How To Thaw Scallops: 5 Easy Ways & Step By Step Instructions

Ah, scallops, the jewels of the sea! For those living on the coast, scallops can be enjoyed fresh whenever the mood strikes. Yet, for those of us living inland, access to decent scallops is not quite so straightforward.

And, when it comes to buying frozen scallops, there remains the question:

How do you defrost fresh scallops? The safest, most effective method of thawing frozen scallops is the same method used to defrost any meat: refrigeration overnight. However, there are other methods you can use to defrost frozen scallops if you’re pressed for time.

In this article, I take an in-depth look at the five top methods for thawing frozen scallops.

How To Defrost scallops


Method One: Refrigeration

Approximate defrost time: 24-30 hours

Here’s how to defrost frozen scallops in a fridge:

Step One: Take your scallops from the freezer and remove them from whatever packaging they are in. Next, place the scallops into a bowl, and cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap.

Step Two: Set your fridge’s temperature to 37 Fahrenheit (3 Celsius), rather than the standard 35 Fahrenheit (2 Celsius). Move any food which would spoil at this temperature to the coolest part of the fridge.

Step Three: Set your covered bowl of frozen scallops on the bottom shelf of your fridge, away from any open foodstuffs.

Step Four: Leave the bowl of frozen scallops to defrost for at least 24 hours. (If the scallops are not fully defrosted after this time, leave them for another 6 hours.)

Step Five: Pat your scallops dry, and either return them to the fridge (for max. 2-3 days) or cook them as you like.

Defrosting frozen scallops in the fridge is the safest way to thaw shellfish like this. Still, sometimes you can change your mind, and as it happens you may be asking yourself:

Can you refreeze scallops? Whilst you can typically refreeze meat that has been defrosted in the fridge, it is inadvisable to ever refreeze scallops. These shellfish are just too fragile to undergo defrosting and refreezing. The texture and taste quality of scallops will majorly suffer from refreezing.


  • Leaves scallops in the best shape for cooking, as other methods can damage texture and taste.
  • Most hygienic, safest method of defrosting, with minimal chance for bacterial growth.
  • Fuss free: requires minimal effort on your part.


  • Can leave scallops a little tougher than some other methods (see our next suggestion!)
  • Longest defrosting time of all available methods.

Method Two: Refrigeration With Milk

Approximate defrosting time: 24-30 hours

This is one of the stranger thawing methods on our list, but it works! Use this method if your previously-thawed scallops turned out a little tough, or if you plan to sauté or poach your defrosted shellfish in cream or butter.

Here’s how to thaw frozen scallops in a refrigerator with milk:

Step One: Remove scallops from the freezer, and then take them out of their packaging. Place your scallops into a bowl, and cover them with milk.

Step Two: Cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap. Place it on the lowest shelf of your fridge, away from other open foodstuffs.

Step Three: Adjust your refrigerator’s temperature to 37 degrees Fahrenheit (3 degrees Celsius). Move foodstuffs that might spoil at this temperature to the coldest parts of the fridge (the backs of shelves).

Step Four: Leave your bowl of milk and scallops in the fridge for 24 hours, then check if they are defrosted. If not quite thawed all the way through, leave the bowl of scallops in the fridge for another 6 hours.

Step Five: Remove your scallops from the milk, pat them dry, and cook them however you like. Alternatively, leave them in the fridge before cooking for up to 2-3 days (but no more!)

The reason some cooks like to leave their scallops in milk is that milk helps to get rid of any unwanted fishiness, whilst keeping the scallops nice and tender for cooking.

At this point, I don’t doubt a few of you are asking:

How do I know when scallops are properly defrosted? The easiest way to tell if your frozen scallops have thawed is to gently squeeze the thickest of them between thumb and forefinger. The scallop should feel cool, but not cold to the touch, and should be soft, without any hardness (indicating a frozen core).


  • Keeps scallops tender and compliments dairy-based recipes, perfect for cooking.
  • Hygienic and totally safe method of thawing frozen scallops.
  • Easy and hassle free, requiring no attention from you.
  • Gets rid of any unwanted fishiness which may be attached to the scallops.


  • Takes just as long as the regular refrigeration method of defrosting frozen scallops.

Method Three: Microwave

Approximate defrosting time: 30 seconds-4 minutes

If you’re really, really pressed for time, then you can always turn to a microwave to defrost your scallops.

However, whilst I’m listing it here as a viable option, I would always recommend against it if you have time for one of the other methods. Scallops are fragile, and microwaves are ruthless!

Here’s how to defrost scallops in a microwave:

Step One: Take the scallops out of the freezer, and remove them from their packaging. Next, put them in a microwaveable bowl.

Step Two: Cover the microwaveable bowl with a thick piece of kitchen towel (at least 3-ply). Thinner kitchen towel will not stand up to the task of soaking the steam from the scallops.

Step Three: Turn your microwave to its defrost setting. Failing that, put it on 30-50% power.

Step Four: Put your covered bowl of scallops in the microwave on the above setting for 30 seconds. Check the thickest scallop to see if it has thawed.

Step Five: Continue in 30-second increments until the scallops have just thawed.

Step Six: Finally, pat your scallops dry and cook them as you like.

When it comes to defrosting anything, time is always of the essence, and always the first question on people’s lips.

So, how do you defrost scallops quickly? The quickest way to defrost scallops is in the microwave, using the method we’ve just described. However, if you have even a little extra time (just 20 or 30 minutes will do), we recommend using a different method. The cold water bath is an excellent, safe, speedy alternative to the microwave.


  • The quickest means of defrosting frozen scallops.


  • Difficult not to start cooking the scallops in the process, which affects the end product.
  • Can impair the taste and texture of the scallops, leaving them rubbery and unsavoury.
  • Thaws your scallops unevenly, leaving the outside warmer than the inside.
  • You must cook your scallops straight away, following defrosting using this method.

Method Four: Cold Water Bath

Approximate defrosting time: 20-30 minutes

Did you forget to take your scallops out of the freezer last night? Don’t worry! This method will allow you to safely and quickly defrost your shellfish.

Here’s how to thaw scallops in a cold water bath:

Step One: Take your scallops out of the freezer, and then out of their packaging. Place the scallops into a watertight bag (preferably ziplocked). Get as much air out of it as possible, then seal it.

Step Two: Place your bag of frozen scallops in a large bowl in the sink. Run cold water into the bowl, filling it to the brim, until the bag of scallops is fully submerged.

Step Three: Replace the water with fresh cold water every 10 minutes.

Step Four: Leave your bag of scallops in the cold water for 20-30 minutes. Next, check to see if the scallops have fully thawed. If they haven’t quite thawed, place them back in the water for another 10 minutes.

Step Five: Remove your scallops from the bag and pat them dry. Cook your thawed scallops however you like, but make sure to do so immediately following this defrosting method.

Let’s say you’ve used the above method, but after 30 minutes your scallops still aren’t quite defrosted. What then?

Do you need to thaw frozen scallops before cooking? With any seafood (including scallops) it is always advisable to fully defrost the meat before cooking. However, provided you sear your scallops on a high enough heat or intend to poach them in a sauce, you could get away with cooking scallops from frozen, or from a partial thaw.

Just make sure you allow a little extra cooking time for the thawing process to happen.


  • One of the fastest, safest methods of defrosting scallops.
  • A fairly easy method to carry out.
  • Delivers an even thaw, all the way through each scallop.


  • You must cook scallops straight away, they will not keep any longer.
  • Requires some attention to keep the water cold.

Method Five: Cold Running Water

Approximate defrosting time: 10-20 minutes

Here’s how to defrost your scallops using cold running water:

Step One: Remove your scallops from the freezer. Take them out of their packaging and put them in an airtight bag, removing the air before you seal it.

Step Two: Place your scallops in a colander or sieve in the sink. Turn on the cold tap and run it over the bag of scallops continuously.

Step Three: Keep the cold water running for 10-20 minutes, checking your scallops to test their thaw level after the first 10 minutes. The scallops should be fully thawed after 20 minutes.

Step Four: Pat your scallops dry, and cook them immediately, just as you normally would.


  • Second fastest method of defrosting, after the microwave.
  • Safe and hygienic, minimising risk of bacteria.
  • Fuss free, no maintenance – just turn the tap on and walk away.


  • May affect texture quality. Scallops are fragile, and the pressure of running water might bruise the scallops.
  • Wasteful in terms of water usage.


Scallops are a real treat, but they are also delicate. When defrosting these shellfish, you should always try to leave yourself enough time to defrost them in the fridge (ideally in a bowl of milk) for 24 hours or more.

However, sometimes you simply don’t have that time. If pressed, then I would tend toward the cold water bath method or the cold running water method. The microwave should be a last resort.

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