Bay Scallops

Species Information

Scallops are benthic animals; they spend most of their time on the sea bottom. They mostly stay in underwater grass beds on a soft, shallow sea floor. Scallops use jet propulsion to move; they quickly open and close their shells, squirting the water out of the shells, moving in spurts. These invertebrate animals have a life span of about 1 ½ years.

The two hard shells (also called valves) are attached by a muscular hinge known as an adductor muscle. Bay scallops are about 3 inches in diameter.

Cooking & Handling

Store shucked scallops refrigerated up to 2 days. Cover live scallops with a damp towel, refrigerate, and use at most one day later. A healthy live scallop should close tightly when tapped. Scallops freeze well.

The fresher the scallop, the more translucent it will be. “Wet” scallops are soaked in a chemical solution to preserve them and will be flabby and opaque as well as lose excess liquid quickly. “Dry” scallops or untreated scallops are best. Choose scallops with firm and moist texture, avoiding those that are slippery or spongy or smell unpleasant.

Bay scallops are small and cook quickly. Don’t overcook; scallops will toughen and lose flavor.

Scallops are a good low-fat source of protein and are high in selenium and B vitamins.

Flavors that work well with bay scallops are avocado, brandy, cilantro, cream, garlic, lemon, lime, mango, olive oil, papaya, sweet corn, sweet potato, tarragon, thyme, tomato, vinegar and white wine.

Cooking Methods

Bake, Broil, Fry, Grill, Sauté, Steam

Global Supply

Canada, China, United States

Seasonal Availability

Fresh bay scallops are available from Maine to the Carolinas during season from October through January and April through May. Frozen are available year-round.

Did You Know?

Scallops have a series of blue eyes around the mantle (the tissue that secretes the shell). Although they are weak, the eyes help scallops identify predators.

Scallops grow at a faster rate during the warmer months when food is readily available.

New Bedford, Massachusetts is the largest scallop port and usually sets the prices. Virginia, New York and New Jersey are also important suppliers.

Scientific Name

Argopecten irradians

Market Name

scallop, bay scallop

Common Names

Cape Cod, Cape, Long Island or Peconic scallops, China bay


sea scallops, Calico scallops

Raw Characteristics

  • small, soft and cork-shaped
  • creamy white to pink-beige
  • firm and moist
  • smells sweet, seaweedy
  • translucent with elastic springiness
  • market weight 70–100 per lb

Cooked Characteristics

  • mild, sweet flavor
  • opaque white meat
  • delicate, firm texture


French: pecten
German: kammuschel
Italian : ventaglio
Japanese: itayagai
Spanish: vieira