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Can You Eat Scallops Raw? One Tricky Question Answered

Can You Eat Scallops Raw? One Tricky Question Answered

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The topic of eating raw food is always a controversial one. It is really not a surprise because there are so many risks that raw food bears that you just can’t stay indifferent. This is especially the case with seafood.

Seafood, in general, is very healthy. In many cases, it can be eaten both raw and cooked and will provide you with a lot of health benefits since it is usually a good source of  important nutrients.

However, there are cases in which you should not eat this type of food raw at any cost. In today’s article, I will try to answer the question of whether you can eat scallops raw. Scallops are a type of seafood, i.e. a type of shellfish called mollusk, that belongs to the Pectinidae family.

Here, I will just say that it can be eaten both raw and cooked. But, there is always a “but”.

In some cases, it is not recommended to eat scallop raw, and in this article, I will show you what those cases are and I will try to answer some other questions closely related to this topic.

Can You Eat Scallops Raw?

Yes, you can eat scallops raw. You just have to make sure that your scallops are freshly pulled out of the sea and that they are not soaked in water and some preservatives like sodium tripolyphosphate.

When you buy scallops, always ask for “dry” and “day-boat” scallops because those scallops are suitable for eating raw.

How To Choose The Best Raw Scallops?

As you can see, the answer to the question of whether you can eat scallops raw is positive, but you need to know how to choose the right scallops, i.e. the fresh scallops.

Processed Scallops

In order to understand that, you need to know how scallop fishermen catch those sea scallops. First, they drag scallops in the short winter season. Most of the scallops are caught by big boats during the 14 days-long harvesting season.

Then, all of those scallops, no matter if they were caught on day one or day fourteen, end up on ice in a cavernous space in the hull of the boat.

After the trip ends, they are transported to the supermarket, local grocery store, or your local fishery. After those 14 days, plus the time frame in which they are transported to the coast and to the supermarket, they can not remain fresh very much longer.

Besides that, during those 14 days at sea, scallops stay in the ice that eventually melts, and they soak up that excess water, and it is important to know that it is not fresh water.

And, that is not the end of the story. When scallops reach the supermarket, they go through another soak in sodium tripolyphosphate.

That way, marketers make sure that scallops maintain good with time, but you end up with scallops full of water and preservatives that shouldn’t be eaten raw.

So, if you notice a briny water balloon on the adductor muscle of your store-bought scallops, do not eat them raw. It is not that those are bad scallops, but it is just that they are more suitable for cooking than for eating raw.

Fresh Scallops

Fresh scallops on a white background

If you want to buy fresh scallops, you need to know how to choose fresh ones. The first thing I will recommend to you is to find a fishmonger or some company that you really trust.

As I explained above, supermarkets usually take scallops that have been caught on the 14 day trips. Those scallops are called “trip-boat” scallops. If you want your scallops fresh, do not buy those.

Instead, find so-called “day-boat” scallops that were transported from the sea to the coast the same day they were caught. Those kinds of scallops haven’t been soaked in excess cold water or in any type of preservatives.

So, those scallops are usually called “dry” to some extent because they haven’t been soaked. That doesn’t mean that they are really dry in terms of the flavor profile, but that is just the attribute for scallops that are not processed.

All in all, when buying fresh scallops, “dry” and “day-boat” scallops are what you should look for.

How To Eat Scallops Raw?

It is definitely not a bad thing to eat scallops uncooked, i.e. raw scallops. You have to be aware that it is not a good idea to consume raw scallops if they are processed. If you are able to find fresh scallops, i.e. dry or day-boat scallops, it is perfectly fine to eat them raw.

Make Sure That The Scallops Are Fresh

When you buy them and before you eat them, it is not a bad idea to double-check if they are really fresh. First, you need to look if they are alive. It is medium-rare that scallops are really alive because they have a very short shelf life.

You will likely find freshly shucked scallops, with the scallop roe removed, directly transported from the sea to the shore. Those types of scallops are exactly what you should be looking for.

They smell fresh or sea-like and they come in a variety of colors, from light white to kind of off-white.

When it comes to their texture, fresh scallops have a firm, almost dry texture. However, if you notice any excess water, that is a sign that the scallops are processed.

Also, if the scallops are very white in color, it is most likely that they are not fresh and you shouldn’t eat them raw.

Eat Fresh Scallops Raw

When you are sure that the scallops that you bought are fresh, you are free to eat them raw. When it comes to scallops taste, you will notice that they have a mild and salty flavor with some sweet undertones.

They are also very refreshing and that is the main reason why so many fishermen tend to eat them without any seasonings. But, most ordinary people tend to add some seasonings when eating scallops raw. The most popular ones include olive oil and a few drops of lime and lemon juice.

You can incorporate those into a light and fresh salad, along with some salt, pepper, apple cider vinegar, chives, and garlic. You will get a delicious and refreshing salad that you can enjoy at any time.

But, I have to say that probably the most popular dish that incorporates scallops is the Italian dish called Carpaccio. It is a very easy raw scallops recipe that includes thin slices of raw scallops alongside shallots, lemon juice, rosemary, basil, garlic, and tomatoes.

If you want to experience the charms of the Mediterranean in all its glory, I warmly recommend you try this amazing Italian dish.

What Do You Eat Scallops With When They Are Cooked?

grilled scallops with asparagus and creamy espuma

If you can not find fresh scallops, if you are not a fan of raw scallops, or if you are just afraid of pathogens, you can always cook them. Cooked scallops are great substitutes for raw ones in these cases.

Clean Your Scallops

Before you incorporate them into your favorite scallop dish, it is important to clean them properly. Unlike some other types of shellfish like mussels, clams, etc., scallops are relatively easy to clean.

You just have to rinse the shells under running cold water to get rid of sand and other impurities. When you are done cleaning them by using water, you can let them dry.

After drying them properly, you have to get rid of the side muscles that are attached to the shell. The main reason for this is the toughness that causes them to be inedible. All you have to do is to pinch them with your fingers and pull those tissues out.

Cook Them And Add Your Favorite Ingredients

When it comes to cooking scallops, there are various ways to do that and there are also many types of ingredients that you can add to your cooked scallops. Cooking methods that can be used when making scallops include baking, searing, poaching, frying, and boiling.

Most often, scallops are fried. When you prepare them that way, their flavor profile becomes very different from that of raw scallops. They take on a buttery and slightly nutty flavor. They also become brown in color and slightly crispy in texture.

Alongside frying, you can also use the poaching method. You will do that if you are planning to mix scallops into your salad.

You can also bake them and combine them with butter and cheese, alongside your favorite herbs and spices.

If you want to make a delicious, warm scallop soup then boiling is your best bet. All you have to do is add some vegetables and you will achieve a delicious and healthy scallop soup.

Searing is another popular way to cook scallops. You don’t need many additional ingredients. All you have to do is to toast all sides of the scallops until they are crispy and add a bit of olive oil alongside herbs and spices.

Are Scallops Good For Your Health?

Raw scallops with lemon, cilantro and white wine on black stone slate plate

Just like the majority of other seafood, scallops are very healthy. They are reputable sources of many important nutrients including iron, potassium, phosphorus, vitamin B12, and selenium.

They are also packed with omega-3 fatty acids that are good for your heart, nervous system, and brain. They also contain high amounts of zinc, which is an essential mineral great for balancing your hormones and improving your memory, as well as your immune system.

And there are also antioxidants and vitamin B12, which, combined, can improve your overall cognitive function.

Scallops can also help with high blood pressure, weight management, and physical recovery. The fatty acids in scallops can also help with blood flow and to reduce clots that lead to stroke.

Also, take into consideration that raw scallops are much healthier than cooked ones. Cooked scallops won’t maintain all those beneficial nutrients. That is most likely in the case of fried scallops since they become fattier and calorie-dense because of being cooked in oil or fat.


Are Scallops Bad For You?

If you consume fresh scallops, it won’t hurt you. In fact, they can provide you with some amazing health benefits.

However, if the scallops are not fresh or if they have been frozen for more than 3 months, there is a chance of harmful bacteria growth, like e.coli, that can lead to food poisoning or foodborne illnesses such as salmonella.

Also, since scallops grow in estuaries and feed on the microorganisms that live in that water, the scallops might be dangerous for consumption if the water is contaminated.
Because of that, always look to buy scallops from reputable scallop farms.

Can You Get Sick From Undercooked Scallops?

Although it doesn’t happen quite often, you can get sick from undercooked scallops just as you would from raw scallops. That is mostly the case when scallops are harvested from contaminated waters.

So, as a precaution, always cook your scallops long enough. To be safe, you can also check if there is a seal of approval from WWF, Aquaculture of Stewardship Council, or Seafood Watch.

These are all the organizations that regulate seafood.

Are Scallops Served Raw In Sushi?

Scallops are served raw in sushi. You can enjoy raw scallops in sushi alongside some other ingredients including sushi rice, wasabi, rice vinegar, and a delicious topping made of chives, mayo, and yuzu-flavored tobiko.

Raw scallops can also be used in some other Japanese dishes similar to sushi like sashimi. Just make sure that the scallops are fresh, that they don’t come from contaminated waters, and that they are not processed.

Find this great snow crab roll sushi recipe, one of the most popular in Japan.

What Is The Best Way To Cook Scallops?

The most popular way to cook scallops is to pan-fry them. You first have to add some olive oil to a frying pan and season your scallops while the oil heats up. When the oil is sizzling, you can add your seasoned scallops and fry them for 90 seconds on each side.

That way, you will achieve nicely brown and tender scallops that are slightly crispy. They will also have a buttery and slightly nutty flavor that your taste buds won’t be able to resist.

Eating Raw Scallops

Generally speaking, the answer to the question of whether you can eat scallops raw is positive. However, you have to be aware that it is not recommended to consume raw scallops that have been processed.

Being processed means that they were soaked in water and in some preservatives, including sodium tripolyphosphate that tend to keep them watery. So, when you are buying scallops at the fisheries, ask for “dry” and “day-boat” scallops since those are the fresh ones.

If you don’t like raw scallops or if you are not sure about their freshness, you can always cook them. They won’t maintain those benefits that raw ones can provide you, but they will still be good enough to please your body, as well as your taste buds.