Scallops: Wet vs. Dry

In the seafood business, there are two ways scallops are handled (and sold) on the market: dry and soaked.

a white wet scallop

"Soaked" (also known as "wet" or "treated") scallops have been soaked in a bath of phosphates (or more precisely- sodium tripolyphosphate), for the purpose of adding water-weight. When scallops are exposed to a phosphate bath, they absorb it and swell - gaining water-weight, and thereby lowering the net cost to the scallop processor. (Keep in mind, that when you buy "soaked" scallops - you are paying for this added water.) The absorbed water evaporates when the scallops are cooked- leaving them smaller, tougher and less-flavorful than their dry counterparts. It is generally easy to discern treated scallops as they will usually appear very white in color.

a vanilla dry scallop

"Dry" is the seafood industry term for natural scallops, which have not been treated with phosphates. Natural scallops have a slightly tan, or "vanilla"-color. Dry scallops are superior for the following reasons:

  • For searing purposes, dry scallops caramelize beautifully!
  • Dry scallops taste sweet & natural, where "wet" scallops can sometimes have a washed-out, or even slightly "soapy" or bitter flavor.
  • You are not paying for added water with dry scallops.
  • The idea of selling "soaked" scallops feels dishonest to us, here at FishEx - so we don't sell them. Ever.

"Soaked" scallops are very common. (At the time of this writing, I don't know the exact percentages - but I suspect that the majority of scallops sold are "wet" - Cade Smith, FishEx Founder.) You can find high-quality dry scallops - but you will need to go to a reputable seafood dealer, and ask. You can buy premium, dry scallops here at FishEx.