There are two types of scallops: bay scallops and sea scallops. All scallops are sold shucked. In Europe the whole scallop is eaten, including the orange roe seen at right; in the United States the muscle is the only part that comes to market.
Sea scallops are larger, the muscle often about 1½ inches long and 1-1½ inches thick. Bay scallops are about ½ to ¾ inches in diameter, and often more tender and sweeter.
Chefs buy fresh scallops by the gallon, which will contain about 450 bay scallops. By the time scallops reach the U.S. retail market they are sold by weight. About 7 oz (200 grams) of raw scallop should be allowed per serving; there will be about a 35% loss of weight in cooking. A few specialty dealers do sell sea scallops by count, i.e. “jumbo” at under 10 scallops per pound; “medium” at 20 to 30 per pound.
Scallop meats are often treated with sodium tripolyphosphate, which makes them absorb water, and hence gain weight, as much as 3.4%. Scallops so treated are often labelled “wet”, and untreated scallops, “dry”. The dry cook better.
With the intent of protecting the scallop fishery by reducing the catch of young scallops, a 1982 federal regulation made any catch that, by random check, contained more than 36.3 scallop meats per pound subject to seizure. The regulation is controversial; scallopers say they have no way of knowing the size of the meat until the shell is opened, at which point it's too late to throw it back.
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Last revised: 8 October 2010.