July 12, 2010

Turkey Scallops

Earlier today on Facebook I mentioned that I was doing a foodsperiment by wrapping some of my scallops in bacon and some of my scallops in turkey bacon. The purpose of this exercise was to see whether an especially low fat turkey bacon would make a good wrap for scallops. Here I present the findings of my research.

First, I must apologize for not including a photo. As often happens, we were hungry and tucked into the scallops almost immediately. I like to take pix of my food, but did not have the energy to try to set up an attractive arrangement. Presentation is, admittedly, not my strong suit in cooking.

Why do this at all? Because scallops are a good and delicious source of protein, which I would like to get more of at meal time. Scallops taste great wrapped in bacon, and this method of preparation makes them both easier to keep on a skewer and allows them to cook more evenly. However, the fat in the bacon makes this a less attractive dish from a diet perspective. Turkey bacon is half the calories (this particular brand) and so I wanted to see what the difference was.

Back to the research. I had 2 lbs of dry boat-run sea scallops. I had a pound of Oscar Mayer bacon. and a pound of Oscar Mayer turkey bacon.


Wrapping the scallops was slightly easier with the turkey bacon. Every slice is the same, and it's less important where you skewer the bacon. However, real bacon is slightly stretchier, which gives the sense that you're making a tighter wrap. Still, the advantage here goes to turkey bacon.


On the grill, both kinds of bacon shrunk slightly, tending to hug the scallops, giving them more structural integrity and a better presentation. Regular bacon takes longer to cook, probably because of moisture content.

Regular bacon becomes slightly more solid, so it turns out that concerns over where you skewer the bacon (through a meaty part or a fatty part) are not too relevant.

One huge difference between the two is the amount of fat that drips on to the grill. Unfortunately, the real bacon renders a lot of fat which can catch fire in the grill. Large amounts of burning bacon fat can cause soot to deposit on the scallops. Greasy soot is an unpleasant grilling product; avoid the scallops from touching flames. This is much easier to do with the turkey bacon.

Advantage turkey bacon.


Turkey bacon cooks up somewhat similar to strips of bologna. This is actually better than it sounds. The finished color is reddish brown and each wrap came out a consistent width because of the similarity of the artificial bacon.

Real bacon is more variable, and presents a varied appearance in how it cooks. Where two scallops touch, the bacon stays soft, fatty, and pale. On the other hand, where the bacon is cooked on the external sides, it looks like scrumptious fried bacon.

This is a toss up.


The variability of real bacon, and the variability in how cooked it gets makes it difficult to compare texture. The real bacon will have very cooked spots and soft, fatty parts. Turkey bacon has a slightly rough, chewy mouthfeel.

However, the richness of the bacon fat fills your mouth with flavor. The advantage here is with the real bacon.


As you might imagine, turkey bacon cannot compete with true bacon in the flavor department. This comparison goes to real bacon.


The question here was not only to compare these two preparations, but to get a sense of how different they were, and whether turkey bacon could perform satisfactorily. I am interested in answering these questions:

  1. Does the turkey bacon prevent scallop shrinkage?
  2. Does the turkey bacon enhance the flavor of the scallop?
  3. Does the turkey bacon taste good?
  4. Does the turkey bacon introduce any unpleasant aspect that prevents enjoyment of the recipe?

And so:

  1. Turkey bacon does protect the scallop from shrinkage. They allow the scallops to cook and they help prevent overcooking by limiting the number of surfaces directly exposed to the drying effect of the drill's heat.
  2. Yes, turkey bacon imparts a meaty/salty/smoked flavor.
  3. Yes, though your opinion may vary.
  4. No, there was no unpleasantness introduced by the turkey bacon.

In addition, the lack of large quantities of rendered fat in the grill means it is easier to cook the turnkey bacon scallops.


I would use turkey bacon again and, considering caloric intake, will probably prefer to have turkey bacon wrapped scallops. It's bacon-wrapped scallops with slightly less guilt, but all the scallopy goodness you expect.

Posted by James at July 12, 2010 1:31 AM
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Much as I like bacon, I feel that the scallops are the main attraction of bacon-wrapped scallops. Between that and the improved prep and cleanup (well, less soot) experience with turkey bacon, it sounds like a more-than-fair tradeoff.

I wonder if putting a few drops of olive oil on the serving plate (before adding the finished scallops) would improve the mouth-feel, or if it would just taste weird. (Olive oil is still fat, but it's not as bad for you as bacon fat.) I know I've seen bacon-wrapped scallops topped with a green olive, so the flavors can't be completely incompatible.

Posted by: Julie at July 12, 2010 11:43 AM

Woops, I see you already nixed the olive oil on FB. Never mind!

Posted by: Julie at July 12, 2010 11:50 AM

Honestly, the difference in mouthfeel was noticeable side-by-side but not something that I'd think twice about when considering to make them. I'm with you -- the important thing in this dish for me is the scallop.

I think olive oil would be a fine addition, for instance if someone didn't eat bacon for religious or other dietary reasons. Patti's suggestion of butter would work, too. In fact, the butter would help with browning. It seems like overkill, but brushing them with melted butter before putting them on the grill would be perfect.

I actually squeezed a lime over them as I removed them from the grill, which adds a subtle flavor.

Since we're thinking of calories, I have no reservations about making the turkey ones.

On another note, the price we're getting at the new fishmonger in Somerset for their bacon-wrapped scallops is not bad at all, considering the quality of scallops. I was able to make more skewers and cheaper, but not so cheaply that it was worth going out of my way. Perhaps if I used scallop chunks instead.

Posted by: James at July 12, 2010 12:31 PM

I preferred the mouth-feel of the turkey bacon. I felt it was a nice contrast with the scallops, and I don't like the variability of the real bacon. I prefer my bacon slightly more cooked than the inside parts of the real bacon.

Posted by: Maggie at July 13, 2010 11:19 AM

That's funny, Maggie - I like my (pork) bacon a little overcooked so that you almost can't tell the meat from the fat. It is pretty extensively shriveled by that time, though - it would probably break if wrapped around a scallop. You'd probably have to half-cook it before wrapping. (Of course, half-cooking first would probably get rid of a lot of its fat, too... hmmm...)

Posted by: Julie at July 15, 2010 7:56 AM

You can't get the bacon to cook quite like that on a scallop unless you really overcook the scallop. Bacon only cooks "right" (IMHO) outside of the presence of moisture, and the scallop has too much moisture (which is what it is supposed to have).

You might be able to get fancy and cook the bacon up beforehand, but that would be a real pain in the neck, what with the shrinkage and such. You could probably do it, though. And it might overcook on the outside on the grill, though it would probably be nice on the inside.

Posted by: James at July 15, 2010 9:30 AM

James did something else where he cooked up some bacon and sprinkled it over the scallops. They weren't skewered -- I have no idea how he did this, LOL. I wasn't paying attention. But that was also very good and you could limit the amount of bacon you ate. I end up pulling half the bacon off the scallop anyway because I don't want that much bacon.

Posted by: Maggie at July 17, 2010 10:36 AM

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