If you've ever tried to cook sea scallops and found your pan full of liquid rather than the caramelized meaty scallops you envisioned, you've experienced the disappointment of wet-packed scallops. The term wet-packed refers to a water or chemical soaking process after the scallops are harvested that increases their weight and extends their shelf life. While this method enhances the scallops' moisture retention, it can compromise their natural flavor, often leaving behind a slightly soapy or chemical taste, and when cooked, all that extra water ends up in your pan. Wet scallops may be more readily available because the processing extends their shelf life, but it's well worth searching out dry-packed scallops instead to avoid that chemical soak.
As the name suggests, dry scallops have not been treated with any chemicals or preservatives. They are shucked directly from the shell and immediately frozen, ensuring a pure, untainted seafood flavor. The absence of added water and chemicals results in a concentrated scallop taste, showcasing the natural sweetness and brininess of the mollusk. Although they are more expensive pound-for-pound, you're not paying for the added water, so you get a much better scallop on your plate.
Read more: 15 Different Ways To Cook Fish
Dry Scallops Are Best For Flavor And Browning
By far the best reason to hunt out dry-pack scallops is that the sweet, natural flavor of scallops is not hidden by the chemical wash involved in the wet-pack process; the excess water absorbed and then released when the scallop hits your hot pan further dilutes that delicate flavor. You can take some steps before cooking to reduce the amount of excess water in wet-packed scallops, but it's hard to recover the natural flavor and texture fully.
Another strong reason to opt for dry-packed scallops is their superior ability to achieve a golden sear in your pan. The reduced moisture content ensures that dry scallops caramelize effectively, creating a delightful crust while maintaining a tender and succulent interior. Wet-packed scallops are too damp to brown -- remember that steam is the enemy of browning. When you are trying to brown a wet scallop, it's easy to overcook it because the moisture prevents good browning, and overcooked scallops are rubbery and tough.
Read the original article on Tasting Table.