Scallops can make a delicious meal, but they also contain high levels of mercury. So is it safe to eat them raw?
Scallops are a kind of shellfish found in oceans across the world. This fish is often served raw or lightly cooked.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has determined that scallops are generally safe to consume raw.
However, certain kinds of scallops may pose a risk of food poisoning if consumed uncooked.
While scallops are mainly considered safe to eat raw, certain varieties may contain higher amounts of mercury than others.
If you want to enjoy these delicacies without worrying about potential health risks, then you have come to the right place.
In the article below, we have compiled some important information about eating and cooking raw scallops, so that you can prepare the shellfish without having to worry about your health and well-being.
So if you love raw seafood and want to make your own, this article has everything you need to get started.
Can You Eat Scallops Raw?
The short and simple answer to this question is yes – you can eat scallops raw. In fact, scallops are considered a delicacy and can be eaten in several ways…
While scallops are considered a kind of mollusk, and therefore a source of meat, they can still be eaten raw. However, this is not how they are commonly eaten, as raw shellfish can pose some threats to your health.
When it comes to eating raw scallops, it is the adductor muscle that is consumed, with the caviar being discarded in favor of the main shellfish.
In most cases, raw scallops can make for a delicious meal. However, they can still cause some problems if they are not properly prepared. Something that we will discuss later in the article.
How To Eat Scallops Raw
Fishermen believe that you can eat a scallop the moment it has been plucked from the ocean, without any seasoning or sauce.
However, gourmet chefs prefer to serve raw scallops with lemon juice and a seasoning of salt.
The most traditional way to eat raw scallops comes from Italy, with the process being known as carpaccio.
While the name itself bears little significance, it remains a very impressive dish and can be sampled across the country. However, the art of carpaccio has only existed since the 1950s.
Carpaccio dishes should only take a total of 5 minutes to make, which means they are simple recipes that can be made at home.
In the case of raw scallops, you will need to cut the shellfish into thin slices and then dress them with vegetables.
It is also common to season the sliced scallops with traditional ingredients such as basil, rosemary, garlic, shallot, lemon and olive oil.
However, the main star of the dish is the scallops, which should not be overpowered by excessive seasoning. Just make a small amount of sauce and drizzle it across the fish before eating.
The only drawback is that raw scallops must always be fresh, otherwise, they could be contaminated and pose a risk to your health.
Because of this, it is advisable to seek out fresh scallops over frozen ones, as this helps to reduce the chances of contamination.
Why Are Raw Scallops Dangerous?
In most cases, scallops are harvested from saltwater estuaries, which are rivers that lead to the sea.
Because of this, many of the rivers where scallops grow are contaminated with the runoff of factories, power plants and even the sewers.
And while it is possible to clean shellfish, the main problem is that scallops are known to feed on microorganisms in the water, which means any harmful bacteria that they consume could be passed onto you.
Because of this, you could be capable of catching a range of diseases, such as salmonella, cholera and ecoli.
Of course, these harmful bacteria are usually killed during the cooking process. However, it can still remain prevalent if the shellfish is served raw or uncooked.
This is a problem associated with most mollusks, as clams, oysters, and mussels also need to be harvested in clean waters to ensure their edibility. But where do your scallops come from and are they safe to eat?
Where Do Scallops Come From?
Most scallops are harvested off the east coast of North America, which means they are plucked from the cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
Not only are these scallops safe to eat, but they are also larger than other species and therefore more suitable for mass production. The waters around scallop farms are also kept clean to make the shellfish edible.
In some cases, scallops are also exported by countries such as China and Japan, where they either catch wild scallops or harvest them through aquaculture.
While there is little information concerning wild scallops, all aquaculture areas must remain clean to make the scallops viable.
This means that contaminated scallops are possible, although it is very rare that you will encounter one at your local supermarket.
In fact, the risk of contamination when eating raw scallops is very low, as most seafood is processed before its release.
However, it is still advisable to purchase scallops that have a seal of approval from the WWF, Seafood Watch or ASC.
How Do You Know If Scallops Are Fresh?
When it comes to eating raw scallops, you must always consider the freshness of the shellfish you are consuming, as this could have a huge impact on the quality of the seafood and its edibility.
Here’s what you need to look out for to determine the freshness of your scallops. To begin, we will take a look at live scallops and then work out way down to fresh scallops that have already been shucked:
- If a scallop is still alive, the shell should close upon human contact, as to conceal the creature inside.
- Unlike dated scallops, live scallops will have a refreshing and watery smell – they will never smell like rotten fish.
It is important to remember that live scallops have a short shelf life, which means they can die very quickly. Because of this, it is rare that you will encounter live scallops or scallops that are incredibly fresh.
Now, let’s take a look at the qualities that a fresh scallop should have.
- Fresh scallops should have a firm and meaty texture, which is said to be similar to pork or beef.
- Fresh scallops will either feature a sea-salt smell or no smell at all – they should never smell like rotten fish.
- In most cases, fresh scallops will come in a range of colors, which include white, pink and pale orange.
- Fresh scallops will often feature a ‘dry packed’ label on the packet, which means they’re as fresh as commercial scallops get.
It is important to remember that most scallops sold in supermarkets have been processed with tripolyphosphate, which means they have been soaked to extend their shelf life.
Because of this, the scallops will steam when cooked, as the heat will begin to evaporate the excess moisture.
Can you eat scallops raw? Yes – however, it is a lot easier said than done.
While eating raw scallops is perfectly fine, it does come with some drawbacks, such as the chances of contamination and disease.
Fortunately, most commercial scallops have been grown in clean waters and processed to ensure their edibility.
However, you can also use various methods to determine the freshness of your scallops and their edible status.