worry. It’s safe to keep them covered and refrigerated for another day.

Thawing Frozen Scallops in Cold Water – 30-45 Minutes

If you didn’t plan accordingly and forgot to pull the scallops from the freezer last night, not to worry. If you’ve got 30 to 45 minutes, you can safely thaw frozen scallops by submerging them in water. This method may be quicker than defrosting overnight in the refrigerator, there is a greater chance of the scallops taking on some water while they thaw. 

For this method, remove the frozen scallops from the original packaging and place them into a large zip-top plastic bag. Be sure to tightly seal the bag to ensure no water can get in otherwise the scallops will get waterlogged and, trust me, you do not want that. 

Place the bag of scallops into a bowl or container and fill with cold tap water. Adding a handful of ice cubes helps to ensure that the temperature of the water remains nice and cold. After about 30 minutes, give the scallops a squeeze and check to see if they have fully thawed. If not, leave them in the water for another 10 minutes. 

Once fully thawed, remove the scallops from the bag and dry them with paper towels. Make sure to cook them immediately after thawing to prevent spoilage. 

Thawing Frozen Scallops in the Microwave – 1-3 Minutes

If you completely spaced on dinner, don’t freak out. There’s one more method for defrosting frozen scallops, the microwave. Now, using the microwave to defrost a frozen protein should only be used as a last resort as it can make the thawed product come out a little chewy. We can still do our best to make sure that doesn’t happen. 

To thaw frozen scallops in the microwave, remove them from the original packaging and place them in a microwave-safe bowl in a single layer. Using a bowl helps to contain any water during the defrosting process. Place a paper towel on top of the scallops and place them in the microwave. 

Power and defrost settings can vary greatly from machine to machine, so be sure to go by the manufacturer’s recommended instructions when using the microwave to defrost frozen scallops. Most modern microwaves have a “defrost” setting with cook times varying depending on the weight or type of product. 

Follow the instructions given and check the progress every 30 seconds by touching the thickest part of the scallop with your finger. It shouldn’t take more than 3 minutes, but if it does, check every 10-15 seconds to ensure the scallops aren’t cooking as that will mean chewy scallops. Cook the scallops immediately after thawing to prevent spoilage.

Fun Fact: Did you know that what we eat as a scallop is actually the adductor muscle of the mollusk, and its function is to open and close the shell? 

– Charlie

Final Thoughts

  • Scallops are prized by pros and home cooks for their sweet and delicate flavor.
  • Easy to prepare and super quick to cook, scallops make a delicious choice for a seafood dinner.
  • No matter which option you choose, make sure to keep the scallops as dry as possible.
  • Even though it takes the longest, defrosting frozen scallops overnight in the refrigerator is the best choice to ensure a perfectly thawed product ready for the pan.
  • For a quicker option, thawing frozen scallops in water takes less than an hour with minimal drop in quality.
  • If you’re out of time, utilizing the microwave to defrost frozen scallops is the last resort but if you follow the right steps, you should end up with perfectly acceptable scallops ready to cook.

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