Scallops are a true delicacy, and one of our best sellers. For good reason, they are sweet, succulent and delicious in so many seafood recipes. We love them quickly seared, fried or grilled. They’re also delightful sautéed and added to pasta or risotto for a quick weeknight dinner. Let's get to know scallops with our Head of Quality Control, Robert DiGregorio.
Almost all fresh scallops eaten in the United States are East Coast sea scallops. In fact, the U.S. Atlantic scallop fishery is the largest wild scallop fishery in the world. They’re fished from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Cape Hatteras, with New Jersey and Massachusetts being the largest producers.
In 2019, 62.5 million pounds of scallops were harvested, and I know that sounds like a lot, but like all U.S. fisheries it is highly regulated and closely watched. In 1994 a new set of management regulations were implemented to curb overfishing. There was a moratorium on permits, limited fishing days at sea, gear and crew restrictions, and certain areas closed completely. And it all paid off. Within the first 10 years of implementing these rules, the sea scallop population on Georges Bank increased 18 fold, and by eight fold in the Mid-Atlantic Bight. Since 2015 TDDs (turtle deflector dredges), have been added to offshore equipment to reduce sea turtle mortality, and this has led to a great reduction in sea turtles getting caught in the gear. Federal regulators now consider the fishery healthy, not overfished, and not subject to overfishing. So we can all enjoy wild sea scallops for sale like the ones we are proud to offer at FultonFishMarket.com.
What do scallops taste like?
The muscle that opens and shuts the shells, the adductor muscle, is creamy white with a firm texture, is light yet succulent at the same time. They are not overly-fishy tasting, with a briny, slightly sweet flavor.
Besides our beautiful, dry sea scallops we are proud to offer Northern Bay scallops during the season. This particular scallop is found along the coast of Massechusets to Long Island. Bay scallops are a real treat, especially Nantuckets or Peconic Bays. There are other kinds of bay scallops, for example southern bays and calicos, but Nantuckets and Peconics are unparalleled. They are smaller than sea scallops, and they have beautifully fluted shells, sometimes very colorful, roughly 2 to 2 1/2 inches across. The larger sea scallop shells are typically 3-6 inches.
Bay scallops are smaller than sea scallops. Sea scallops are usually sized U10, U12, and 10/20, meaning under 10 to a pound, under 12 to a pound, or 10-20 to a pound. Bay scallops are 60 to a pound, sometimes smaller. They are fished inshore from small boats with hand rakes or small dredges. This resource is also highly regulated. The equipment is very specific so as not to disrupt the ocean floor and the eel grass which is so important to the bay scallop environment. Fishermen cannot fish if it’s too windy, rainy or too cold, because the bay scallop is very delicate and would die in the cold air. The season usually runs from November until the end of March.
People from Massachusetts and Long Island have a long standing rivalry and the question of who has the better scallop is a matter of some very strong opinion. Technically they are the same animal, but their merroir makes all the difference. Like oysters, the water temperature, salinity, environment, plankton, mud and other factors all lend to the subtle differences in flavor. Despite it all, they are both firm, very sweet, and succulent, like briny candy. They are best enjoyed quickly seared over high heat, or even raw. The less you do to scallops the better they are!
Are scallops healthy?
Yes, scallops are healthy, so go ahead and enjoy more of these beautiful shellfish. Scallops are high in protein, low in fat and calories and full of vitamins and minerals including vitamin B12, selenium and zinc.
What is the difference with wet and dry scallops?
Wet scallops are treated with water and a chemical solution (sodium tripolyphosphate, or STPP) to preserve them and keep them white. They have a faint chemical taste and are near-impossible to sear because of the high water content. They release water when they cook and steam instead of sear.
At FultonFishMarket.com, we only sell dry scallops, which always sear to golden perfection.
Fun fact: Scallops aren’t like clams or oysters. They’re not stuck in the mud, sedentary, waiting to be caught. Scallops have over 100 blue eyes, and they can detect predators getting too close. When they do, they can open and shut their shells very quickly and scoot away like a swimming castanet!
What about skate scallops?
Let me clear up something that I have heard since I started in this business. I have never, in my whole life, seen or heard of anyone “punching” scallops out of skate wings or shark or anything else. I’ve been in this business five decades, I’ve seen all the tricks and I have never once seen such a thing. This rumor still persists on the internet and amongst the public. If I believed it was true for a second I would point a finger at any and everyone guilty. “Scallops” cut out of skate would not even remotely resemble real scallops. Real scallops have a nice firm texture, skate wings have long strands of muscles that easily separate. The wing itself has a cartilage in the middle of it, nothing resembling a real scallop could be punched out of this, believe me. Urban myth, people.