Seafood: Scallops


The Monterey Bay is home to two types of scallops: the scallop (duh…) and the rock scallop. The “duh” scallop is the largest bivalve found in shallow waters and unlike its bivalve relatives this scallop can move around. At low tide they’re found resting on their sides and sometimes start opening and closing their shell to move around, probably to get more comfortable. While they are found on the rocky shelves in Monterey Bay, they really thrive further north off the coast of British Columbia and are said to resent jokes about Canada.

The rock scallop is much larger than the scallop, sometimes measuring as much as six inches across. When young they are free-spirited and unattached to anything. Similar to humans, they get attached to something solid as they grow older, and their symmetrical shapes become irregular as they grow against a rock or underwater Buicks that were driven off the pier.

Scallops have fallen prey to various names dreamed up by marketing executives, sporting names such as “day boat” or “diver caught” probably since “Bought at Costco” wasn’t very popular. Seriously, scallops fall into two main categories: ones that are treated with sodium tripolyphosphate (STP) and those that are dry packed. STP is used help the scallop retain water before freezing and shipping, helping the meat stay together when thawed. Profiteers figured out that if they juiced the scallop up with an overdose of STP the scallop would retain more water. Fights ensued and a truce was agreed to between the STP crowd and regulators; limits were imposed regarding how much STP could be used.

The Dry Pack crowd avoids the use of STP and freezes the scallops in dry ice. The cost to dry pack is higher, so the restaurants and finer fishmongers will sell the dry pack variety, and more economy minded outlets would likely sell the STP-infused product.

Scallops have a bit of sweetness to them, and are rich and firm. Raw scallops are white and on occasion have a pinkish hue to them that are not indicative of inferior quality. Rich in protein and low in fat, scallops can be eaten raw or seared, and the bigger ones are excellent grilled.

Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Rating
Our friends at the Monterey Bay Aquarium rate most all scallops either “Best choice” or “Good alternative” so both types of scallops have got that going for them.

In Season at the Market