Grilled scallops are given a quick dip in a bright citrus and chile-based marinade that comes together in a flash. And did we mention they just take a couple of minutes on the grill? Dinner’s ready!
Adapted from Adam McKenzie | Weeknight Smoking on Your Traeger and Other Pellet Grills | Page Street Publishing, 2021
Scallops are delicious cooked quickly on your grill. This easy marinade would work well with any kind of seafood but imparts a particularly nice citrusy flavor to scallops. Don’t be surprised by the confectioners’ sugar in the recipe—it counters the tang of the citrus and actually helps create a great sear on the scallops. I recommend using a cast-iron griddle or skillet in your grill for this cook, so you don’t have to worry about losing your scallops in the grates.–Adam McKenzie
- Gas grill, pellet grill, or smoker
- Wood chips, wood chunks, or pellets (optional)
- Zest and juice of 1 orange preferably organic
- Zest and juice of 1 lime preferably organic
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons mild vegetable oil plus extra for brushing onto the scallops
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped habanero pepper
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1/2 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
- 12 large (1 lb) sea scallops* side muscle removed
- Preheat your smoker or grill to 450°F (232°C), according to manufacturer’s directions, using pellets or a smoke pouch, if desired. Place a cast-iron skillet in the grill to heat up for at least 15 minutes.
- In a shallow glass baking dish combine the orange zest and juice, lime zest and juice, sesame oil, vegetable oil, soy sauce, habanero pepper, garlic, and confectioners’ sugar and mix well.
- Add the scallops, cover and place in the fridge to marinate for about 15 minutes.
- Remove the scallops from the marinade and dab away any excess moisture and bits of garlic and habanero from each side with a paper towel. Discard the marinade.
- Use a pastry brush to brush both sides of the scallops with a very small amount of vegetable oil, then place them in the hot cast-iron skillet. Cook the scallops until the internal temperature reaches 145°F (63°C), 2 to 4 minutes per side. You should have a good brown sear on each side, and the meat should be just opaque and slightly firm. Be careful not to overcook the scallops, or they will become too firm and rubbery.
- Serve immediately and enjoy!
*How do I remove the side muscle from scallops?When preparing your scallops, it doesn't really take much more than just a quick rinse under cool water before being patted dry. The only other thing left to do is removing the side muscle, which isn't particularly tender or tasty. The side muscle is a little rectangular tag of tissue with fibers running in the opposite direction from the fibers in the scallop itself. Just give it a little pinch and it'll come right off. Often, you'll find that your scallops have very few, or even none, as they often fall off during harvesting.
Recipe Testers' Reviews
This is a nice and simple marinade to make, and it comes together in about 5 minutes. Most of your time is spent waiting for the skillet to get piping hot as the scallops soak up all the great flavors from the marinade. You really don’t get much heat in the marinade from the habanero either, so don’t let that scare you off. I used confectioners’ sugar to counterbalance the citrus tang, however, I think honey would work just as well. It’s really not overly acidic in my opinion. Make sure you dry the scallops off well, as bits of pepper or garlic will burn and result in a bitter-tasting bite when cooked over such high heat.
That little bit of oil (I used grapeseed for its high smoke-point quality) helped form a wonderful sear, and the scallops turned over very easily. I seared the grilled scallops for about 2 minutes on the first side, then about 90 seconds for the second side, before removing them from the skillet. I made the marinade again to try it with some shrimp and salmon, but I let the protein marinade for 30 minutes, before placing them in the skillet. These also resulted in a nice char and wonderful flavor. So, this is a versatile marinade to keep in your recipe armory, as I bet it would work well with chicken or pork too (just need a longer marinade time!) I served these with roasted potatoes and a side salad.
If you are a scallop lover, these grilled scallops are a must-try. Yes, scallops sautéed in olive oil and butter are delicious, but this recipe takes them to a completely different place. The taste and wonderful texture of scallops are retained but a depth of additional flavors is added. First comes the clean citrus taste, followed by the soy sauce and sesame oil. And finally comes the garlic with the habanero pepper leaving a little heat on your tongue. At first, I did a double-take when I saw the confectioners’ sugar but it does make sense. Sugar can nicely accent the heat of a pepper. In the case of a scallop, you would want very fine, light sugar, like confectioners'. Perfect. These are great with grilled asparagus.
Originally published May 11, 2021