Restaurants and caterers will almost always use fresh scallops, and these run a higher price to acquire, making it a higher price on the menu as well. Like most seafood, scallops also come in a frozen variety, but don’t worry. Just because they are frozen doesn’t mean they don’t taste good. These can be delicate to use in your recipes because of how fast they cook.

When you defrost them before using them in your dishes, you will also want to avoid using water that is too warm, as this can start to cook them without even intending to. There is a right way to thaw scallops before use, and in this article, I will show you how. Additionally, I will go over with you everything you need to know and give you three different methods of thawing scallops.

Before you do anything, make sure to check the package instructions. They will state how you should defrost the scallops before use, and may offer some insight on how you should cook them. Generally, you will only want to cook them for a few minutes, but the heat that you use can be very important.

How to Thaw Scallops?

Sometimes depending on the recipe used and the type of scallops you bought, there may not be a need to defrost them at all. Sometimes the packaging may even recommend pan-frying the scallops straight out of the freezer, and that is why it’s important to read the packaging before cooking your scallops. Some brands may not require you to defrost before cooking, while others will suggest that you defrost them completely in cold water.

This can change from each brand, and that means that the method you used previously may not work as well this time. Always make sure that you are reading the packaging and following their recommended directions. Scallops may be cheaper in the frozen section of the store, but that does not mean you want to throw money away by cooking them improperly either.

Generally, all of the information that you need will be straight on the package. However, sometimes the directions might not be clear enough, or there at all. While you can contact the company, a simple Google search will also work and is sufficient in most cases. You can also find some good recipes online that will be specific to the type of scallops that you purchased.

1. Thawing in the Refrigerator

For the best results, I would recommend defrosting your scallops in the fridge. Although it will take more time, the resulting scallops will be full of flavor, and this is easily done while you are at work or running errands. Not only will the scallops defrost gradually, but the fridge will keep them from turning while you are busy elsewhere. Remember you don’t want to leave thawed fish out on the counter for longer than 1.5 – 2 hours maximum.

However, this method can take up to a full day to defrost the scallops, so you will want to make sure that you leave yourself adequate time for them to defrost before you need to begin cooking them.


Step 1: To defrost properly, the most important thing is to ensure that your refrigerator is set at the right temperature. 37 degrees Fahrenheit (3 Celsius) is the temperature that we are looking for. Adjust your temperature accordingly, but make sure that nothing else in your fridge will spoil.

If you do have something that you are worried about spoiling or going bad, it is recommended to use another method to defrost your frozen scallops.

Step 2: To defrost your frozen scallops using this method, begin by removing them from the packaging and store them in a large bowl; this bowl should be large enough to fit all the scallops and any water that may melt off from the scallops. Try to arrange the scallops in the bowl so that they do not come up more than 3/4 of the way up the bowl. If you have too many scallops, try to find a bigger bowl or separate the scallops into two or more bowls.

Step 3: Using plastic wrap or an airtight lid, cover the bowl. We do this step because as they are thawing, they are at risk of collecting bacteria and spoiling. By covering them, they won’t come into contact with other food particles in your fridge. Whatever you use to cover the scallops, you need to make sure that it is airtight for this reason.

Step 4: Place the covered bowl(s) on a lower shelf of your refrigerator, making sure to avoid placing them in one of the temperature controlled drawers.

Fresh shell scallops Premium Photo

Step 5: Now we just wait; allow up to 24 hours for the scallops to defrost completely. Try to avoid disturbing the scallops as they are defrosting, and leave them undisturbed for a full day. When 24 hours have passed, you can test to make sure they are defrosted properly. To do so, uncover and touch them with your finger. They should be cool to the touch, but not frozen in any way. Sometimes frozen scallops can become tough and gummy if they are cooked without being properly defrosted.

If your scallops have not defrosted after the initial 24 hours, cover and place them back in the fridge for another 6 hours. Repeat this step as necessary until they are all completely defrosted and ready to cook. I particularly like this method because there is little checking involved, and you can place them in the microwave the day before you need to use them. Scallops are a hearty type of fish, and even though they do cook fast, they will not fall apart before they are cooked.

2. Thawing Scallops with Cold Water

If you need your frozen scallops to be defrosted faster than the 24 hours it can take in the fridge, using cold water is a great way to do so. You can use cold water to defrost the scallops (remember, cold water is still warmer than freezing temperatures so it will work for defrosting.) While you are doing this method of defrosting, however, you will want to make sure not to use warm or hot water, as this can begin cooking the scallops which can lead to spoilage. They will defrost more quickly than in the fridge, but they may be a little tougher when using this method.


Step 1: To defrost your frozen scallops using this method, place them into a sealed plastic bag first. It’s important to take this first step to avoid any contamination with the cold water. When you are ready, simply remove the scallops from their packaging and place them into a sealed plastic bag.

To avoid your scallops coming into contact with the water and getting waterlogged, make sure that the bag is sealed properly.

Pro tip: you can remove any air from a plastic bag easily by submerging it in water before you seal it. Just make sure the water is covering the top of your scallops and nothing more. It is important to remember to remove any of the air from the bag, as it will prevent the scallops from sinking into the water and being completely submerged.

Step 2: After sealing the bag with the scallops, you will then want to place this bag into a large bowl. It should be large enough to fit the scallops and the water that you will be adding to submerge the plastic bag. To avoid any risks of contamination, make sure that the bowl you are using is clean and dry.

Step 3: Set the bowl into your sink and fill with cold tap water, making sure that it is cold and not warm or hot. While the bowl is filling with water, make sure to shuffle the scallops around to make sure that it does not stick to the side of the bowl. The water should be around 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) to thaw the scallops without cooking them. Fill the bowl with enough water to fill the scallops, and try to account for water evaporation during the thawing process.

woman preparing cold water to thaw scallops

Step 4: To make sure the water does not get too cold and it takes longer to thaw out the scallops, replace the water every 10 minutes. The total defrost time should be around 30 minutes, so you will want to do this a total of three times. When the bowl is full of water, leave it to rest without disruption for the full 10 minutes. When it is time, empty the bowl and refill with more cold water. You can test the scallops with your finger to make sure that they are adequately defrosted. They should have a cool temperature with a soft texture, and not feel frozen.

Like any type of fish, after the scallops have been defrosted you will want to cook them the same day. You will want to avoid refreezing them, as this can spoil them and change the ultimate texture. This is a great method that you can do relatively quickly and if the water is the correct temperature, you won’t need to worry about cooking the scallops before you are ready.

If you don’t have a way to check the temperature of the water, keep in mind that it should be cold but not ice-cold. If you have ever defrosted anything in water before, you may remember how cold the water can get after you are done. This will be too cold for scallops to defrost, although the water should remain cold to the touch. The best low-thought way to do this is to leave the faucet running for several seconds on cold air before you start filling the bowl that has your scallops.

3. Microwaving Scallops

This method is the fastest available, but it will also make your scallops chewier in texture. It is recommended to only use this method if you are in a big hurry and need the scallops defrosted quickly so you can start to cook them. When using this method, you are going to want to use the defrost setting on your microwave. This setting will allow you to defrost the scallops at a lower heat setting, and you run a lower risk of cooking them.

As I mentioned, this should only be done when you are in a hurry as they will be more chewy and tough than when defrosting them in another way.


Step 1: To begin, start by grabbing a microwave-safe bowl or container. Both Porcelain and glass cooking vessels work well for this, although you will want to make sure that the sides are high enough to accommodate both the scallops and the water that comes from defrosting.

Step 2: Remove the scallops from the packaging and place them into the bowl; make sure that the bowl is large enough to give your scallops enough space during the defrosting process.

Step 3: Using a paper towel, cover the top of your scallops. This is best done with a thick paper towel (you can double up on a thin paper towel as well here.) This will prevent the scallops from accidentally cooking when you are defrosting them in the microwave. This will also help the scallops to retain the desired texture by keeping steam inside, which will add to the overall moisture.

In some cases, thinner paper towels can get saturated from the ice particles that frozen scallops have; and can even start to deteriorate. For best results, either triple a 1-ply paper towel or use a 3-ply paper towel.

Step 4: Using the defrost setting on your microwave, start with one 30-second defrost, and stir the scallops. Continue this process as needed until the scallops are all defrosted, without heating them and accidentally cooking in the microwave. As with the other defrosting methods listed above, you can use your finger to check the scallops. They should not be warm when you touch them, and they should also be soft. If any frozen part remains, continue to defrost using shorter intervals.

Take care not to overdo it in the microwave. If they are not defrosted after 4 30-second intervals, remove them and continue to defrost with the cold water method until they are defrosted all the way and ready to begin cooking.