Preparing Buttered Poached Scallops

Scallops have a soft slightly sweet and creamy flavour which is evocative of the sea.

A few poached scallops make an ideal starter dish but are also a superb garnish to accompany fish dishes of any sort. As a poached form, they work extremely well with baked halibut for example in combination with other side dishes by offering a complex texture in conjunction with other seafood. The main issue is to make sure the scallops are not overcooked by heating the butter up beyond 85ºC and leaving them in too long. 

Serves 4 as a starter. Serve two or three as a garnish for fish dishes.


  • 12 Scallops
  • 1/2 tsp Salt (or to taste)
  • Black pepper –  freshly ground
  • 1 and 1/3 cup/250g unsalted melted butter
  • Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp tarragon leaves, chopped for the sauce. Chop a few more to add as a small garnish.


  1. As the scallops are going to be poached rather than fried or baked, arrange them in a large enough saucepan to allow them to form a single layer. No multi-layering as the cooking times are unequal for each one.
  2. Add enough water to the pan to just cover the scallops. Pour that water into a measuring cup which will be used as the volume measure for the added butter.
  3. Place the scallops on a paper towel and pat dry. Season the scallops with salt and pepper on both sides.
  4. Make sure the amount of melted butter equals the amount of water in the measuring cup.
  5. Pour butter into saucepan and heat over a medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the thermometer reads 185ºF/85ºC. Add the chopped tarragon leaves at this point so it really infuses the sauce.
  6. Add the scallops and heat that butter again to 185ºF/85ºC.
  7. Cook these scallops, turning once, until cooked through for between 2 and 4 minutes. Transfer scallops with slotted spoon to a plate. Drizzle these with a little of the cooking butter and a squeeze of lemon juice.
  8. Serve hot on their own or add as a garnish some of the remaining chopped tarragon leaves with a piece of baked or grilled fish.
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