Fresh seafood is oh so tasty but is also something that may not be accessible to many of us throughout the year. If you want to enjoy delicious scallops but don’t have the option to eat them directly from the sea, frozen scallops are a great option.
Whether you freeze leftover scallops or purchase them already frozen, it’s important to know the food safety recommendations when cooking with and eating this nautical ingredient.
Generally speaking, you can freeze scallops for up to 3-6 months safely. Make sure the container is airtight and that your freezer is working properly at 0 degrees Fahrenheit to maintain the best flavor and texture.
Continue on to find out the best ways to keep your scallops fresher longer in the freezer and delicious recipes to make when it’s time to start cooking again.
Guide To Freezing Scallops
You can keep scallops in the refrigerator for up to 2 days but anything longer than that and they should be frozen. It’s important to keep scallops cold, even while transporting them from the store. Like most seafood, scallops are very susceptible to spoiling. This can lead to bad flavor and food poisoning.
Tip: Bring a small cooler with ice to the store if you know you will be purchasing scallops. Put them in the cooler to take them home and then take them directly to the freezer.
If you bought your scallops frozen at the store, they are almost certainly already in a container that you can put directly into your own freezer. You can find scallops in the freezer section of your grocery store or the seafood counter. Those sold at the seafood counter have usually been previously frozen.
If you are bringing home fresh scallops, lucky you! It’s best to cook them that day or maybe the following day. Otherwise, store them in the freezer to keep them fresh.
Freezing Fresh Scallops
Make sure that the scallops are dry before freezing them. The best way to do this is to pat both sides of the scallops with a paper towel to dry them.
Wrap each scallop in plastic wrap or a similar reusable product. The goal of this step is to cover the surface of the scallop as thoroughly as possible to prevent air from getting to the scallop when it is in the freezer.
Place the scallops in a freezer-safe bag that can seal. Ziploc brand freezer bags are my favorite because they are available at the grocery store, don’t require a special trip or order, and are economical.
Tip: Freeze your scallops in one single layer. If you stack them inside the bag, it will take longer to freeze, which can lower the nutrient content and flavor. It will also take longer for them to defrost when you want to cook them.
Press any extra air out of the bag. If you have a vacuum seal system, it will work great with scallops. You might need to use the specialty bags that work with your vacuum sealer, which often come in a kit.
You can safely freeze scallops in a hard plastic container that is made for the freezer. Because it’s best to freeze scallops in a single layer, you will likely end up with extra room (air) in the container. This isn’t an issue if you only freeze them for a short time but will reduce the shelf life if they are in the freezer for more than 3 months.
Freezing scallops in a storage container that is too big is also an inefficient use of your freezer space and may actually cause your freezer to use more energy than if it was stocked efficiently.
You can store frozen scallops in your freezer for up to 3-6 months. After 6 months, they may start to lose some of their flavors and get tough. To prevent this, make sure that you store them in an airtight container or bag and keep them in the coldest part of your freezer.
Freezing Cooked Scallops
If you have already prepared a dish and have leftovers, freezing them is a great way to keep them for another day. Cooked scallops can be frozen similarly to fresh scallops, with a few additional steps if you have sauce or other parts of the dish.
For seared scallops, freeze the scallops themselves in a single layer. You do not need to rinse them or pat them dry, especially if they have been seasoned or have sauce.
If you have made sauce for your dish, freeze it in a separate container. The scallops and the sauce will defrost and cook at different rates. Freezing them separately will allow you to customize your reheat process. The sauce can likely be reheated in the microwave or saucepan.
If you made seafood stew with scallops, you can freeze it together in one container. Make sure to allow plenty of time for it to defrost, since there are many ingredients that need to thaw before you can heat it again.
You can put leftover cooked scallops in the freezer for up to 4 months. You may be limited to a shorter freezer time due to the other ingredients in your recipe, such as butter or cream.
Frozen-cooked scallops can get tough when you reheat them but they are still safe to eat. Like with any other frozen food, if it looks or smells odd, it’s best not to eat it.
Tip: Write the date that you froze your dish on the outside of the container. This will help you remember when you need to eat it. Put the newer additions to your freezer in the back and move the dishes that you need to eat sooner to the front.
Tips For Thawing Frozen Scallops
The best way to thaw scallops is to let them defrost overnight in the refrigerator. This keeps the scallops at a safe temperature as they defrost.
Because you froze your scallops in a single layer, they will defrost pretty quickly. If you put them in the fridge before you go to bed, they will be defrosted and ready to cook for dinner the next day. You should use them within 1 or 2 days, but sooner is better to keep harmful bacteria from growing.
Tip: Put your freezer-safe package of scallops in a bowl. This will keep any condensation or leaks from making your fridge messy and potentially contaminating other foods.
You can also defrost scallops by submerging them (still in their airtight freezer bag) in a bowl of cold water. This works faster to bring the temperature up without venturing into unsafe temps. If you use this method, you should prepare and eat your scallops that day.
Using the defrost setting on your microwave is another safe way to thaw scallops. Because each microwave can be slightly different, it can be easy to overdo it and end up with mushy scallops or underdo it and have scallops that are still frozen in the middle. This is my least favorite method but it is an option that will work.
Once you have defrosted your scallops, it’s better to prepare and eat them right away. Scallops are very prone to spoiling. Any time that they spend at room temperature increases the chances that they spoil and make you sick.
Refreezing scallops can also impact the taste and texture. Fresh scallops are usually the best tasting and have the best texture.
Scallops that have been frozen multiple times can taste bland or fishy and have an unpleasant mushy texture. Even if they don’t make you sick, it’s still not fun to eat a dish that tastes bad.
Tip: If your scallops look slimy or smell bad, throw them out. They have probably spoiled and will lead to food poisoning.
Best Ways to Cook Frozen Scallops
There are plenty of ways to cook frozen scallops but the best is to focus on getting a crispy outside crust while keeping the tender meat inside.
You can do this with an air fryer or a hot pan. It is a good idea to spray the scallops to keep them from sticking. You can also use butter or your preferred cooking oil, although it should have a high smoke point. Avocado oil or grapeseed oil work well.
When you sear your scallops, try not to move them while they cook. You can flip them once to sear them on each side. Only cook for a few minutes per side, since overcooking scallops will lead to a chewy, tough dish.
If you are going to season your scallops, it’s best to do this after you pat them dry but before you place them in your air fryer or pan.
Yummy Recipes For Scallops
Now for the fun part! Check out these tasty and easy recipes to use your scallops:
Cook dry scallops in a hot skillet with butter. Sear for 1-2 minutes per side. Serve with melted butter with a splash of lemon.
Another option to get that delicious crunch on the outside and tender sweetness on the inside is grilled scallops. You can add spices or a rub for extra flavor.
Tip: Look for a grill pan that will work with scallops. The grates on some outdoor grills are too large, causing the scallops to fall through.
Mediterranean flavors work really well with fish stews. You can use a variety of seafood, including scallops, mussels, shrimp, and fish.
This seafood stew combines a tomato broth with seafood, wine, herbs, and plenty of garlic. I like to make it with a piece of crusty bread on the side to soak up every drop of its delicious and hearty flavor.
You can use just about anything to create a tasty, crunchy crust on the outside of your scallops. Coat the scallops before you sear them, still cooking for only a minute or two on each side. Some personal favorites include pistachios, panko, parmesan, and crushed potato chips.
This is one of my favorite ways to eat scallops. Cook mushrooms with butter, white wine, and herbs, then poach scallops in the broth that forms. Remove mushrooms and scallops after just a few minutes, then add heavy cream to create a cream sauce.
Place scallops over a base of the mushrooms, then top with cream sauce. Add Gruyere cheese and broil until the cheese is brown and bubbly. This is a really rich, decadent dish that will really make an impact.
Scallops are a delicious seafood option that cooks quickly and can really wow your dinner guests. You can keep them in the freezer safely for 3-6 months. Just be sure to cook them right away after you defrost them to keep your chances of food poisoning down.
There are plenty of delicious recipes to make with scallops for every taste, skill level, and budget. If you do have leftovers, you can freeze them for up to 4 months to enjoy on another day.
Katie is an experienced writer, who wrote for big magazines like The Spruce. She is also a mom of three (Sebastian, Lincoln, and Hannah). In her spare time, she likes to read, day hike, and explore hidden gems around her home in North Carolina. You can connect with Katie on Instagram @katiebwriter or her website, www.katiemelynnbegley.com.