Easy Cast Iron Skillet Scallops with Lemon Garlic Sauce

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lemon butter scallops

What’s Up, Hungry People

I love my cast iron skillet. Not only is cast iron super durable, but it also heats more evenly than its aluminum or steel counterparts and is naturally non-stick. Another benefit of cast iron is that it can go directly into the oven. All these elements make cast iron the perfect skillet of choice when it comes to cooking scallops, which need just about as much love and care as the cast iron skillet they cook in.

By far, my favorite way to prepare scallops is in a lemony-buttery-garlicky sauce. Scallops by themselves are uniquely mild in flavor and texture, making them the ideal candidates for soaking up delicious flavors like garlic.

My method of cooking scallops in a cast iron involves searing them quickly to give them some color before removing them from the skillet to make the sauce. Once the sauce is ready, the whole skillet, along with the scallops, is tossed back in the oven to finish cooking the scallops all the way through. This method leads to perfect scallops practically every time. And with how quick and easy this dish is, you’ll have something delicious for dinner in just minutes.

cast iron skillet scallops

Here’s What You Need

  • Scallops: Absorb surrounding flavors, providing a tender texture.
  • Butter: Adds a rich, creamy base to the sauce.
  • Garlic: Offers a robust, aromatic kick to enhance overall savoriness.
  • Lemon Juice: Brings a bright, citrusy note to balance the richness.
  • Heavy Cream: Smooths and thickens the sauce for a silky finish.
  • Parsley: Adds a fresh, herby touch to the final presentation.
  • Parmesan Cheese: Contributes a salty, nutty depth to the sauce.
  • Sea Salt: Seasons the dish, amplifying the natural flavors.
scallops in a skillet

Let’s Cook

Start by preheating your oven to 400°F. As it warms, melt a tablespoon of butter in your cast iron skillet over medium heat. Wait for the butter to get frothy and just start to brown—this is your cue to add the scallops.

Searing the Scallops

Add the scallops to the skillet, ensuring they don’t touch each other. Sear them for about 30 seconds on each side; they should get a nice golden color but won’t be cooked through yet. Once seared, remove them from the skillet and set aside on a plate.

Making the Sauce

With your scallops set aside, add the remaining butter to the skillet. Once melted and frothy, throw in the minced garlic. Let it sauté until it becomes fragrant; this usually takes about two minutes. Next, stir in the lemon juice, cooking it down until most of the moisture has evaporated. Reduce your heat to low and gradually add the heavy cream, stirring consistently. Season this creamy base with half of your chopped parsley and the sea salt.

Combining and Finishing

Return the scallops to the skillet, nestling them into your sauce. Now, it’s time to let the oven do its magic. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake for 5-8 minutes, just until the scallops are cooked through. To finish, pull the skillet out, place the scallops on your serving dish, and mix the Parmesan cheese into the sauce until fully melted. Spoon this rich, flavorful sauce over the scallops, garnish with the remaining parsley, and give a final squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

Tips for Perfect Cast Iron Scallops

  • Preheat Your Skillet: Always start with a well-heated skillet to ensure your scallops get a good sear without sticking. Preheating your cast iron skillet over medium heat until hot but not smoking is crucial for achieving that desirable golden crust on your scallops.
  • Avoid Overcrowding: When searing scallops, give them enough space in the pan. Crowding the skillet can cause the scallops to steam rather than sear, leading to less flavor development. If necessary, sear in batches to maintain the right temperature.
  • Pat the Scallops Dry: Before searing, pat the scallops dry with a paper towel. Removing excess moisture helps achieve a better sear and prevents the scallops from releasing too much water into the pan, which can dilute the flavors.
  • Monitor the Sauce Consistency: When adding the heavy cream, stir continuously and monitor the heat. If the sauce is too thin, let it simmer a bit longer to reduce; if too thick, a splash more cream or lemon juice can balance it out.
  • Finish Cooking in the Oven: Transferring the skillet to the oven after searing and saucing the scallops ensures they cook evenly through. This method helps avoid overcooking the edges while waiting for the center to catch up.
cast iron skillet

Cooking scallops in a cast iron skillet is about simplicity and enhancing the natural flavors of the seafood. This method not only imparts a wonderful texture to the scallops but also infuses them with the delightful flavors of garlic, butter, and lemon. The easy transition from stovetop to oven simplifies the process, making this dish a quick yet impressive option for any dinner occasion. So next time you’re thinking about what to cook in that trusty cast iron skillet, remember that the humble scallop can turn into a show-stopping main course with just a few simple steps. Gather your ingredients, and in less than 20 minutes, you’ll have a meal that looks like it took hours to make.

lemon butter scallops

Cast Iron Lemon Garlic Parmesan Scallops

The Starving Chef
A quick and flavorful seafood dish, these cast iron skillet scallops are seared to perfection and finished in a lemon garlic cream sauce.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Course Dinner
Cuisine Seafood
Servings 2


  • 16 oz fresh sea scallops rinsed & patted dry
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons garlic minced
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley finely chopped
  • cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt


  • Preheat the oven to 400°F. Melt a tablespoon of butter in the cast iron skillet over medium heat until the butter is frothy and beginning to brown. Add the scallops and sear each side for about 30 seconds – the scallops will not be fully cooked at this stage. Remove the scallops from the skillet and set aside.
  • Add the remaining butter to the cast iron skillet and melt until frothy. Then add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about two minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and cook until most of the moisture has evaporated. Reduce the heat to low and slowly pour in the heavy cream while stirring continuously. Season with half the parsley and salt.
  • Return the scallops to the cast iron skillet and transfer it to the oven. Bake for 5-8 minutes, or until the scallops are cooked through. Remove the skillet from the oven, take the scallops out and place them on a serving plate. Stir the Parmesan cheese into the sauce until it's completely melted. Pour the sauce over the scallops. Garnish with the remaining parsley and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Serve immediately and enjoy!
Keyword cast iron, lemon, scallops
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