AskDefine | Define scallop

Dictionary Definition



1 one of a series of rounded projections (or the notches between them) formed by curves along an edge (as the edge of a leaf or piece of cloth or the margin of a shell or a shriveled red blood cell observed in a hypertonic solution etc.) [syn: crenation, crenature, crenel, crenelle]
2 edible muscle of mollusks having fan-shaped shells; served broiled or poached or in salads or cream sauces [syn: scollop, escallop]
3 thin slice of meat (especially veal) usually fried or broiled [syn: cutlet, scollop, escallop]
4 edible marine bivalve having a fluted fan-shaped shell that swim by expelling water from the shell in a series of snapping motions [syn: scollop, escallop]


1 decorate an edge with scallops; "the dress had a scalloped skirt"
2 form scallops in; "scallop the meat" [syn: scollop]
3 fish for scallops [syn: scollop]
4 shape or cut in scallops; "scallop the hem of the dress" [syn: scollop]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Any of various marine bivalve molluscs of the family Pectinidae which are free-swimming.
  2. a curved projection, making part of a decoration
  3. a fillet of meat
  4. a form of fried potato

Alternative spellings


  • Dutch: Pectinidae
  • Finnish: kampasimpukka
  • French: coquille
  • German: Jakobsmuschel, Pilgermuschel
  • Icelandic: hörpuskel
  • Italian: capasanta
  • Japanese: ホタテガイ, 帆立貝
  • Korean: 가리비
  • Lithuanian: Šukutės
  • Portuguese: vieira
  • Spanish: vieira; venera, concha de peregrino
  • Swedish: mussla; pilgrimsmussla;


  1. to make or cook scallops
  2. to harvest scallops

Extensive Definition

A scallop ( or /ˈskæləp/) is a marine bivalve mollusk of the family Pectinidae. Scallops constitute a cosmopolitan family, found in all of the world's oceans. Many scallops are highly prized as a food source. Some scallops are valued for their brightly colored shells.
Like the true oysters (family Ostreidae), scallops have a central adductor muscle, and thus the inside of their shells has a characteristic central scar, marking the point of attachment for this muscle. The adductor muscle of scallops is larger and more developed than that of oysters, because they are active swimmers; scallops are in fact the only migratory bivalve. Their shell shape tends to be highly regular, recalling one archetypal form of a seashell, and because of this pleasing geometric shape, the scallop shell is a common decorative motif.
Most scallops are free-living, but some species can attach to a substrate by a structure called a byssus, or even be cemented to their substrate as adults (e.g. Hinnites spp.). A free-living scallop can swim, by rapidly opening and closing its shell. This method of locomotion is also a defense technique, protecting it from threatening predators. Some scallops can make an audible soft popping sound as they flap their shells underwater, leading one seafood vendor to dub them "singing scallops".

Life cycle

Scallops are hermaphroditic, or capable of switching sexes. Both sexes produce roe, whose coloring depends upon the parent's (current) sex. Red roe is that of a female, and white, that of a male. Spermatozoa and ova are released freely into the water during mating season and fertilized ova sink to the bottom. After several weeks, the immature scallop hatches and the larvae drift until settling to the bottom again to grow. They reach sexual maturity after several years, though they may not reach a commercially harvestable size until six to eight years of age. Scallops may live up to 18 years, with their age reflected in the annuli, the concentric rings of their shells.

Taxonomy and list of genera

In total, in the family Pectinidae, there are more than 30 genera and around 350 species. While species are generally well circumscribed, their attribution to subfamilies and genera is sometimes equivocal, and there is minimal information about phylogeny and relationships of the species, not least because most work has been based on adult morphology (Barucca et al., 2004).


Scallops as a food source

On the east coast of the United States, the availability of bay scallops has been greatly diminished by the overfishing of sharks in the area. A variety of sharks have, until recently, fed on rays, which are a main predator of bay scallops. With the shark population reduced, in some places almost totally, the rays have been free to dine on scallops to the point of greatly decreasing their numbers.
According to Seafood Watch, scallops from the Mid-atlantic are currently on the list of fish that American consumers who are sustainability-minded should avoid.

Gathering scallops

Scallops were traditionally caught by dragging the seabed, but now in British seas there is a trade in scuba diving to catch scallops. The largest scallops usually enjoyed in the U.S. are New England's diver scallops. They are hand-caught on the ocean floor, as opposed the majority of the scallop harvest which are dredged and dragged across the sea floor, causing them to collect sand. As a result, diver scallops tend to be less gritty than the traditionally harvested crop. They are also more ecologically friendly, as the harvesting method is sustainable and does not cause damage to undersea flora. In addition, the normal harvesting methods can cause delays of up to two weeks before they arrive at market, which can cause the flesh to break down and result in a much shorter shelf life.
Diver scallops are also popular in fine cuisine.

Scallops in cooking

Scallops are a popular type of shellfish in both Eastern and Western cooking. They are characterised by having two types of meat in one shell: the adductor muscle, called "scallop" which is white and meaty, and the roe, called "coral", which is red or white and soft.
In Western cuisine, scallops are commonly sautéed in butter, or else breaded and deep fried. Scallops are commonly paired with light semi-dry white wines. In the U.S., when a scallop is prepared, usually only the adductor muscle is used; the other parts of the scallop surrounding the muscle are ordinarily discarded. Sometimes markets sell scallops already prepared in the shell with only the adductor muscle intact. Outside the U.S. the scallop is often sold whole.
Scallops that are without any additives are called "dry packed" while scallops that are treated with sodium tripolyphosphate (STP) are called "wet packed". STP causes the scallops to absorb moisture prior to the freezing process, thereby getting a better price per unit of weight. The freezing process takes about two days.
In European cuisine, scallops are often prepared in the form of a quiche or cooked and then set into a savory custard. In Japanese cuisine, scallops may be served in soup or prepared as sashimi or sushi. Dried scallop is known in Cantonese Chinese cuisine as conpoy.
In a sushi bar, hotategai (帆立貝, 海扇) is the traditional scallop on rice, and while kaibashira (貝柱) may be called scallops, it is actually the adductor muscle of any kind of shellfish, e.g. mussels, oysters, or clams.
Scallops have lent their name to the culinary term scalloped, which originally referred to seafood creamed and served hot in the shell (Rombauer 1964). Today it means a creamed casserole dish such as scalloped potatoes, which contains no seafood at all.


Shell of Saint James

The scallop shell is the traditional emblem of Saint James the Greater and is popular with pilgrims on the Way of St James to the apostle's shrine at Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Medieval Christians making the pilgrimage to his shrine often wore a scallop shell symbol on their hat or clothes. The pilgrim also carried a scallop shell with him and would present himself at churches, castles, abbeys etc. where he could expect to be given as much sustenance as he could pick up with one scoop. Probably he would be given oats, barley, and perhaps beer or wine. Thus even the poorest household could give charity without being overburdened. The association of Saint James with the scallop can most likely be traced to the legend that the apostle once rescued a knight covered in scallops. An alternate version of the legend holds that while St. James's remains were being transported to Spain from Jerusalem, the horse of a knight fell into the water, and emerged covered in the shells.
  • The German word for scallop is "Jakobsmuschel".
  • The Swedish word for scallop literally translates to pilgrim mussel.
  • A French name for a dish containing scallops is coquille St. Jacques (in Québec, pétoncle is more commonly used).
  • The Dutch name is Jakobsschelp (James being English for Jacobus).
  • In Danish, ibskal (literally: "Ib's shell") refers to scallops worn by pilgrims from Santiago de Compostella (Ib being the Danish name for St. James), although when used in cooking it is referred to as "kammusling".
  • In Italian, scallops may be known as "pettine di mare" (literally, "sea combs") or as the capasanta or cappasanta (pl. capesante or cappesante). It is generally the large Pecten jacobeus scallop, however, that goes by these latter names (also called the conchiglia di San Giacomo or St. Jacob's/St. James' Shell).

Fertility symbol

One legend of the Way of St. James holds that the route was seen as a sort of fertility pilgrimage, undertaken when a young couple desired to bear offspring. The scallop shell is believed to have originally been carried therefore by pagans as a symbol of fertility.
Many paintings of Venus, the Roman goddess of love and fertility, included a scallop shell in the painting to identify her. This is evident in Botticelli's classically inspired The Birth of Venus (which has even been nicknamed "Venus on the half-shell").
Alternatively, the scallop resembles the setting sun, which was the focus of the pre-Christian Celtic rituals of the area. To wit, the pre-Christian roots of the Way of St. James was a Celtic death journey westwards towards the setting sun, terminating at the End of the World (Finisterra) on the "Coast of Death" (Costa de Morta) and the "Sea of Darkness" (ie, the Abyss of Death, the Mare Tenebrosum, Latin for the Atlantic Ocean, itself named after the Dying Civilization of Atlantis). The reference to St. James rescuing a "knight covered in scallops" is therefore a reference to St. James healing, or resurrecting, a dying (setting sun) knight. Similarly, the notion of the "Sea of Darkness" (Atlantic Ocean) disgorging St. James' body, so that his relics are (allegedly) buried at Santiago de Compostella on the coast, is itself a metaphor for "rising up out of Death", that is, resurrection.


The scallop shell symbol found its way into heraldry as a badge of those who had been on the pilgrimage to Compostela, although later it became a symbol of pilgrimage in general. Winston Churchill's family coat of arms includes a scallop, another example is the surname Wilmot and also John Wesley's (which as a result the scallop shell is used as an emblem of Methodism). However, charges in heraldry do not always have an unvarying symbolic meaning, and there are cases of arms in which no family member went on a pilgrimage and the occurrence of the scallop is simply a pun on the name of the armiger, or for other reasons.

State shell of New York

The U.S. state of New York made the Atlantic bay scallop its state shell in 1988.

Scallops in design

In design, scalloped edges or ridges refers to a wavy pattern reminiscent of the edge of a scallop's shell.


  • Rombauer, Irma S. and Marion Rombauer Becker (1931 [1964]) The Joy of Cooking, p 369. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill. ISBN 0-452-25665-8.
  • Barucca M, Olmo E, Schiaparelli S, Canapa A (2004) Molecular phylogeny of the family Pectinidae (Mollusca: Bivalvia)
scallop in German: Jakobsmuschel
scallop in Spanish: Vieira
scallop in French: Coquille_Saint-Jacques
scallop in Indonesian: Skalop
scallop in Italian: Capesante
scallop in Lithuanian: Šukutės
scallop in Dutch: Sint-jakobsschelp
scallop in Japanese: ホタテガイ
scallop in Norwegian: Kamskjell
scallop in Polish: przegrzebek
scallop in Portuguese: Vieira (molusco)
scallop in Russian: Гребешок (моллюск)
scallop in Chinese: 扇貝

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Dungeness crab, Japanese crab, Vandyke, Vandyke edge, armadillo shell, bake, barbecue, baste, blanch, blaze, blue point, boil, braise, brew, broil, brown, chiton, chop, clam, clam shell, cockleshell, cockscomb, cocoa shell, coddle, conch, contort, cook, coquillage, corkscrew, cowrie, crab, crawdad, crawfish, crayfish, crenation, crenelation, crenellate, crenulate, crenulation, crest, crimp, crinkle, curry, cut, deckle edge, denticulation, dentil, dentil band, devil, do, do to perfection, dogtooth, eggshell, fire, fricassee, frizz, frizzle, fry, gash, griddle, grill, heat, incise, indent, intort, jag, knurl, langouste, limpet, littleneck clam, lobster, machicolate, meander, mill, mussel, nick, notch, notching, nutshell, oven-bake, oyster, oyster shell, pan, pan-broil, parboil, periwinkle, picot, pink, poach, prawn, prepare, prepare food, quahog, rickrack, roast, saute, saw, saw teeth, scarify, score, scotch, screw, sea shell, sear, serpentine, serrate, serration, shellfish, shirr, shrimp, simmer, slash, slink, snail, snake, soft-shell crab, steam, steamer, stew, stir-fry, swirl, toast, tooth, turn, twine, twirl, twist, twist and turn, whelk, whirl, whorl, wind, winkle, worm, wring
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