“Sea Scallops vs Bay Scallops: Understanding the Differences”

bay scallops vs sea scallops

The mollusk is a favorite in seafood cases for good reasons. The tender white bivalves can be prepared in a number of ways, from easy appetizers such as Bacon-Wrapped Air-Fried Scallops, to more impressive main courses like Risotto Scallop with Brown Butter & Parmesan. The two types of scallops you are most likely to find when shopping are sea scallops and bay scallops. Find out what the difference is between these two types of scallops.

Bay Scallops and Sea Scallops

Bay scallops can be harvested from cold shallow water in bays and estuaries. The scallops are very small, with a half-inch diameter. The meat of bay scallops is tender and has a sweet taste. Bay scallops can be a cheaper alternative to their sea scallop counterparts. You can use bay scallops to make salads or paellas.

As the name implies, sea scallops are found in cold waters. They are harvested all year round. The scallops are usually larger, measuring between 1 1/2 and 2 inches in diameter. Sea scallops are still tender and sweet, but they can be a bit chewier and less sweet than bay scallops. The cost of sea scallops is higher than that of bay scallops. Sea scallops can be used in Brown Butter Seared Scallops and Panko & Parmesan Crust Baked Scallops.

Sea Scallops and Bay Scallops: Nutritional Differences

The following is the nutritional information per 100g serving of Bay Scallops (roughly 3.5 ounces).

71 calories

12 g protein

Total fat: 0g

Four grams of carbohydrates

Fiber 0g

159 milligrams sodium

The 204 mg of potassium is a dietary supplement.

The following is the nutritional information per 100 grams of Sea Scallops:

71 calories

12 g protein

Total fat: 0g

Four grams of carbohydrates

Fiber 0g

159mg sodium

The 204 mg of potassium is a dietary supplement.

The nutrition profiles of both sea and bay scallops are similar. They contain potassium and protein. Potassium plays an important role in the body’s functions. Not eating enough potassium can lead to cramps and other symptoms such as nausea, stomach upset, or lethargy.

Scallops: Where to buy them

If you are buying sea or bay scallops, there are some key features to consider when shopping.

Fresh vs. Frozen Scallops

If you don’t live near the sea, it is likely that the scallops in your local store were frozen once. It’s because the scallops are frozen to ensure safe transportation, but then allowed to thaw out before being displayed in stores. The “fresh” fish you buy might not have the freshest taste. It’s best to opt for frozen scallops that are frozen immediately after they are harvested, when the scallops are freshest.

The difference between dry-packed and wet-packed scallops

The terms wet- and dry-packed refer to how the scallops have been preserved since harvest. The sodium triphosphate used to preserve wet-packed scales is intended to prolong the shelf life. The preservative does add to the water content of the scallops. Wet-packed scales cost more because they are usually priced by the pound. This excess water will also cause problems in the kitchen, as it can prevent even searring. It could lead to a rubbery texture.

Dry-packed scallops, on the other hand do not contain any artificial preservatives. They retain the natural moisture. Dry-packed scallops have also a silkier, more pliable texture. They are also easier to sear. Choose dry-packed scales whenever possible.

Diver Scallops and Dayboat Scallops

Scallops may be labeled “diver”, “dayboat” to indicate how they were harvested. Diver scallops, hand-harvested, are considered more sustainable than scallops harvested using trawling. Trawling scrapes away the ocean bottom. Dayboat scallops are scallops harvested from a boat and returned to the shore in less than 24 hours. The scallops that are sold immediately are of the highest quality. Diver and dayboat scales are more expensive due to the complexity of their processing.

Scallop sustainability

Scallops are a good choice for sustainability if you buy the right ones. According to Seafood Watch , bottom-cultured scallops are the most sustainable. When looking for bay scallops to purchase, Seafood Watch recommends purchasing them in Massachusetts or New York. If you are looking for sea scallops to purchase, Seafood Watch recommends buying farmed Alaskan scallops.

The Bottom Line

The two main types of scallops are sea scallops and bay scallops. Bay scallops cost less than larger sea scallops. Look for scallops that have been dry-packed when you are buying them. Whatever scallops you select, they will be a delicious, tender source of protein.


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