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Pan-seared scallops with a lemon butter sauce on a white plate.

Pan-Seared Scallops with Lemon Butter

These Pan-Seared Scallops are prepared using classic techniques and then paired with a simple, delicious lemon butter sauce. This deceptively-easy meal is sure to impress!
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 334kcal


For the scallops:

  • 1 1/2 pounds sea scallops 10 to 20 per pound, preferably dry (see note 1)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter

For the lemon butter sauce:

  • 4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick), cut into 4 pieces
  • 1 small shallot minced (1-2 tablespoons)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme minced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice from 1 lemon
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


To make the scallops:

  • Preheat oven to 200 degrees (to keep cooked scallops warm for a few minutes while preparing lemon butter sauce). To prepare the scallops, examine each one for a side muscle, a square-shaped bit of tissue that runs in the opposite direction as the rest of the muscle. Pull it off by pinching it and tearing it away from the scallop.
  • Line a rimmed baking sheet or plate with a clean kitchen towel. Arrange scallops in a single layer on towel, then cover with a second clean kitchen towel. Press down gently to blot liquid.
  • Let scallops rest at room temperature until towels have absorbed most of their moisture, about 10 minutes. Season both sides of scallops with salt and pepper to taste.
  • In a large skillet over high heat, heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil until just smoking. Add half of the scallops in a single layer, flat-side down. Cook, without moving, until well-browned, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.
  • Add 1 tablespoon butter to the skillet. Using tongs, flip scallops. Continue to cook, using a large spoon to baste each scallop with butter until the sides of scallops are firm and centers are opaque, about 30 to 90 seconds longer (tilt skillet to one side so the butter pools and is easier to scoop). Remove smaller scallops as they finish cooking.
  • Transfer scallops to a large plate and tent loosely with foil. Wipe out skillet with paper towels and repeat with remaining vegetable oil, scallops, and butter. Transfer to oven to keep warm while preparing lemon butter sauce.

To make the lemon butter sauce:

  • In a small, heavy-bottom saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Cook, swirling constantly, until butter turns dark golden brown and has a nutty aroma, about 4 to 5 minutes.
  • Stir in shallots until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove pan from heat and stir in parsley, thyme, and lemon juice.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper (I like 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper). Serve immediately with scallops.



  1. Scallops: You can use either wet or dry scallops in this recipe (see Recipe tips for more information). Thaw frozen scallops in a bowl or on a tray overnight in the refrigerator. For quicker thawing, thaw in their original packaging in a bowl of cold (not warm) water. Turn the faucet on and let a thin trickle of cold water run into the bowl, letting the excess water overflow out of the bowl and down the drain. Do not rinse scallops under running water and do not place directly on ice. Avoid scallops that smell like ammonia or iodine.
  2. Yield: This recipe makes 4 servings (the number of scallops depends on the size you purchased, but probably 3 to 5 scallops per serving if you purchased 10-20 per pound).
  3. Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
  4. Reheat in the oven: Bring the scallops to room temperature for at least 20 minutes. Place in an oven-safe dish, sprinkle with water if dry, and cover with foil. Heat for 10 to 15 minutes or until the scallops reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
  5. Reheat on the stove: Bring the scallops to room temperature for at least 20 minutes. Over medium-low heat, melt 1-2 teaspoons butter. Add scallops and heat for 10 to 15 minutes, flipping occasionally, or until the scallops reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
  6. Wet vs. Dry packed: Wet scallops are pure white and heavy from being treated with sodium tripolyphosphate (STP). Blot wet scallops with a kitchen towel to ensure they get a good sear in the pan. Dry scallops are cream-colored, untreated, more difficult to find, and easier to sear (no excess moisture).


Serving: 6ounces | Calories: 334kcal | Carbohydrates: 7g | Protein: 21g | Fat: 25g | Saturated Fat: 17g | Cholesterol: 86mg | Sodium: 818mg | Potassium: 370mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 609IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 14mg | Iron: 1mg