While most people leave it to the chefs, cooking and enjoying scallops is a lot more approachable than you think. What’s more, this gem of the ocean is high in protein and low in fat with a sweet and buttery taste that lavishes the palate — making it hard to just reserve it for nights out and special occasions.
Only in Alaska
Alaska goes far and beyond to protect the sustainability of weathervane scallops within the state, which also happen to be some of the plumpest on the planet. Together with the federal government, they jointly monitor harvest levels under a special program called the Alaska Scallop Fishery Management Plan. This series of measures includes onboard observers required on all commercial scallop vessels to collect data. Consequently, an independent observer is always onboard the fishing vessel to ensure that the fishers are harvesting the scallops correctly. The program also monitors the rotation of sourcing areas once guideline harvest levels have been met for the season. Adequate rotation ensures that every scallop bed is left to regrow what the fishers have harvested in a particular area.
Weathervane Scallops 101
Similar to clams and oysters, scallops are a bivalve mollusk with an interior muscle surrounded by two shells. But what makes scallops different is their ability to swim away from predators by rapidly opening and closing their shell. This physical movement builds their adductor muscle (just think of it as the hinge between the shells) to be larger in comparison to other species, and also happens to be the delicious part we love to eat.
Scallops found at seafood counters and restaurants fall into two categories: bay scallops are caught in shallow waters and are often smaller in size, and sea scallops are harvested from deep and cold-sea waters. Weathervane fall into the category of sea scallops, which are known to be three times the size of their bay counterparts. In Alaska, the largest weathervane scallop beds occur in the Eastern Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea.
Similar to other fish and seafood, weathervane scallops are a great source of nutrients. Especially high in protein while being very low in fat and calories, they have an impressive nutritional profile. They contain Vitamin B12, which is believed to help in the production of red blood cells and DNA while supporting a healthy nervous system. They have omega-3 fatty acids that are great for aiding in brain health. And their magnesium and potassium may help keep your heart healthy. In addition, weathervane scallops are packed with Selenium, Copper, Zinc and Calcium.
When purchased, scallops come either wet or dry. Wet scallops are soaked in chemicals and salt additives to retain water weight and make the flesh appear larger than it actually is (sometimes by 30%!). They usually shrink in size when cooked and are hard to sear. Dry scallops are sold in their original state and haven’t been treated with any chemicals. Our wild-caught and sustainable weathervane scallops from Alaska are dry, making them preservative-free and easier to cook.
Thaw out your pack of weathervane scallops all at once before you plan to cook it. We recommend first removing the scallops from its packaging to allow airflow and prevent the growth of bacteria. Then, place them on a shallow dish in the fridge for approximately 10-12 hours before you're planning to cook. Before cooking, pat your scallops down with a paper towel. We recommend searing your weathervane scallops on a hot pan undisturbed for a few minutes on each side until the tops and bottoms are brown and caramelized. Because weathervane scallops already have so much flavor, we recommend you cook them simply; and be sure not to overcrowd the pan. They go great with herbed brown butter or even just the pan sauce!