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Scallops are wonderfully delicious seafood that is often served in gourmet restaurants for quite a high price. Most commonly you will see cooked scallops, however, like with most other forms of seafood, there are people who will regularly eat scallops raw. Can you eat scallops raw though? Or must they always be cooked?

Can You Eat Raw Scallops?

Depending on who you ask this question, you may receive contradictory information. This is because to many people, scallops are always cooked and that is the only way they have seen them eaten.

That said though, this doesn’t mean that scallops shouldn’t be eaten raw. Contrary to popular belief, unlike something like raw potatoes, scallops are perfectly safe to be eaten raw. In fact, many people will only eat fresh scallops and nerve-cooked ones. 

Should You Eat Raw Scallops?

Whilst you can eat raw scallops, does that necessarily mean that you should though?

Well, that depends really on if you buy fresh scallops or frozen scallops. 

This is because a raw freshly opened scallop will smell and taste delicious. When eaten fresh raw scallops will have a mild ocean flavour with a hint of sweetness and succulent texture. Therefore these should absolutely be eaten raw.

Meanwhile, frozen scallops will often be waterlogged and filled with preservatives. As a result, biting into uncooked scallops of this nature will just give you a mouthful of briny water. However, when you cook frozen scallops, this unpleasantness is removed, leaving a delicious nutty yet buttery taste.

Can you Eat Scallops Raw?

The Benefits Of Eating Scallops Raw

When cooked, much of the scallop’s natural flavour is lost and if overdone, cooked scallops may burst in your mouth. However, whilst raw scallops taste delicious, that is not the only benefit of eating them uncooked.

A raw scallop that is eaten fresh is also in fact much healthier than a cooked one. This is because when cooked scallops lose most of their beneficial nutrients as these will either be destroyed, leech out, or be absorbed by the cooking fat.

Additionally, cooked scallops are typically fried. Due to this, they will inevitably end up becoming more fatty and calorie-dense than raw scallops as a result of being cooked in oil or fat.

The Risks With Eating Raw Scallops

Whilst eating fresh scallops raw should be safe, there are some potential risks if you aren’t careful when doing so. The potential risks associated with eating raw scallops are as follows:

  • Bacteria: When scallops are not fresh or have been frozen for prolonged periods of time, there is a risk that they will contain high amounts of foodborne bacteria. If such a scallop were to be consumed raw, there is, therefore, the risk of it making you ill due to food poisoning. Fortunately, this type of bacteria should not be present in fresh scallops.
  • Contamination: Often times wild scallops will grow estuaries, which in most cases pose no issue. However, in some cases, the water within such areas may contain contaminants, typically due to manmade pollution. Fortunately, this is uncommon, however, to be extra safe it is often wise to buy sea scallops or ones from reputable scallop farms 

Due to the risks above, if unsure where your scallops were sourced from or how fresh they are it is best to cook them in order to destroy the contaminants. If they are sourced from somewhere trusted and are fresh, however, then they should be safe to eat raw.

Can you Eat Scallops Raw?

How To Ensure You Eat Fresh Raw Scallops

When buying scallops with the intention of eating them raw, it’s important to ensure that you get fresh, uncontaminated scallops. Not only will this ensure that you will always have delicious scallops, but it will also avoid making your raw scallops risky to eat. Finding good quality scallops may intimidate you at first, however, so long as you adhere to the following guidelines, you can’t go wrong:

  1. Always ensure that the scallops are fresh. You can do so by smelling them as fresh ones will smell of the ocean, whilst not-so-fresh ones will have a whiff of ammonia. Additionally, fresh scallops can often be identified by if they were caught by a day boat scallop fisherman or not. This is because these types of scallops will have been fished typically within the previous twenty-four hours.
  2. Look for scallops free of preservatives. These scallops will often be described as “dry” as they will not have been frozen or soaked in anything. Additionally, they will also have a firmness to them similar to pork or beef. Colourwise, instead of being a light white they will be either dark white, pale orange, or light pink.
  3. When you’ve bought your scallops, you’ll need to wash them well before consumption. Not doing so can make you ill, however, cleaning them is easy. First, they should be soaked in cold, fresh water for two hours, following which they should be rinsed several times before eating them.

How To Serve Raw Scallops

When eating good quality raw scallops you will notice that they are deliciously mild, salty, and slightly sweet in flavour whilst being reminiscent of the ocean. 

Really the beauty of something like raw scallops, aside from the flavour is how simply they can be enjoyed. Many fishermen for example will enjoy raw scallops by themselves. 

However, most people who eat raw scallops tend to prefer them lightly seasoned with a few drops of lime or lemon juice, along with a small amount of olive oil. As such, they can be excellent when eaten with a light salad.

Perhaps the most famous way that raw scallops will be eaten though is as, the Italian dish carpaccio. This is simply thin slices of raw scallop served with ingredients such as tomatoes, garlic, shallots, olive oil, lemon, basil, and rosemary. The beauty of this dish lies in its simplicity and quick preparation along with the deliciously light and fresh flavours of the dish.

Can you Eat Scallops Raw?

How To Make Cooked Scallops

If however, you’re not a fan of raw scallops or can only get your hands on processed scallops, then they are still delicious when cooked. In fact, when cooked, they are very different from when eaten raw as they take on more of a buttery and slightly nutty flavour. Additionally, the top and bottom of the scallops will be deliciously browned and slightly crispy. In order to properly cook scallops adhere to the steps below for excellent results:

  1. Roughly half an hour before cooking remove your scallops from the fridge and leave them on the countertop.
  2. Over very high heat, add some olive oil to a frying pan.
  3. Lightly season your scallops as the oil warms up.
  4. When the oil in the pan is sizzling, add your scallops.
  5. After 90 seconds flip them over and leave them still.
  6. After another 90 seconds remove them from the pan.

If done correctly you should notice a tender browned crust on both sides of the scallop. Scallops are wonderfully quick to cook, however, avoid overcooking as scallops tend to become incredibly hard and rubbery when overdone.

Can you Eat Scallops Raw?

Answered: Can You Eat Raw Scallops?

Scallops can indeed be eaten raw. In fact, fresh “day boat, dry” scallops are often considered more delicious and healthy when raw than when fried. This is to the point where one of Italy’s most popular dishes carpaccio, often features thinly sliced raw scallops.

However, when talking about processed or frozen scallops they will often be much nicer when fried. Additionally, they will also be safer to consume since any contaminants will be eliminated by the high heat.

Whichever way you most enjoy scallops though, they are ultimately a culinary treat that is safe to eat either raw or cooked. So, if you’ve never tried a raw scallop, what are you waiting for?

FAQ – Can You Eat Scallops Raw?

Is it bad to eat raw scallops?

When fresh and sourced from reputable sources scallops are perfectly safe to eat. In fact, many people prefer raw scallops over cooked ones as raw scallops are mild and slightly sweet and contain lots of beneficial nutrients. However, most of this is unfortunately lost when they’re cooked.

Do scallops have to be fully cooked?

Scallops do not have to be cooked all the way through, or cooked at all for that matter as fresh ones can be eaten raw. When cooking them a minute and a half on each side is sufficient with any further cooking being likely to ruin them.

What can happen if you eat undercooked scallops?

There will often be no adverse effects from eating undercooked scallops as fresh raw scallops are perfectly safe to eat. However, contaminated scallops from polluted water sources should always be thoroughly washed and cooked.

Can scallops be raw in the middle?

Scallops may be raw in the middle if undercooked slightly. However, they will still be edible as fresh raw scallops are eaten quite often in various parts of the world such as with carpaccio in Italy. That said if eating frozen scallops or ones sourced from polluted water sources you may wish to ensure they’re fully cooked to be completely safe.