What Are The Three Different Types Of Scallops?

Scallops are one of the most beloved seafood delicacies worldwide, known for their tender and sweet meat. But did you know that there are three different types of scallops? Each type has its distinct characteristics, taste, and health benefits. In this article, we’ll explore the three different types of scallops, their differences, and how to prepare and cook them for maximum enjoyment.

Our journey will take us from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific Northwest and the Gulf of Mexico, where we’ll encounter bay scallops, sea scallops, and calico scallops. From their size, texture, and flavor profile, you’ll learn everything you need to know to choose and cook these delectable shellfish like a pro. So, let’s dive into the world of scallops and discover their unique flavors and benefits.

Quick Summary
The three different types of scallops are Bay scallops, Sea scallops, and Calico scallops. Bay scallops are the smallest and sweetest scallops, found in shallow waters along the East Coast of the United States. Sea scallops are the largest and meatiest scallops, found in deeper waters off the East and West Coasts. Calico scallops are less common and have a milder flavor and texture, found in the Gulf of Mexico.

Understanding the Different Varieties of Scallops

Scallops are a type of bivalve mollusk that are popular for their sweet, tender meat. However, not all scallops are the same. There are three main varieties of scallops: bay scallops, sea scallops, and calico scallops.

Bay scallops are the smallest variety, averaging around 1 inch in diameter. They are typically found in shallow waters along the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico. Bay scallops are sweeter and more delicate than other types of scallops, making them ideal for raw preparations such as ceviche or sushi.

Sea scallops are the largest variety, averaging around 2-3 inches in diameter. They are found in colder waters along the Atlantic coast and are known for their succulent meat. Sea scallops are versatile and can be seared, grilled, or pan-fried.

Calico scallops, also known as pink-tipped scallops, are a less common variety with a distinctive appearance. They have pink and white markings on their shells and are found in deeper waters. Calico scallops have a milder flavor than sea scallops and are often used in stews or chowders. Knowing the differences between these three types of scallops can help you choose the right scallop for your recipe.

A Closer Look at the Bay Scallops

Bay scallops, also known as sweet scallops, are the smallest and sweetest type of scallop. They are found in the warm shallow waters of bays, estuaries, and tidal creeks along the east coast of North America. Bay scallops have a delicate, almost buttery flavor with a slightly firmer texture than sea scallops, making them ideal for sautéing, broiling, or grilling. They’re also commonly used in sushi and ceviche.

Bay scallops are usually harvested by hand with small boats and dredges, making them a bit more expensive than sea scallops. They are also found in shorter seasons and smaller quantities. However, many seafood enthusiasts believe the sweet taste and tender texture are well worth the effort and cost. Bay scallops are a delicious treat that can be enjoyed in many different dishes, including soups and stews, casseroles, or all on their own.

The Unique Characteristics of Sea Scallops

Sea scallops are one of the three different types of scallops, known for their size, sweetness, and tender meat. These scallops can grow up to 9 inches in diameter and are identified by their convex shape and flat hinge muscle. They are usually available year-round, but the peak season is from October to March.

One of the unique characteristics of sea scallops is their ability to swim. They tend to swim by clapping their shells together to force water out that propels them in the opposite direction. They are also hermaphrodites, meaning that they have both male and female reproductive organs. Sea scallops are mostly found in deep seawater, where they feed on plankton and other microscopic organisms. They are popularly used not only in seafood restaurants but also in traditional dishes like ceviche, carpaccio, and salads, where they stand out for their texture, flavor, and presentation.

Why are the Diver Scallops So Special?

Diver scallops are a type of scallop that is highly regarded in the culinary world. Unlike other scallops that are harvested from the ocean floor using dredging boats, diver scallops are hand-picked by trained divers. This means that they are carefully selected and handled, resulting in a superior product that is fresher and of higher quality.

Diver scallops are also known for their sweet, delicate flavor and firm, plump texture. They are often more expensive than other types of scallops due to the high cost of harvesting them, but their unique taste and texture make them worth the investment for foodies and chefs alike. Plus, since they are sustainably harvested, choosing diver scallops is an environmentally responsible choice for seafood lovers.

The Nutritional Value of Scallops

Scallops are a tasty but often underrated seafood with a plethora of nutritional benefits. They are a great source of lean protein as well as omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to help protect the heart and prevent inflammation in the body. Scallops also contain essential vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin B12, phosphorus, and zinc, which are crucial for maintaining optimal health.

In addition to their high protein and nutrient content, scallops are also low in calories and fat, making them a great addition to a balanced diet. They are an excellent choice for anyone looking to maintain a healthy weight or an active lifestyle. For those with dietary restrictions, scallops are gluten-free and low in carbohydrates, making them a great option for those following a low-carb or gluten-free diet. Overall, scallops are a delicious and nutritious addition to any meal plan.

Cooking Techniques for Different Types of Scallops

Scallops are a versatile and delicious seafood that can be cooked in numerous ways. The cooking technique you choose depends on the type of scallop you are working with. For example, bay scallops are small and delicate, making them perfect for quick sautéing or searing. They can also be used in soups or stews and are an excellent addition to pasta dishes.

On the other hand, sea scallops are larger and meatier, making them ideal for grilling or broiling. They can also be pan-seared or roasted and are a great addition to seafood platters or served as a main course. The key to cooking scallops is to not overcook them as they can become tough and rubbery when cooked for too long. Properly cooked scallops should be tender, juicy, and slightly translucent in the center. With the right technique, scallops can be a delicious addition to your seafood repertoire.

How to Choose the Best Scallops for Your Recipe

When it comes to choosing the best scallops for your recipe, there are a few factors to keep in mind. First, opt for dry-packed scallops instead of wet-packed ones. Dry-packed scallops are not soaked in preservatives or sodium tripolyphosphate (STP), which can affect their flavor and texture. Additionally, dry-packed scallops sear better and produce a delicious crust.

Next, consider the size of the scallops. Small or medium-sized scallops are best for dishes like pasta, while larger ones are great for searing and serving as a main dish. Additionally, look for scallops that are firm to the touch and have a sweet, briny scent – this is a good indicator of freshness. By keeping these factors in mind, you’ll be able to choose the best scallops for your recipe and elevate its overall flavor.


In essence, knowing the difference between the three types of scallops can not only enhance your culinary skills but also help you make informed decisions while making a purchase. Apart from the taste, size, and texture, factors such as sustainability and environmental impacts also influence the choice of scallops.

In conclusion, whether you prefer the succulent taste of the bay scallops, the meatiness of sea scallops, or the unique texture of the calico scallops, the key lies in understanding each type’s characteristics. While the world of scallops may seem complex, a simple understanding of these three types can take you a long way in your culinary endeavors, and who knows, maybe you’ll end up discovering a new favorite dish.

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