So, you’ve found yourself in front of the seafood aisle in the supermarket and can’t help but wonder if the scallops are good. Are they fresh ? Can you eat them raw ? You’ve heard stories of this happening, and it should like the perfect treat for a date night.
Scallops are a type of mollusk, a bivalve to be exact – they have two halves that open and close. Those halves house the entire creature, along with its main organ, the adductor muscle which just happens to be delicious.
Eating raw scallops is a debated topic – some say yes, some say no. Both have their good points, and today we’re taking a closer look at whether you can, in fact, eat scallops raw.
Keep in mind that this, like raw mushrooms, is a personal choice and it’s entirely up to each person’s taste buds.
We’re not saying everyone definitely should, or definitely shouldn’t eat raw scallops. We’re just covering the facts.
Can you eat raw scallops ?
Yes, you can eat raw scallops. They’re more of a delicacy than cooked scallops, and can be enjoyed several ways.
Despite being a mollusk, and thus a source of meat and protein, scallops can be eaten raw. It’s not a common way to eat them, but it’s very enjoyable for those who love seafood.
Usually only the adductor muscle is eaten. The caviar or roe is discarded when eating raw scallops.
They can be very delicious though, so hold onto that scallop roe !
As with many foods, the main concern is contamination – are the scallops safe to eat raw ?
Most of the time they are, and we’ll talk about that later in the article.
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How to enjoy a raw scallop
Fishermen claim you can eat a raw scallop right after harvesting it, no seasoning or anything added.
Some prefer to season it with a bit of olive oil, lemon juice and a hint of salt.
The most common way to serve raw scallops is carpaccio. The name is Italian, and doesn’t mean anything in particular. It’s a very impressive yet easy dish, and has only been around since the 1950s.
All carpaccio dishes can be done in 5 minutes. You need to very thinly slice the meat, in this case scallops. Slice them as thinly as you can, just don’t chop off a finger.
Next, the dressing and vegetables are up to you. Very common ingredients are basil (fresh), rosemary, garlic, shallot, lemon, tomatoes and olive oil.
Just remember that the emphasis is on the scallops, so don’t overdo the sauce. Just drizzle a bit over the meat, and you’ll be fine.
The only problem is when the scallops aren’t fresh, or they’re contaminated.
Buying scallops can be a risky business, since these mollusks are very sensitive and go off quick.
This is why fresh, raw scallops are always more expensive than frozen scallops.
Aside from all that, there is the risk of contamination.
Why are raw scallops risky ?
Scallops grow in estuaries, which is where rivers empty into the sea or ocean.
In many cases rivers contain runoff from water treatment plants, and in some cases even raw sewage.
The problem with this is that scallops feed on the microorganisms living in these waters, and any parasites or pathogens may be passed onto you. Threats like Salmonella, E.Coli and Cholera may contaminate the waters scallops live in.
Cooking will destroy most pathogens, bacteria, and viruses but rare and medium-rare food items may still harbor them.
This is a common issue for any mollusks, not just scallops. So any clams, oysters, or mussels need to be harvested from safe waters if you plan to eat them.
Now, there is the question of where your scallops come from. Obviously you want them from safe, tested waters.
The bulk of scallop harvest comes from the north of the East Coast in America, and eastern Canada as well. Those are Atlantic scallops, and also the largest.
Usually those waters are kept safe, especially those near scallop farms.
Then the two biggest exporters are Japan, and China. Some are caught in the wild, some are aquaculture. There is no data on the wild capture, but aquaculture areas must be maintained clean.
In short, contaminated scallops are a thing. But they are very rare, since they’re a high price item and the risk is too high for those producing it.
The risk of getting sick from raw scallops is very low, because most seafood is regulated. Look for the seal from WWF, Seafood Watch, or for seafood approved by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council.
Read Also:Can You Eat Raw Butternut Squash?
How to tell if scallops are fresh
Scallop freshness is a key element to eating raw scallops, so it’s important to look for the freshest ones.
Here’s what you should look for in a fresh scallop. We’ll start with the live ones, and then move onto those that have been freshly shucked.
So, live, freshly-caught scallops should:
- close when touched
- not smell bad, but instead fresh and watery
Keep in mind that scallops have a very short shelf life. Meaning they will die very quickly after being harvested, so getting your hands on live scallops is very rare.
What you’re most likely to find though are freshly shucked scallops, with the roe and guts removed. The meat will be put on ice and brought to the shore immediately.
So this is what you should look for in a fresh scallop:
- firm, ‘dry’ texture, like pork or beef
- a fresh, sea-like smell or no smell at all
- a range of colors from light being to off white to light pink to very light orange
- the term ‘dry packed’
Keep in mind that very white scallops are processed scallops. The meat has been soaked in tripolyphosphate, a solution that gives scallops a longer shelf life but also makes them keep much more moisture.
This means your scallops won’t sear nicely, and will instead steam.
Fresh scallops are easier to find the closer you are to the sea, so if you really want to enjoy the best raw scallops possible, consider taking a trip to the coastline.