Sautéing Shellfish


Usually, shellfish is extracted from its shell before sautéing (cephalopods are cleaned first). The meat may be raw or cooked and is cut into even pieces so that they cook at the same speed. Sautéing takes very little time—two to three minutes on each side for all but the plumpest of scallops or largest of shrimps. Oysters are cooked in two to three minutes (see information on individual species for how to test when they are done). If the meat is already cooked, sautéing should be even more brief, simply sufficient to warm the pieces through and brown them lightly.

With flavor in mind as well as browning, butter is preferred for sautéing in all but the most robust ethnic shellfish dishes. The shellfish may be lightly coated with seasoned flour, but usually it is left plain and cooked with minimum seasoning so the full, sweet flavor of the meat itself can be appreciated. Common additions are shallots, garlic, herbs, tomato, ham, mushroom, bell pepper and cream. For crustaceans, a pinch of cayenne or chili pepper heightens the flavor.