A large percentage of the scallops available to consumers in this country have been soaked in a solution containing sodium tripolyphosphate (STPP), which causes the scallops to absorb and retain moisture. For this reason, scallops containing STPP are known in the industry as “wet” while those without additives are marketed as “dry.”
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Buying “wet” scallops come with several downsides. For one thing, you’ll be paying for about 14 percent additional water weight. We have also found that STPP-treated scallops cook up with washed-out, slightly off flavor, and a bouncy texture. Finally, STPP scallops shed about 25 percent more moisture during cooking than dry scallops. The liquid releases into the skillet, dropping the temperature and preventing browning.
A Simple Test to Find Out if Your Scallops are “Wet” or “Dry”
If you are unsure whether your scallops are wet or dry, conduct this quick test: Place 1 scallop on a paper towel-lined, microwave-safe plate and microwave on high power for 15 seconds. If the scallop is “dry,” it will exude very little water. If it is “wet,” there will be a sizable ring of moisture on the paper towel. (The microwaved scallop can be cooked as is.)
Camouflaging the Disagreeable Flavor in “Wet” Scallops
It’s not possible to remove the excess water from STTP-treated scallops, but you can camouflage the off-flavor of the chemical with the following simple lemon brine.
Soak 1 1/2 pounds of scallops in a solution of 1 quart cold water, 1/4 cup lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons table salt for 30 minutes. Pat the scallops dry and proceed with your recipe.