Can You Freeze Fresh Scallops? | What You Need To Know


Scallops are one of the most sought-after seafood for their palatable taste and exotic feel. However, since they’re highly perishable, it’s essential to store them the right way. So, how do you freeze scallops properly?

Scallops can be frozen. In fact, you should quickly freeze scallops after taking them home. Put them in a sealed plastic bag, arrange them in one even layer, and put them in the coldest part of the freezer. If you caught them fresh, you can shuck either them or freeze them in their shells.

Read on to learn about the best practices for freezing scallops, keeping them in the fridge, and thawing them.

Storing Scallops Properly

Scallops need to be frozen if you intend to keep them for a long time. That’s why most of the scallops you see on the market are already frozen. However, if you buy fresh scallops, it’s better to keep them cool, ideally in a bag of ice and a cooler, while you take them home.  

The ideal way of storing scallops is freezing them if you don’t want to eat them within two days. 

However, if you plan to eat the fresh-bought scallops within two days, you can store them in the fridge. While you could refrigerate them raw, it’s better to cook and refrigerate them and eat them within one or two days.

If you don’t freeze or refrigerate the scallops right away, the bacteria they carry from their natural habitat can multiply.

Prepping Scallops for the Freezer

Before freezing the scallops, pat them dry with a paper towel, put them in a thick, airtight plastic bag or a Ziploc, and put them in one even layer on the coldest part of the shelf in the freezer so that they freeze as fast as possible. If you freeze them on top of each other, it’ll take longer to thaw them.

According to the USDA, the faster you freeze your food, the better you’ll keep its nutrients. So, if your freezer has a fast-freeze option or shelf, use them to reduce the freezing time.

How Long Can You Freeze Fresh Scallops?

There’s no limit on how long you can freeze fresh scallops. However, keeping foods frozen for a long time can reduce their quality. The ideal time for scallops is three months, but you can extend it to six months.

When you bring fresh scallops home, don’t keep them at room temperature; quickly refrigerate or freeze them. Scallops are sensitive and will go bad very quickly. 

Can You Refreeze Scallops After Thawing?

You can freeze your thawed scallops if you’re sure the defrosting process hasn’t raised the scallops’ temperature to the danger zone. So, if the scallops still have ice crystals in them or you defrosted them in the fridge, you can safely refreeze them.

Although this process can be safe, you’ll most likely lose some quality. So, make sure to refreeze the scallops fast and eat them earlier than other scallops in the freezer.

Does Freezing Ruin Scallops?

Freezing doesn’t ruin scallops. In fact, it can preserve them for much longer. However, frozen scallops don’t taste as good as fresh ones because freezing affects their texture and taste. 

When water particles freeze, they destroy the food’s molecules, altering their texture. That’s even worse when the freezing process happens slowly.

Plus, some people feel frozen scallops have a fishy taste, which is due to the freezing process. 

Are Frozen Scallops As Good as Fresh?

In terms of quality, frozen scallops can’t be as good as fresh. They undergo physical processes that may even leave them mushy and smelly. However, they remain safe with a long shelf life

If you don’t wrap the scallops properly, oxygen can get into the package and ruin the scallops’ texture. Freezer burn is another factor that greatly affects the fresh taste of scallops. 

Do You Rinse Scallops Before Freezing?

It’s up to you to rinse the scallops before freezing. If the scallops come frozen in heavy-duty packages, you can directly put them in the freezer. But if you get fresh scallops in their shells, it’s better to shuck and rinse them to make sure they are clean of any sands or sea plants.

If you rinse them, pat them dry, and then freeze them. Plus, make sure to keep the scallops away from other foods in the kitchen and thoroughly wash all the kitchen utensils to avoid cross-contamination.  

Can I Freeze Scallops Twice?

You could refreeze raw scallops if you haven’t defrosted them at room temperature. But if they’re fully defrosted, it’s better to cook them and then freeze them. 

Depending on where you live, you may find different types of scallops in terms of freshness. If you live near the sea, you can buy fresh-caught scallops still in their shells. However, most seafood comes to supermarkets in a frozen state, which is completely safe. 

If the scallops aren’t frozen, they’re most likely previously frozen but thawed before being placed on fish counters. 

Pro Tip: Before buying them, ask if they’re thawed because, in this case, you can’t freeze them again. You should cook them as soon as you get home because you don’t know if the scallops reached a danger zone while defrosting. 

Can You Freeze Scallops in the Shell?

You can freeze scallops in their shells. However, make sure they’re fresh when you buy them because they may have been frozen and thawed before getting to the fish market. 

If you want to keep the fresh scallops in the shell to keep them alive, you can’t keep them in the freezer. That’s because they can’t live in freezing temperatures, and they’ll die.

Instead, you can put the scallops in the fridge for up to 4 days. The ideal temperature is 32 to 40 °F (0 to 4.44 °C). So, if you’re not sure about the temperature of your fridge, keep them on ice. 

Helpful Tip: To prevent the melted water from getting into the scallops, put the ice cubes in a big bowl and place a smaller bowl on top of them filled with scallops.

Can You Freeze Scallops After Cooking?

Cooked Scallops

You can also refreeze scallops after cooking them. Cooked scallops can stay in the freezer for up to four months and in the fridge for four days. However, their quality and taste may not be as good as fresh scallops.

To extend the cooked scallops’ shelf life, put them in small airtight containers or wrap them tightly in heavy-duty aluminum foil or freezer bags. And the best way to defrost frozen cooked scallops is putting them in the fridge overnight. You don’t want to try cold water because you can never be sure water doesn’t get in the plastic bag.

If you put them in a container, make sure it’s plastic or glass. Other materials can make the scallops absorb moisture or fridge odors.

The secret to long shelf life is that scallops have the least contact with the air because the moisture can ruin scallops. That’s why you shouldn’t keep them in large containers.

Pro Tip: If you want to freeze cooked scallops, wait until they cool down to room temperature. Otherwise, the moisture gets trapped in the plastic bag or the container, creating freezer burn or making the scallops go bad.  

How Do You Thaw Frozen Scallops?

The best way to thaw frozen seafood, including scallops, is to take them out of the freezer and keep them in the fridge overnight. This way, they’ll defrost below the temperature danger zone and food bacteria are less likely to grow.

You should never defrost scallops at room temperature. If you don’t defrost them in the refrigerator, they can get chewy and rubbery.

However, if you don’t have enough time to defrost the scallops overnight, you can use a microwave oven. Since the oven doesn’t distribute heat evenly, make sure to stir the scallops and cook them quickly afterward.

The least favorable way to defrost scallops is to run them under cold water. Instead, you should keep them in a sealed, waterproof plastic bag and fully submerge them in water. Again, to avoid dangerous temperatures, make sure to finish the defrosting process in less than two hours.

Important: Never defrost the scallops in the same plastic bags you used to freeze them because they’ll get soggy. Instead, take them out of the bag, put them in a bowl, and cover it with a cling wrap to prevent them from absorbing fridge odors.

How Long Does It Take To Thaw Out Frozen Scallops?

Depending on the defrosting method you use, the process can take from a couple of minutes to 24 hours. However, faster methods are preferred because they’ll retain the taste and texture better. 

If you thaw the scallops in the fridge, which is the ideal way, you should take them out 24 hours before cooking. 

The duration also depends on how you’ve arranged the scallops. For example, if you’ve put them in one layer in a plastic bag, they’ll thaw much faster than when you stack them on top of each other in a container.

If you use the cool water method, defrosting can take up to two hours. However, larger scallops take longer to defrost.

In a hurry? The fastest way is to use the defrosting option of your microwave oven. It only takes a couple of minutes to fully thaw the scallops.

Can You Defrost Scallops in Water?

You can defrost scallops in water but never use hot or warm water as it can raise the scallops’ temperature and ruin them. Instead, pour cold water in a large bowl and place the scallops, tightly sealed in a waterproof plastic bag, in the bowl. 

Fill the bowl with fresh water every half hour to keep the water at the right temperature. And never put scallops directly in the water as it can seep out the nutrients. 

Why Do Frozen Scallops Smell Fishy?

Frozen scallops have this fishy smell because they’re not fresh. While you can freeze most foods, including scallops, to preserve them, you can’t keep them fresh. Fresh scallops have a clean, sweet, and seaweed-like smell.

Seafood may start to smell because of the salt in the ocean water. A specific amino acid called trimethylamine oxide (TMAO) strikes a balance between the salt in the water and seafood’s cells. When killed, sea creatures release bacteria and enzymes that turn TMAO into trimethylamine (TMA). This substance is responsible for the fishy odor.

You can get rid of the fishy smell of scallops the same way as other seafood. For example, you can soak them in milk or marinate them in ginger, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.

Pro Tip: The faster you freeze the scallops, the less likely they are to stink. Besides, if you get flash-frozen scallops, they have a weaker fishy smell. That’s because the scallops get frozen immediately after being caught and shucked.

While a fishy smell can’t be a sign of bad scallops, discard them if they have an unpleasantly off odor.

Does Freezing Scallops Kill Bacteria?

Freezing scallops doesn’t kill bacteria or viruses. The only way to eliminate bacteria is to cook your food thoroughly. That said, freezing can stop the growth of bacteria.

The bacteria can already be present in the scallops when harvested from the sea or get into them while they’re being handled and prepared for sale. Some of these bacteria include Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus, Vibrio, Listeria, and Shigella.

Scallops take only up to four minutes to be fully cooked until they get a milky white color with a firm texture. At this stage, you can be sure the heat has killed the bacteria. 

That’s why you shouldn’t eat raw seafood, including scallops in sushi or ceviche. However, any method that leads to thorough cooking can be effective, including baking, frying, boiling, and heavy steaming.

However, since overcooking can ruin the taste and texture, you can sauté the scallops at hot temperatures for 30 seconds. This way, you can make sure all the bacteria are killed, and you get all the tasty, juicy goodness. 

If the scallops contain worms and parasites, freezing can kill them. However, it depends on the freezer’s temperature and how long you keep them in the freezer. Plus, the type of parasite also determines the effectiveness of freezing. For example, tapeworms are less resistant to freezing than roundworms.

And since freezing doesn’t kill bacteria, you need to handle the scallops carefully to avoid cross-contamination after defrosting them. Wear gloves while handling scallops and prevent contact with wounds. In addition, wash all chicken utensils and countertops with hot water, soap, and white vinegar to reduce the risk of cross-contamination.

How Long Do Fresh Scallops Last in the Fridge?

Fresh scallops, stored properly, can last in the fridge for up to four days. If you decide to keep them in the fridge, make sure to dry them thoroughly and never put them in water. 

That’s because water will make them soggy and mess up the searing process, making them rubbery after cooking. To make sure the shucked scallops don’t have excess water, you can do the following:

  1. Sprinkle some salt over the scallops.
  2. Wait for 15 minutes.
  3. Pat them dry with a paper towel.
  4. Put them in a plastic bag in the fridge.

If the scallops are alive in their shells, don’t keep them in water because they can’t breathe, will die, and go bad. To make sure you’ve stored them properly in the fridge, put them on a bed of ice in the fridge.

How Can You Tell if Scallops Have Gone Bad?

It’s easy to identify scallops that have gone bad. When they’re in the shell, tap on the half-open shell to see if it closes. If the shell doesn’t open, the scallop is dead.

However, it doesn’t mean the scallop may have gone bad because shucked scallops are also dead.

Fresh scallops are white to beige, some with a pleasant orange tint, firm flesh, and sweet smell. Any discoloration, brown colors, or shredded flesh can show either expiration or bad handling.

  • Bad scallops have a strong fishy odor with a slimy texture and an off-color. If you smell a sour, off odor, you should discard them.
  • If you get frozen scallops in packets, smell them to see if they give off any smell. In this case, get a pass on them. If you see ice crystals on the flesh, it could show that the freezing process happened long after they were harvested.

Closing Thoughts 

To enjoy all the ocean goodness of the scallops, you don’t need to eat them right away, although it’s the ideal way. Instead, you can safely freeze them for up to six months if you have extra scallops.

Ensure to keep them away from moisture by storing them in airtight plastic bags to minimize changes in taste and texture.

And never thaw them at room temperature because it’ll increase the risk of bacterial growth. Instead, take the scallops out, put them in a bowl, and put the bowl in the fridge for 24 hours.

For more, don’t miss What Is the Best Lobster? | “Tail to Tail” Comparison.

Anne James

Hi, I'm Anne but my grandchildren call me Jelly Grandma. I have over 50 years of experience as a Southern cook and am a retired librarian. I love sharing what I have learned. You can find me on YouTube as well! Just click the link at the bottom of your page. I hope your visit here has been a sweet one.

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