How to Tell If Scallops Are Bad?

If you are a die-hard seafood fan, scallops might be the food of your dreams. Scallops are seafood belonging to the shellfish family and are known for their succulent texture and delicate flavor.

They are rich in Vitamin B, iron, omega 3, and protein, making them one of the healthiest seafood.

Cooking some pan-fried scallops can spruce up your dinnertime routine, making them memorable.

However, scallops are delicate creatures that can go bad very fast. Raw scallops tend to spoil rapidly within two hours if left at room temperature.

To keep the scallops fresh for a long time, they must be refrigerated.

Generally speaking, scallops can stay fresh in the fridge for 1-2 days. You can freeze them to store for a more extended period. Once the scallops become slimy and emit a fishy smell, you need to throw them away. Eating spoiled scallops can cause stomach problems and may lead to food poisoning.

In this article, we will discuss how to know when the scallops have gone bad and ways you can store them to extend their shelf life.

Continue reading to find out how you can enjoy scallops and make the best use at each stage.

close up of pan seared sea scallops.
Pan seared sea scallops

How to know when scallops are bad?

Fresh scallops have a slightly salty-sweet, buttery taste with a tender texture when fresh.

When cooked, they absorb the flavor of the seasoning and can be pretty delicious and succulent.

When scallops start to go bad, they lose their natural beige or pinkish color and become slimy in texture.

They also emit a lingering pungent and fishy smell which is in sharp contrast to a nearly odorless fresh scallop.

 To prevent scallops from getting spoiled, you need to refrigerate them as soon as possible.

Place the scallops in airtight containers or cover them in aluminum foil or plastic wrap to keep them fresh for a longer time.

Is It Ok to Eat Scallops with a Fishy Smell?

Fresh scallops have a musty sweet smell resembling seaweed. They must not smell fishy at all.

Having bad scallops can cause seafood poisoning with severe symptoms like vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea. 

If you find your scallops smelling like ammonia, discard them immediately as they have probably gone sour.

Eating spoiled scallops can cause stomach upsets and cause diarrhea, stomach cramps, vomiting, and chills. In the worst case, you might get food poisoning and can land in a hospital.

To avoid spoilage, you need to refrigerate them as soon as possible or keep them frozen to preserve them for a longer time.

How Long Do Scallops Stay Fresh?

If kept on the countertop, raw scallops can go bad in a couple of hours.

Remember that when you get the scallops from the market, they have already spent a lot of time outside since they were caught in the open sea or harvested in water bodies.

To preserve them for an extended time, you need to store them in a refrigerator or freeze them to increase their shelf life.

Follow the chart below to get an idea of how storing scallops can prolong their shelf life.



On Countertop(Room Temperature)70 ° F1-2 Hours
Refrigerator(32-34) ° F1-2 Days
Freezer0° F3-6 Months

Storing Scallops in the Fridge

To keep the scallops fresh, you need to store them in a refrigerator as soon as possible.

Scallops after purchase can be stored in the fridge for 1-2 days. Keep the scallops in their original package, unopened to maximize shelf life.

If you have removed the contents, store the scallops in an airtight box or wrap them in aluminum foil to extend their freshness.

If you want to keep the scallops for an extended time, you can freeze them.

How Long Can Scallops Last in the Freezer?

If not planning to eat right away, scallops can be stored in the freezer to extend their shelf life. 

Scallops can be frozen by wrapping them in plastic and freezing them in the coldest section of the refrigerator. It can last up to 3 months.

To freeze the scallops, put them in a moisture-sealed wrap or freezer bag and seal them using a vacuum seal.

Make sure to label the bag, noting down the packing date and the expiry date before putting them in the coldest freezer section.

Are Frozen Scallops Good to Eat?

Although seafood is best if eaten fresh, frozen scallops can be eaten if fresh ones are unavailable.

You can cook frozen scallops directly without thawing them.

The scallops must be cooked till the food reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees. However, you might not get the same taste as fresh scallops in such a case.

Frozen meat scallops in vacuum package
Frozen scallops.

How to Tell When Frozen Scallops Are Bad?

Scallops can stay fresh when frozen for up to 3 months. Anytime over that can make them go bad.

While frozen scallops do not have an odor, bad ones can release an unpleasant fishy odor. In addition, they will be slimy to touch and have a dull color.

Are Freezer-Burned Scallops Good to Eat?

Your scallops can be freezer burned if stored in the freezer for a long time. Freezer burn occurs due to dehydration on the surface of frozen food because of exposure to air. 

Scallops can be freezer burned if they have ice crystals on their surface. In addition, they can look dull and discolored, having dry spots on their surface.

Freezer burn will not necessarily make the scallops harmful to eat. Still, it can cause discoloration on their body and affect their flavor and texture.

Defrosting Scallops before Cooking

You can thaw frozen scallops by transferring them to your fridge overnight. Take out the frozen scallops from the packing.

Place them in a wide dish, cover them with plastic wrap, and store them in the refrigerator overnight for thawing.

If you do not have time, you can put the frozen scallops in a strainer and pour warm water over them to speed up the thawing process.

How Long Will Thawed Scallop Last in the Fridge?

Once defrosted, scallops can be stored in the refrigerator for three days. It is even better to consume within a day or two.

Keep the scallops dry by patting them with a towel before storing them in an airtight container.

Scallops must never be stored in the water while keeping them in the fridge as they will lose their nutrients and go bad quicker.

How to Tell That the Thawed Scallops Are Bad?

If thawed and refrigerated scallops look dull and lack color, emit a fishy odor, and feel slimy, it has probably gone bad and should be disposed of immediately.

Eating a sour scallop can result in food poisoning with severe symptoms.

Proper Way to Cook Scallops

You can cook scallops fresh right after getting them from the store or refrigerate or freeze them for later use.

If using right away, you need to wash the scallops under running water to remove the dirt, especially when they are raw and fresh.

However, soaking in water can make them soggy as they would absorb the moisture like a sponge and become less flavorful.

Store-bought scallops can release a milky liquid when cooking that can be harmful if not washed properly.

Are Scallops in Milky Liquid Bad?

If store-bought scallops release a milky liquid when cooking, they have been treated with sodium tripolyphosphate(STPP). They are chemicals used to treat scallops to make them extra moist.

Food grade STPP is generally safe when used in food by following good manufacturing practices as per FDA guidelines.

However, some consumers might consider it a health hazard as it is used in detergents and can cause allergic reactions when consumed.

Can Scallops Be Eaten Raw or Undercooked?

Cooking scallops can be a tricky process. They can turn rubbery if cooked for a longer time. It is best to eat scallops by gently searing and using simple seasonings.

Any attempt to overcook them can make their texture dry and rubbery, making them inedible. It is always better to cook seafood thoroughly to avoid food poisoning.

Top view of raw seafood scallops meat on shells with a wooden background.
Raw scallops.

How to Remove the Fishy Smell While Cooking Scallops?

Scallops are seafood and can emit a fishy smell while cooking. You can soak the scallops in milk before cooking to remove the scent.

Marinating them with lemon and grated ginger can also remove the fishy taste and smell before cooking scallops.

How to Store Cooked Scallops?

To increase the lifespan of the cooked scallops, they must be refrigerated after cooking.

Cooked scallops can be packed inside airtight containers or wrapped in aluminum foil or plastic wrap and refrigerated for 3-4 days. 

If you want to store them for a longer period, it is best to freeze them. Cooked scallop, when frozen, can last for 2 to 3 months.

Before storing, allow the cooked scallops to come down to room temperature.

Avoid putting the scallops in the fridge or freezer while it is still hot as moisture will get trapped in the container making the scallops go bad faster.

Final Thoughts

You can have scallops raw or in cooked form if they are fresh and free from any chemicals. You can also store them in the fridge or freezer for future use.

Make sure the scallops have a healthy color and texture and do not have a fishy odor at the time of consumption.

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