While not necessarily the first choice for the diet conscious, for a truly indulgent flavor, there’s just nothing like baking with rich, dairy butter.

Beware of imitators

Margarine and other butter substitutes have been around for many, many years. Some are better than others. Most are trying to replicate that creamy taste with less saturated fat.

However, while few come close on the flavor front, some even make the dietary mistake of replacing the saturated fats with trans fatty acids that have just as many, or even more, artery-clogging properties. If you are going to use these non-animal fat spreads, be sure to check that they don’t contain hydrogenated oils.

If you do insist on using butter substitutes when baking, those with at least a 60% oil content work best.

But …

For baking, butter substitutes just don’t offer the same flavor. For example, today’s recipe combines butter with scallops. The scallop is a particularly sweet shellfish, and cooking it in butter adds a slightly nutty flavor that mellows out the sweetness.

Who’s in charge here?

When you’re baking with butter, use pure unsalted butter. Using unsalted butter puts you in the flavor driver’s seat. You can season to your taste and not have to guess how the up-to-3%-sodium content of salted butters will affect your dish.

Proceed with caution

In addition to being a perfect flavor duo, butter and scallops have one more thing in common: overcooking can ruin them.

Fats begin to break down and lose their natural flavors when heated beyond their smoke points — basically, when they begin to burn. Butter hits its smoke point at 350°F.

Finally, scallops get very rubbery if overcooked. To make sure that they’re not well done, keep an eye on that countertop oven. As soon as the scallops lose their translucency and turn opaque, they’re ready.

Succulent, Buttery Scallops


  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1½ pounds bay scallops, rinsed and drained
  • ½ cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt, pepper, fresh lemon to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Put rack in lowest position.
  2. Pour melted butter into a 2-quart oval casserole dish. Distribute butter and scallops evenly inside the dish.
  3. Combine the bread crumbs, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, parsley, minced garlic, and Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle this mixture over the scallops.
  4. Bake in pre-heated oven until scallops are firm, about 20 minutes.
  5. Squeeze some lemon juice over scallops if desired.

Serve with …

Boiled new potatoes and sautèed garlic spinach or mesclun salad.