Undercooked Scallops: How to Fix? What’s The Health Risks?

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Scallops, with their delicate flavor and tender texture, are a culinary delight that requires precision in cooking.

However, encountering undercooked scallops can turn a culinary masterpiece into a potential disappointment.

In this article, we’ll explore the causes, fixes, signs, and preventative measures to ensure your scallops are perfectly cooked and a gastronomic delight.

Is it okay to eat undercooked scallops?

Consuming undercooked scallops can pose a risk to your health, as with any undercooked seafood.

Scallops, like other shellfish, may carry harmful bacteria and parasites that can cause foodborne illnesses.

Eating undercooked scallops increases the risk of infections, including those caused by bacteria like Vibrio and parasites like Toxoplasma and Anisakis.

How To Tell If Scallops Are Undercooked?

Identifying whether a scallop is undercooked involves assessing visual and textural cues. Here are some signs that a scallop may be undercooked:


Properly cooked scallops should be opaque, with a pearly white or light tan color. If the center of the scallop appears translucent or semi-transparent, it may indicate undercooking.

Soft Texture:

Undercooked scallops may have a soft and almost raw texture in the center. The exterior might be seared, but the inside remains tender and not fully cooked.

Cool Center:

What does undercooked scallops look like? If you touch the center of the scallop with a fork or knife and it feels cool or cooler than the rest of the scallop, it may indicate that the heat hasn’t penetrated thoroughly.

Sticky or Gummy Texture:

Undercooked scallops may feel sticky, gummy, or overly soft when you cut into them, as the proteins have not fully set.

Incomplete Sear:

While a golden brown sear on the exterior is desirable, if the sear is too light or uneven, it could suggest that the scallop hasn’t spent enough time cooking.

How to Fix undercooked scallops? 

Fixing undercooked scallops is possible, and there are several methods you can use to ensure they are properly cooked.

Here are a few approaches:

Return to the Pan:

If you notice that the scallops are undercooked, simply return them to the hot pan or skillet.

Cook for an additional 1-2 minutes on each side until they reach an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C). This will help achieve the desired opaque texture.

Use Higher Heat:

Increase the cooking temperature slightly to ensure a quicker and more thorough sear without overcooking the exterior.

Higher heat can help cook the scallops faster while maintaining a good sear.

Finish in the Oven:

Transfer undercooked scallops to a preheated oven set at around 375°F (190°C). Bake for a few minutes until they reach the safe internal temperature and the desired texture.

Steam briefly:

Place the undercooked scallops in a steamer basket above simmering water. Steam for a few minutes until they are fully cooked. This method helps to cook scallops gently and evenly.

Microwave with Caution:

While not the ideal method, you can use a microwave briefly to cook undercooked scallops.

However, this method may affect the texture, so it’s recommended to use it cautiously and for very short durations.

When using any of these methods, be vigilant about not overcooking the scallops in the process. Overcooking can result in a loss of tenderness and a less enjoyable texture.

Continuously monitor the scallops, and once they reach the recommended internal temperature of 145°F (63°C) and have a firm, opaque texture, they are ready to be enjoyed.

Remember that proper cooking techniques and attentive monitoring are essential to achieving perfectly cooked scallops, ensuring both safety and an exceptional culinary experience.

What Are Causes of Undercooked Scallops?

Undercooking scallops can result from various factors related to cooking methods and practices.

Here are some common causes of undercooked scallops:

Inadequate Cooking Time:

One of the primary causes of undercooked scallops is not allowing them to cook for a sufficient duration.

Scallops cook relatively quickly, but precise timing is essential to ensure that the interior is fully cooked.

Improper Temperature:

Cooking scallops at too low a temperature may result in undercooking. Conversely, using excessively high heat can lead to uneven cooking, leaving the center undercooked while the exterior may be seared.

Overcrowding the Pan:

Overcrowding the pan with too many scallops at once can hinder the cooking process.

Each scallop should have enough space to receive even heat for thorough cooking.

Overcrowding can lead to uneven cooking and potentially leave some scallops undercooked.

Size Discrepancies:

If scallops of varying sizes are cooked together, smaller scallops may cook faster than larger ones.

This can result in a mix of cooked and undercooked scallops on the same pan.
Incomplete Searing:

If the searing process is not completed correctly, the scallops may have an undercooked appearance.

It’s important to achieve a golden brown sear on both sides without neglecting the interior cooking.

Inadequate Preheating:

Starting with a pan that is not adequately preheated can slow down the cooking process. Scallops need a hot surface to sear properly and cook efficiently.

Frozen Scallops:

If scallops are frozen when added to the pan, excess moisture may impede the searing process and result in undercooked scallops. Thaw scallops thoroughly and pat them dry before cooking.

Lack of Monitoring:

Not paying close attention to the cooking process can lead to undercooking. It’s crucial to monitor scallops continuously, flipping them when needed and checking for visual cues of doneness.

To prevent undercooked scallops, it’s essential to follow recommended cooking guidelines, use appropriate temperatures, avoid overcrowding the pan, and ensure that each scallop has enough space for even cooking.

How to Prevent Scallops From Being Undercooked?

To ensure your scallops are cooked to perfection and safe to eat, there are a few important steps to follow.

By employing proper cooking techniques, using a food thermometer, avoiding cross-contamination, and storing scallops correctly, you can prevent undercooked scallops and enjoy a delicious meal every time.

Proper Cooking Techniques

When it comes to cooking scallops, using the right techniques is crucial.

To prevent undercooked scallops, follow these tips:

  1. Thaw frozen scallops in the refrigerator overnight, ensuring they are fully defrosted before cooking.
  2. Pat dry the scallops using a paper towel to remove excess moisture, as this helps with achieving a sear on the outside.
  3. Heat a skillet or frying pan over medium-high heat and add a tablespoon of oil. Make sure the pan is hot before adding the scallops.
  4. Cook the scallops for about 2-3 minutes per side, or until they are opaque and firm to the touch. Avoid overcooking, as this can result in tough and rubbery scallops.
  5. Remove the scallops from the heat and let them rest for a few minutes before serving. This allows the residual heat to finish cooking the scallops evenly.

Using A Food Thermometer

Using a food thermometer is essential for ensuring proper cooking temperatures and preventing undercooked scallops.

Follow these guidelines:

  1. Insert the food thermometer into the thickest part of the scallop, ensuring it does not touch the pan or the bone (if present).
  2. For safe consumption, scallops should reach an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C).
  3. If the scallops haven’t reached the desired temperature, continue cooking until they do. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

Avoiding Cross-contamination

Cross-contamination can lead to foodborne illnesses, so it’s important to prevent it when handling scallops:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before and after handling raw scallops.
  • Use separate cutting boards, utensils, and plates for raw and cooked scallops to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Clean and sanitize any surfaces that come into contact with raw scallops, such as countertops and kitchen tools.

Storing Scallops Correctly

Proper storage is essential for maintaining the quality and safety of scallops:

  • Store raw scallops in the refrigerator at a temperature of 40°F (4°C) or below.
  • Keep scallops tightly sealed in their original packaging or transfer them to an airtight container.
  • Consume fresh scallops within 1-2 days of purchase to ensure optimal quality and taste.
  • If you’re not planning to cook the scallops immediately, freeze them. Place scallops in a zip-top bag, remove excess air, and store in the freezer for up to 3 months.

What To Do If You Eat Undercooked Scallops?

If you consume undercooked scallops, it’s crucial to seek immediate medical attention to prevent foodborne illnesses such as food poisoning.

Contact your healthcare provider or local poison control center for guidance on handling the situation.

What to do if you eat undercooked scallops Eating undercooked scallops can pose a risk of foodborne illness, leading to symptoms that require attention.

It’s essential to be aware of the signs, seek medical care promptly, and understand the treatment options available.

Symptoms To Look Out For

When dealing with undercooked scallop consumption, be mindful of symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and fever. These can indicate a potential foodborne illness and should be taken seriously.

Seeking Medical Attention

If you experience any of these symptoms after consuming undercooked scallops, it’s crucial to seek medical attention immediately.

Contact a healthcare provider to receive proper diagnosis and treatment for the foodborne illness.

Treatment For Foodborne Illnesses

Upon seeking medical care, your healthcare provider may recommend treatments such as hydration, rest, and in severe cases, prescription medications to address the symptoms of foodborne illnesses. Follow their guidance closely to ensure a speedy recovery.

Alternate Cooking Methods For Scallops

When cooking scallops, it’s important to avoid undercooking. To ensure they are thoroughly cooked, alternate methods such as pan-searing, grilling, or baking can be utilized.

These methods help to achieve a golden-brown exterior while ensuring that the scallops are cooked through evenly.

Scallops are a delicate and delicious seafood that can be prepared in various ways, beyond the traditional pan-frying method.

If you are looking to switch things up and explore new flavors, here are some alternate cooking methods for scallops that you can try.

Grilling Scallops

Grilling scallops is a fantastic way to achieve a smoky and charred flavor that perfectly complements their sweet taste.

Here’s a simple recipe to follow:

  1. Preheat your grill to medium-high heat.
  2. Meanwhile, brush the scallops lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Place the scallops directly on the grill grates, making sure they are evenly spaced.
  4. Cook the scallops for about 2-3 minutes per side, until they are opaque and have grill marks.
  5. Remove the scallops from the grill and serve immediately.

Grilling scallops gives them a delightful smoky flavor and a slightly caramelized exterior. It’s a great option for outdoor gatherings and adds a unique twist to your seafood menu.

Pan-searing Scallops

Pan-searing scallops is a classic cooking method that results in a beautifully browned and tender texture.

Follow these steps to achieve perfection:

  1. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and add a drizzle of olive oil.
  2. Pat the scallops dry with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Once the skillet is hot, carefully place the scallops in a single layer.
  4. Sear the scallops for 2-3 minutes on each side until they develop a golden crust.
  5. Remove the scallops from the skillet and serve immediately.

When pan-searing scallops, it’s important not to overcrowd the skillet. This allows them to brown properly and ensures a tasty caramelized exterior while remaining tender and juicy on the inside.

Baking Scallops

Baking scallops is a simple and convenient method that requires minimal hands-on time.

Try this easy recipe:

  1. Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C).
  2. Prepare a baking dish by greasing it lightly with olive oil or non-stick cooking spray.
  3. Place the scallops in the baking dish, making sure they have some breathing room.
  4. Drizzle the scallops with melted butter or olive oil, and season with your favorite herbs and spices.
  5. Bake the scallops for 12-15 minutes, or until they are opaque in the center and lightly browned on top.
  6. Remove the scallops from the oven and serve immediately.

Baking scallops is a foolproof method that results in moist and tender scallops. The gentle heat of the oven ensures they cook evenly and retain their natural sweetness.

What are the side effects of eating undercooked scallops?

Eating undercooked scallops or any undercooked seafood can lead to various health risks due to the potential presence of harmful bacteria, viruses, or parasites.

Here are some potential side effects and health risks associated with consuming undercooked scallops:

Foodborne Illness:

Undercooked scallops may carry bacteria such as Vibrio, which can cause foodborne illnesses. Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever.

Bacterial Infections:

Vibrio bacteria, commonly found in raw or undercooked seafood, can lead to severe bacterial infections.

In some cases, infections may result in more serious conditions, particularly for individuals with compromised immune systems.

Parasitic Infections:

Undercooked scallops may harbor parasites such as Anisakis or Toxoplasma. Ingesting these parasites can lead to parasitic infections, which may cause digestive issues, abdominal pain, and in severe cases, more systemic health problems.

Allergic Reactions:

Some individuals may be allergic to certain components in scallops. Consuming undercooked scallops increases the risk of triggering allergic reactions, which can range from mild symptoms like itching and hives to severe reactions such as anaphylaxis.

Gastrointestinal Distress:

Undercooked scallops may cause general gastrointestinal distress, including nausea, bloating, and discomfort, even if they don’t lead to a full-blown foodborne illness.

It’s essential to prioritize proper cooking methods and ensure that scallops are cooked thoroughly to minimize the risk of foodborne illnesses and associated health issues.

Always follow recommended guidelines for cooking seafood, including scallops, to guarantee both safety and a delicious dining experience.

If you suspect that you have consumed undercooked scallops and are experiencing symptoms, it’s advisable to seek medical attention promptly.


Encountering undercooked scallops is a culinary challenge, but armed with knowledge and the right techniques, you can turn setbacks into successes. Prioritize precise timing, maintain the right cooking temperature, and be attentive to visual and textural cues to ensure your scallops are consistently cooked to perfection. With these tips, your scallop-cooking adventures are sure to be a delicious triumph every time.

Happy cooking!

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