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Article

How to buy the best sea scallops

Fine Cooking Issue 23

Ask the fishmonger for “dry” scallops. Freshly harvested scallops are 75% to 79% water, but in the hours, days, and sometimes weeks before scallops reach your kitchen, they begin to dry out and lose moisture. To offset this, commercial fisheries have developed a method of soaking fresh scallops in a solution of salts and water (sodium tripolyphosphate, or STP) to plump the scallops and keep them fresher longer. Unfortunately, not only are you paying for this extra water, but you’re getting an inferior product. The soaking detracts from a scallop’s natural fresh, briny taste, and when you try to sauté a soaked or “wet” scallop, it instantly sheds all its excess water when it hits the hot pan. You wind up steaming your scallops rather than searing them, and the texture of the meat tends to be rubbery.

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