How To Cook Scallops In The Air Fryer

Plump, juicy scallops always feel like a treat for a celebratory meal or a dinner party. But, finding the best way to cook scallops at home can sometimes be a little daunting. Timing everything right is vital, as you don't want the meaty mollusks to remain underdone and translucent, but nor do you want to risk them overcooking and turning rubbery.

If you haven't considered the air fryer as a method for preparing the shellfish, it's well worth trying for an evenly cooked result with minimal mess or fuss. It's also a fast method, taking only a few minutes to achieve a professional-looking dish that yields sweet and tender seafood.

There are just a few key steps to follow when it comes to how to cook scallops in the air fryer. This involves picking the right kind of seafood, and ensuring they are properly prepared before cooking. Once you've got the basic technique, there are all sorts of variations and extra ingredients that can help take these bivalve beauties to the next level.

Use even-sized, dry sea scallops for the best results

Because of their larger size, fresh sea scallops work best in the air fryer, rather than smaller bay scallops. You'll also want to go with dry scallops, either fresh or frozen, as opposed to wet ones — you can check if they're dry at the seafood counter if you're unsure. If the scallops are frozen, properly defrost them prior to cooking; the easiest and most even way to do this is by letting them thaw in the refrigerator. And make sure they're of equal size if possible (around an ounce each is ideal).

Before you start cooking, remove the chewy side muscle by gently pulling it, and then pat the scallops dry. Season the mollusks, and spray them and the cooking basket with cooking spray so they don't stick. Then cook at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for around five to eight minutes, depending on their size. Flipping halfway through is a step you can skip if you want meltingly tender scallops from the air fryer.

It's also important to use a thermometer to check if the scallops are cooked to your liking. While they may not be as browned as they would be if sauteed, they should feel firm when you touch them, and the inside should be just opaque. Though it's worth noting that the USDA recommends cooking seafood to a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit, you may prefer them slightly less done than this; if that's the case, aim for around 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

Elevate air fryer scallops with extra ingredients

While air fryer scallops are delicious just as they are, or dressed with a simple lemon and herb sauce, there are several other ways to prepare and serve them if you want to try something new. To really ramp up the flavor, marinate the scallops for 30 minutes before cooking them in the air fryer. Try mirin, white miso, and soy sauce for a next-level umami-rich taste. Or go for fresh lemon or lime juice mixed with a neutral oil for a brighter flavor.

Alternatively, you could enhance the texture of the scallops with a crunchy coating to contrast with the succulent juicy seafood that rests within. Try dipping them in melted butter and then breadcrumbs or cracker crumbs mixed with garlic powder and seasoning; then cook them in the air fryer for a deep-fried feel but without the extra fat or mess. Potato flakes combined with breadcrumbs would also work well; dip the scallops in flour, beaten egg, and then into the mixture before cooking. Or dredge and then dip them in panko breadcrumbs mixed with Cajun seasoning for a bit of spice as well as crunchiness.

Scallops are also especially delicious when paired with salty, smoky bacon, and you can combine the two perfectly by wrapping each one in a thin cut strip, securing with a toothpick, and then air frying until cooked through and crisp. Or try using slices of silky prosciutto to let the delicate flavor of the mollusks really shine.