When I was training in some of the great restaurants in France, I was amazed that all the scallops we purchased were in the shell, much like you would buy an oyster or mussel. They were beautiful specimens--tight and extremely sweet. It was all a romantic picture until I had to open and clean several cases of them as fast as I possibly could (the only working speed in these kitchens). Don't be misled--it's a tough job that ultimately yields a proportionally small amount of scallops.
But what a prized delicacy it is. What we actually eat is only a small part of the scallop's innards. We eat only the abductor muscle which keeps the shell closed and propels the scallop through the water (done by opening and closing the shell). The French and other Europeans also consume the crescent shaped pink/orange roe which is attached to the side of the scallop meat.
Most all scallops are shucked at sea. Rarely are they shipped in their shells mainly because of the expense involved and perishability issues. The following photos show the entire shucking process:
*Click on photo thumbnails to see an enlarged version
Fresh scallops waiting to be shucked! Chef Christopher Koetke begins shucking the scallop by carefully inserting the tip of a knife into the side of the scallop. Once the shell has been opened, Chef Koetke slides the knife gently underneath the fleshy part of the scallop to release the meat from the shell. After the meat has been freed from the shell it is gently removed from the shell. Now the dark flesh that surrounds the white meat of the scallop is removed and discarded. The remaining meat of the scallop after it has been properly shucked. One final step remains, and that is to remove the small mussel from the meat of the scallop. This small mussel is very tough and is important to remove as you would never serve this part to anyone. This final photograph shows a scallop with the roe attached. An added delicacy for many chefs.