Butter-Poached Scallops

I first got the idea of poaching in butter while reading Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry Cookbook. I immediately made his butter-poached lobster. It was delicious but far too much work even for me. It’s the sort of dish best ordered in a restaurant, and perhaps one day I’ll eat it made by Keller himself. The idea of poaching in butter stayed with me as I was rendering pork fat and cooking duck legs in their own fat. I realised that poaching in butter was similar to making a confit (no, I didn’t consider cooking a cow in butter). Unlike Keller I had no desire to make large quantities of beurre monté, an unflavoured beurre blanc, so I decided to keep it simple and poach my scallops in plain butter. Serve this dish with a dilled cucumber salad or warm cooked spinach.

Recipe author Jennifer McLagan
Fat, An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, With Recipes
Photography by Leigh Beisch
Reproduced courtesy of Jacqui Small LLP

Publisher's Copyrighted Material
Category:  Starters & Salads  - 


For 4 people


  • 12 sea scallops
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 300 g unsalted butte
  • squeeze of lemon juice

Butter-Poached Scallops Directions

  1. 1. Arrange the scallops in a saucepan that is just large enough for all the scallops to fit snugly in one layer. Add water so that it just covers the scallops.

    2. Pour the water into a measuring cup and place the scallops on a paper towel and pat dry. Season the scallops well with salt and pepper and set aside.

    3. The amount of water in the measuring cup is the amount of melted butter you’ll need. Dice the butter, place in a saucepan over a medium-low heat, and clip a kitchen thermometer to the side of the pan.

    4. Heat the butter, stirring occasionally, until the thermostat reads 85C / 185F. Add the scallops and bring the temperature back to 85C / 185F. Cook the scallops, turning once, until they are cooked through, 2 to 4 minutes. Test a scallop by cutting in half; it should be opaque in the center.

    Using a slotted spoon, transfer the scallops to warmed plates. Drizzle the scallops with a little of the cooking butter and a squeeze of lemon juice. Serve immediately.