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Can You Freeze Fresh Scallops? The Ultimate Guide to Properly Storing, Thawing, and Reheating Stored Scallops

Can You Freeze Fresh Scallops? The Ultimate Guide to Properly Storing, Thawing, and Reheating Stored Scallops

Fresh scallops are hard to beat. They are mildly sweet, and slightly salty, with a buttery finish and a soft texture. Some people believe they taste like their closely related bivalve mollusk cousins: clams, oysters, and mussels.

But when you haven’t finished them all, you need to know to store them to preserve their great taste and texture. A question we see often is whether you can freeze shellfish, like scallops. So, let’s ask and answer it: Can you freeze fresh scallops?

Yes, you can. Scallops can be frozen fresh or cooked and are relatively easy to freeze. In fact, freezing scallops is one of the best ways to preserve them as they have a short shelf life.

The quicker seafood is frozen, the better it will keep its nutrients. Also, it’s a great idea to freeze scallops if you buy them in bulk, which is often cheaper.

Before freezing scallops or cooking scallops, it’s important to determine that they’re fresh. If they’re not, then bad bacteria can multiply and cause sickness when consumed.

When purchasing scallops, look for some that appear shiny and white at the supermarket, and ensure they don’t have an overly strong smell. If there’s any discoloration or a rotten smell, then the scallops are likely spoiled.

We cover the following items in this post:

Can Fresh Scallops be Frozen?

A bowl of fresh scallops. Can you freeze fresh scallops?

Yes, fresh scallops can be frozen.

Freeze the fresh scallops as soon as you can, as the risk of bacteria growth increases dramatically the longer the scallops are left at room temperature. Per the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), bacteria that can lead to foodborne illnesses grow fast at warmer temperatures. Between 40°F and 140°F are the sweet spot for bacteria growth. You should never leave the scallops at room temperature for more than 2 hours.

If you plan on eating the scallops within 24 – 48 hours, then you can refrigerate them at a temperature of 40°F or below. The quality should be fine and the risk of eating spoiled shellfish is greatly diminished.

However, the freezer should be used for any time frame greater than 48 hours. If you’re unsure when you’re going to be revisiting the scallops, we always recommend freezing them to ensure the food is safe.

The Best Way to Freeze Scallops

A woman putting fresh scallops in the freezer.

There are varying opinions on many things, but freezing shellfish isn’t really up for debate. Below are the FDA-approved tips you should follow to properly freeze your fresh scallops.

  • Physically separate any raw scallops from cooked scallops to prevent cross-contamination. Use separate containers for both and wash your hands before going from fresh to raw and vice versa. Ensure you use different utensils for both as well.
  • Individually wrap the scallops tightly in plastic, aluminum foil, or moisture-proof paper. If you have the supplies to vacuum seal them, that’s the best option.
  • Label the wrapped scallops with the date so you are aware of when they were cooked and frozen.
  • Place the tightly wrapped seafood in an airtight container. We recommend glass or plastic, but plastic bags (freezer bags) work as well.
  • Store the scallops in the coldest part of the freezer – the rear center. Stay away from the shelves on the door as when the freezer door opens, these spaces are impacted the most by the change in temperature.

To prevent freezer burn:

  • Don’t freeze the scallops for longer than 6 months.
  • Set the freezer to a lower temperature.

How Long Do Scallops Last in the Freezer?

Frozen shellfish is technically safe indefinitely. However, to maintain the optimal flavor and texture of scallops, they should be consumed within 3 – 12 months of freezing.

Per the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the way to achieve the best quality is to freeze the scallops at temperatures of 0°F (-17.8°C) or less.

We recommend eating frozen seafood within 6 months of freezing when possible.

How Do You Defrost Frozen Scallops?

A red refrigerator.

There are a few options when it comes to thawing scallops, and they are the same options as thawing other meats, like frozen crab meat.

Whatever you do, never leave them out on the counter for extended periods of time to defrost. As we noted above, this process leads to heightened risks of bacteria growth and foodborne illnesses.

How to Thaw Frozen Scallops

While the slowest defrosting method is ideal, it’s not always feasible. As such, we’re laid out the three most common methods for thawing frozen scallops below, listed from the most to the least ideal:

  1. Refrigerator
  2. Sink
  3. Microwave

Learn more about each of these methods and how to safely defrost scallops. 

The Refrigeration Method

The best and safest method for defrosting scallops is in the refrigerator. Place the frozen scallops in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours — and no more than 24 hours — before you plan to cook them. We highly recommend this method when possible.

Make sure the meat is in an airtight container or on a tray before placing it in the refrigerator to thaw, as you don’t want it to drip and cause a mess in the fridge. I often place them onto a plate to capture any condensation, as otherwise, you might have some juices leaking.

The Sink Method

A bowl of cold water for scallops.

Frozen scallops can be thawed in water if they’re needed quickly, and 8 hours of refrigeration is not feasible.

Wrap the scallops in a sealed plastic bag before moving them to the sink to prevent cross-contamination. Fill the sink full of cold water and place the scallops in the water. Or place them in a bowl filled with cold water if the entire sink can’t be used for that long.

It should take about 1 hour to thaw 2 pounds of scallop meat.

I find myself using this method often for frozen shrimp, simply because I always forget to take them out of the freezer early enough for the refrigeration method.

The Microwave Method

While defrosting in the microwave at high heat isn’t ideal, it is a relatively safe method. However, it can lead to an uneven heat distribution which can affect the taste and texture of the meat. It will suffice if you’re short on time and need to heat the scallops quickly.

It is best not to place large amounts of frozen scallops in the microwave, as it will exacerbate the uneven heat distribution and make the meat mushy and/or tough. 

How Long Does It Take to Thaw Out Frozen Scallops?

To safely thaw some scallops, it’s best to allow for 8 to 24 hours for them to thaw slowly in the fridge. This timeline allows for an even thawing while protecting the food from harmful bacteria growth.

As mentioned above, you can use the quicker methods to thaw them faster — dropping the time from hours to minutes in the microwave.

Can You Freeze Cooked Scallops?

A plate of cooked scallops. Can you freeze fresh scallops?

Yes, you can!

Cooked scallops, like fresh scallops, can be frozen. Follow the same process we’ve laid out above for safe storage of cooked scallops and how to best defrost them. No changes are necessary.

Final Thoughts: Can You Freeze Fresh Scallops?

You can freeze sea scallops pretty easily, but the tough part is ensuring that you thaw them properly to guarantee they are safe to eat and retain their texture and flavor.

Regardless of if the scallops are raw, fresh, cooked, or have already been stored — always be sure to separate raw meat from cooked meat to ensure there is no cross-contamination.

When reheating stored scallops, be sure to cook them at a low and slow temperature to prevent them from overcooking. You can use a food thermometer to monitor them and oversee that they don’t reach an internal temperature greater than 140 °F.

And we’ll leave you with one additional tip: when transporting the fresh scallops home from the supermarket, bring a cooler with ice to keep them chilled on the way home. Some may think it’s overkill, but it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to shellfish!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How Long Will Fresh Scallops Keep in The Fridge?

Fresh scallops will keep in the fridge for no more than 48 hours. It’s best if you purchase them on the day you plan to eat them, and no more than the day before.

Do not eat fresh scallops that haven’t been kept in a refrigerated environment.

Can You Refreeze Scallops After Thawing Them?

You can refreeze scallops after they’ve thawed out, but it’s best not to do this more than once. It’s safe to do so as long as you’ve followed the recommendations we’ve discussed in this article.

My personal preference is to not refreeze and re-thaw scallops or other seafood items. I feel the flavor is never right after doing so more than once.

How Do You Prepare Scallops for Freezing?

This is not essential, but before freezing it’s recommended to rinse the scallops under cold water and then pat them dry with a paper towel. Rinsing them with fresh water removes any unwanted residue and helps to keep them clean in their storage containers.