Skip to main content

Female Scallops Taste Better. Here’s How to I.D. Them.

Look for a pink tint.   
By Published June 27, 2022

Have you ever bought sea scallops and noticed that some of them have a peachy-pink tint? It’s not a flaw, nor does it indicate anything about freshness, doneness, or edibility. In fact, once you taste pink scallops, you’ll probably make a point of seeking them out because they taste better than white ones.

Sign up for the Cook's Insider newsletter

The latest recipes, tips, and tricks, plus behind-the-scenes stories from the Cook's Illustrated team.

Here’s why: The large adductor muscle, the edible part of a scallop that opens and closes its shell, takes its color from the reproductive gland that lies next to it. In male scallops, the gland is grayish white, so the muscle remains white. But when female scallops spawn, their glands fill with orange roe and turn bright coral, giving the adjacent muscle a rosy hue. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Atlantic sea scallops typically spawn during the late summer and fall, though those in Mid-Atlantic waters might spawn as early as the spring. 

(Note: Bay scallops simultaneously contain both male and female sex organs, and their ovaries also turn bright orange during egg production. Some of that carotenoid pigment may make its way into the edible muscle and turn it pinkish-orange, but it's less commonly reported with bay than with sea scallops.)

When spawning, female scallops (left) turn peachy-pink.

The roe also gives spawning female scallops their unique flavor benefit: When we pan-seared and tasted them alongside a batch of equally fresh male scallops, their textures were indistinguishable but those in the female batch—which retained their pink tint even after cooking—had a noticeably sweeter, richer flavor. 

If you’re lucky enough to get a batch of female scallops, simply pan-searing or grilling them is a great way to appreciate their flavor, or you can dress them up a bit with a citrusy vinaigrette or gingery, garlicky butter sauce. But the purest way might be in ceviche, where there’s no sear to obscure their color or flavor.

0 Comments

Try All-Access Membership to Unlock the Comments
Don't miss the conversation. Our test cooks and editors jump in to answer your questions, and our members are curious, opinionated, and respectful.
Membership includes instant access to everything on our sites:
  • 10,000+ foolproof recipes and why they work
  • Taste Tests of supermarket ingredients
  • Equipment Reviews save you money and time
  • Videos including full episodes and clips
  • Live Q&A with Test Kitchen experts
Start Free Trial
JC
JOHN C.
16 days

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.

MD
MILES D.
JOHN C.
9 days

Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!

CM
CHARLES M.
11 days

John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.