How To Grill Scallops: The Easiest, Most Flavorful Method

updated Aug 19, 2022
summer
Grilled Scallops with Lemon-Garlic Brown Butter

A step-by-step guide to grilling scallops. The easy lemon-garlic brown butter sauce cooks directly on the grill, too.

Serves4

Prep5 minutes to 10 minutes

Cook10 minutes to 15 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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grilled scallops on a serving platter with lemon wedges
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell

Scallops are delightfully sweet ocean morsels that can be prepared in numerous ways. They can be fried, poached, seared on the stovetop, and even consumed raw (scallop crudo, anyone?). But today, we’re talking about grilling them, which, in my opinion, is the easiest and tastiest way to cook them at home. Here’s how to grill scallops, plus my favorite way to flavor them too (hint: brown butter is involved).

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell

How to Shop for Scallops

If you have the option between purchasing wet or dry scallops, always opt for dry. Wet scallops are treated with water and the preservative STPP, which unnaturally helps the scallops retain excess water. This dilutes their flavor and gives them a tougher texture. These scallops also tend to be older by the time they get to the seller.

Opt for fresh scallops over frozen whenever possible. They will have better flavor and texture than any frozen product. Look for scallops that are a uniform pearly white color and aren’t mangled or shredded.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell

Preparing Scallops for the Grill

First, if you’re using wood or bamboo skewers, soak them for an hour first to keep them from burning over the flames.

Let the grill get nice and hot while you prep the scallops — you’ll need both medium and medium-high heat zones. When the grill has reached the desired temperatures, oil the grill grates to keep the scallops from sticking. I do this by dipping a folded paper towel in oil, then using tongs to rub the oiled towel all over the grates.

As the grill heats, pat the scallops dry and gently pull off the little piece of muscle that may be hanging off one side. (It should peel right off, like string cheese). Thread the scallops onto the skewers, season them with salt and pepper, and brush with a little vegetable oil. 

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell

How to Grill Scallops

Grilling scallops is easy and quick: It only takes about five minutes. Place the scallop skewers on the hot grill and let them cook undisturbed for two to three minutes per side. If they seem stuck, let them cook a minute longer before trying again. When they’re ready and grill marks have formed, they’ll easily release from the grates.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell

Flavoring and Serving Grilled Scallops

The best, easiest way to flavor grilled scallops is with a sauce made directly on the grill. Just before you start the scallops, place a small saucepan on the medium heat zone, add butter, and let it cook, swirling (with heat-proof gloves!), until it’s golden-brown and nutty smelling. Remove from the grill, add a grated garlic clove and a squeeze of lemon juice, and set aside while you cook the scallops.

When the scallops are ready, you can serve them on the skewers or remove them. Drizzle with the reserved garlic browned butter, or use it as a dipping sauce. No matter if you’re cooking yourself a weeknight dinner or are hoping to impress someone, grilled scallops have got you covered.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell
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Here's how to grill easy, flavorful scallops.

Grilled Scallops with Lemon-Garlic Brown Butter

A step-by-step guide to grilling scallops. The easy lemon-garlic brown butter sauce cooks directly on the grill, too.

Prep time 5 minutes to 10 minutes

Cook time 10 minutes to 15 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 4

    skewers

  • 1 pound

    dry sea scallops (about 16 medium)

  • 1 clove

    garlic

  • 1 1/2

    medium lemons

  • 4 tablespoons

    (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

  • 1/2 teaspooon

    kosher salt, plus more as needed

  • 1 tablespoon

    vegetable oil, plus more for the grill grates

Equipment

  • Outdoor grill

  • Knife and cutting board

  • Measuring spoons

  • Small saucepan with heatproof handle

  • Paper towel

  • Brush

Instructions

    1. Prep the grill and skewers. If using wooden skewers, soak 4 in water for 1 hour. Prepare an outdoor grill for two heat zones, medium and medium-high. If using a charcoal grill, add coals, stacking more coals on one half of the grill and less on the other. If using a gas grill, heat one half of the grill to medium-high and the other to medium.

    2. Prepare the scallops. Meanwhile, gently peel off the side muscle from 1 pound scallops if they are still attached. Pat the scallops dry with paper towels. Thread the scallops onto 4 skewers and refrigerate. Finely grate 1 garlic clove. Halve 1 medium lemon, then cut a second lemon into wedges for serving.

    3. Make the browned butter. When the grill is ready, place a small saucepan with a heatproof handle on the grates over the medium heat zone, and add 4 tablespoons unsalted butter. Cook, swirling occasionally, until the butter is golden brown and nutty smelling, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Immediately add the grated garlic and the juice of 1/2 lemon. Taste and season with kosher salt and more lemon juice as needed; set aside.

    4. Grill the scallops. Rub the grill grates on the medium-high heat zone with a paper towel dipped in vegetable oil. Season the scallops with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, then lightly brush with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Place the skewers on the oiled grill grates. Grill uncovered and undisturbed until dark grill marks appear on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Flip the skewers and grill until the scallops are just barely cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes more.

    5. Serve. Transfer to a serving platter. Drizzle the scallops with the lemon-garlic butter over and serve with the lemon wedges.

    Recipe Notes

    Storage: These grilled scallops are best eaten immediately, but leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 2 days.