How To Thaw Scallops The Right Way: Guide To Defrosting Seafood

Unless you live on the coast (in which case I can’t help but feel a bit jealous), chances are your seafood options are narrowed down to canned and frozen products.

I know it’s not ideal – frozen seafood will never be as delicious as fresh one – but it is what it is.

Frozen scallops can still be pretty tasty, though – the trick is in the way you prepare them, and yes, that means you’ll have to learn how to thaw scallops properly, too. 🙂

How To Thaw Scallops?

Without further ado, let’s talk about the three most common defrosting methods used for scallops:

1. The Refrigerator Method: Planning Ahead Is Key

  • I don’t like playing favorites, but if you asked me which of these is my go-to method for defrosting, not just scallops but any type of seafood in general, I would undoubtedly, pick the refrigerator method. Yes, it takes time, but it’s safe, as well – and as a mother of two, I’ll always choose safety over convenience.
  • Remove the scallops from the package, place them in a large bowl, and then cut a piece of plastic wrap large enough to cover the dish. Of course, if it comes with a lid, feel free to use it – as long as it keeps the contaminants out of the container and away from the scallops, it will work.

Here are two reasons why the container has to be substantial:

You want all the scallops to fit, of course, but more importantly, it has to accommodate not only them but the melting ice, as well. Trust me; you don’t want to wake up to a fridge full of water.

Now, the most important thing to discuss here is the temperature – if that’s not right, everything else won’t work, either. The rule of thumb is at or, better yet, just below 38 degrees Fahrenheit. I’ve found that adjusting the fridge’s temperature setting to 37 degrees works best – there’s no need to go lower than that.

Don’t forget about the other foods in your fridge, though. There might be something in there that could go bad at this temperature. To avoid wasting food, find a suitable storage space for the time being.

So, you’ve heard it takes time – but how much time are we talking about here?

Well, in general, leaving them in the fridge overnight should be enough to do the job, but if you want to make sure they’re appropriately thawed when it’s time to cook them, leave them to defrost slowly for up to 24 hours.

You’ll need:

  1. A large bowl
  2. Plastic wrap

Here are My Top Frozen Pizza Suggestions For Those Lazy Days When You Don’t Feel Like Cooking

2. The Cold Running Water Method: When The Microwave Method Seems Too Risky

Lastly, here’s a method for those of you that aren’t willing to experiment with the microwave but don’t have the luxury of leaving the scallops in the fridge overnight, either – a cold water bath.

Here’s how to thaw scallops using nothing but cold running water!

  • Start by placing the frozen scallops in a resealable plastic bag. After all, they are going to spend at least half an hour under running water. Unless you want to get waterlogged scallops, I suggest you seal them correctly before putting them in the bowl.

As you can see, the preparation process is pretty straightforward.

  • Now, all that’s left is to place the bowl in the sink and fill it with cold tap water. Move the scallops around a bit while the pot is filling up, and then let them sit there for approximately 10 minutes before you replace the water.
  • Depending on the number of scallops you’re thawing, it should take about 30 minutes to an hour for them to defrost entirely, so at least three rounds of adding fresh water to the bowl.
  • Keep in mind that once you defrost scallops using the cold water method, you have to cook them – there’s no refreezing afterward.

You’ll need:

  1. A resealable plastic bag
  2. A bowl or a pot

Speaking Of Pots, You Should Go Check Out My Top Choices For Stock Pots

3. The Microwave Method: Think Of It As A Last Resort

You forget that you have to defrost the scallops in time for dinner?

Don’t panic; it happens to the best of us. I don’t like to admit it, but I’ve had my fair share of last-minute efforts to thaw scallops – and other types of seafood – without partially cooking them in the process. And let me tell you something:

It’s doable, but it shouldn’t be your go-to method. In fact, it brings the highest risk of ruining your scallop’s meal. It is very possible to cook them in your attempt for defrosting. This is why I recommend using this method only if you don’t have enough time to use the first two. If it happens to have no other option than the microwave, it is important to follow my guide strictly.

Anyway, here’s what I’ve learned about how to thaw scallops in a microwave over the years:

  • Before we start, check if your microwave has a defrost setting. Using it for the first time on quick-cooking proteins such as scallops is less than ideal – there’s no way for you to know if or how well it works, but desperate times call for drastic measures, right? If it has a defrost setting, great, but if it doesn’t, set it to 30 percent of its average power – that should do the job.
  • Remove the scallops from the packaging they came in, and place them in a microwave-safe bowl. I prefer to use porcelain or glass dishes, only because I don’t like the smell that plastic containers give off when I put them in the microwave, even if they’re labeled as microwaveable. Also, make sure the bowl is large enough to fit scallops without overfilling – it will make the next step a lot easier.
  • Cover the scallops with a paper towel to minimize the chances of inadvertently cooking them. The thickness plays a huge role here – thin paper towels will get soaked and dissolve when they come in contact with the scallops, so it’s best to stick with the three-ply ones.
  • Now, let’s talk about the actual defrosting. You should set your microwave timer to 30 seconds – no more, no less. Once it goes off, take the scallops out to see if they’re defrosted, and throw them in for another 30-second session if they still feel cold and solid.

You’ll need:

  1. A microwave (obviously)
  2. A microwave-safe dish
  3. Paper towels

Additional Tip: Always Read The Instructions

Scallops don’t always need to be defrosted. Everything is based on the brand.

Don’t bother defrosting ready-made breaded scallops, for example, as they are meant to be fried right out of the freezer.

Don’t assume you are smarter than the directions on the container; if it says to “cook frozen,” do as instructed.

Not just for scallops, but also for other commercially accessible food varieties.

You know, there’s a reason why there are cooking instructions?

Don’t hesitate to contact the manufacturer’s customer care if you have any more concerns about how to prepare or thaw a specific brand of scallops or if you’re unsure which of these techniques would be appropriate in your situation. They ought should be able to provide you with any information you may want.

Further Reading: Learn To Thaw Shrimp The Right Way

Final Thoughts

So, there you have it – a detailed guide on how to thaw scallops and avoid contaminating or damaging them in the process.

Again, I don’t recommend using the microwave method. There’s too big of a risk of cooking the scallops by accident.

That said, these are all valid methods for thawing scallops, and each of them comes with a set of advantages, as well as disadvantages you have to consider. Ultimately, the decision is yours.

Let me know how it goes!



  1. Fridge is my favorite method also, but when in hurry, the third option is to thaw them with cold water. Takes about 30min. Make sure to change the water every ten minutes. Then pat dry and let sit just a little while on counter top.

  2. I thought the few ways to defrost
    scallops was spelled out simply and orderly . Haven’t tried them yet but will be tonite… (I hope).
    Looking forward to a delicious dinner.Thanks! SH

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *