Perfectly Pan Seared Scallops (Video!)

Close up of golden brown seared scallops with a lemon.

5 from 2 reviews

Learn how to make restaurant quality pan seared scallops at home! This easy recipe results in perfectly seared scallops that are caramelized on the outside and buttery tender on the inside. 


  • 1 lb dry sea scallops or diver scallops
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • thyme, garlic or other aromatics (optional)
  • lemon, for serving


  1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the oil.
  2. Pat the scallops very dry with paper towels, then season on one side with salt and pepper RIGHT before cooking and no sooner. 
  3. Carefully place the scallops in the hot oil, seasoned side down, and let cook, undisturbed for about 2 minutes or until nicely browned around the bottom. Season the other side while they cook. 
  4. The scallops should easily release from the pan once they brown. Flip, lower the heat, then add the butter and aromatics if using. 
  5. Tilt the pan to the side and use a spoon to baste the scallops with the melted butter for about 30 seconds to 1 minute depending on their size and desired level of doneness. 
  6. The scallops are done when they look mostly opaque throughout. I prefer my scallops medium to medium well so I remove them when they are still a bit translucent in the center. 
  7. Remove the scallops from the pan and serve immediately with lemons on the side. 


  • Rinse the scallops under cold water to remove any sand that may be present, then pat them very, very dry. This is essential for them to get beautifully caramelized as they sear. 
  • Season your scallops on both sides with salt and pepper RIGHT before cooking. If you do it any sooner, the salt will draw out their moisture, making them wet again and preventing caramelization.
  • A cast iron skillet is perfect for pan-searing scallops since the cast iron holds heat so well. Avoid a non-stick pan, which will prevent the scallops from browning.
  • For the perfect sear, get the pan nice and hot. I prefer using oil to sear the scallops and butter to finish, which adds great flavor.  
  • Do not walk away from the pan, and do not disturb the scallops until at least 2 minutes have passed. You want them to sit on the hot pan and caramelize, so leaving them undisturbed is essential. 
  • Do not overcook! Leaving the scallops in the pan for just a minute too long will turn their buttery texture into rubber. As the scallops cook, they will become opaque. Remove them from the pan while the center is still slightly translucent - they will finish cooking to perfection on the plate. 


Keywords: pan seared scallops, how to cook scallops, pescatarian main dish