Sole fish: We explain how to recognise the most popular flatfish and how it actually differs from other flatfish such as the flounder or dab. You can expect cooking tips, too!

Cooking sole fish

Fish can be classified based on a range of features. According to habitat (freshwater or saltwater fish), fat content (lean, medium fat or fatty) and according to body shape (round and flat). Due to their flat body shape, sole fish clearly fall under the flatfish category and is simply one of 570 flatfish species. Did you know that these species occur throughout the world? However, the largest fishing areas are in Europe, North America, and in the North Pacific.

Round Flatfish And Migrating Eyes?

You have to admit, the shape of their bodies makes sole fish look strange. What’s even more bizarre is that flatfish are round when they hatch and look just like “normal” fish. It’s not until they begin to grow that the body becomes flatter and one eye migrates over the head next to the other. Most flatfish, and therefore also sole fish, are right eyed. Having both eyes on one side of the head enables sole fish to see in three dimensions. This is extremely unusual – not only for fish, but for animals in general.

The asymmetrical body structure means that sole fish do not swim in an upright position, but instead use their flattened body to hover sideways above the sea bottom. There is barely any current close to the bottom and their method of movement is therefore surprisingly energy efficient. Sole fish feed on small animals such as mussels, starfish, and worms in the seabed. Their specific body shape means that sole fish are able to bury themselves wonderfully well in the sandy seabed, where they wait for dusk before they go out hunting. The fascinating body shape of the flatfish is therefore superbly well adapted to life right at the bottom.

sole fish in seabed

Sole Fish, Flounder Or Dab?

Sole fish meat is tender and mild and therefore highly sought after among gourmets. Recognised by their greenish-brown skin with orange-coloured or rust-brown dots, the stomach of this flatfish is white and often covered with dark speckles.
Despite these features, flatfish often cause confusion even among experienced anglers. So how exactly do you distinguish between sole fish, flounders, and dabs? We have to admit, telling the three apart really isn’t so simple. One key distinguishing feature is the surface of the fish’s skin. If it is rough like sandpaper, then it is a flounder. By contrast, sole fish has a totally smooth skin structure. The dab is the perfect mixture of the two: It is smooth in one direction only, but if you stroke it in the other direction then the surface of the skin is rough.

How To Tell If Fish Is Fresh

So, you can now identify a sole fish. How can you tell in the supermarket whether it’s a fresh one? The following are easy and straightforward tips to use the next time you’re shopping for fish.

Make sure that the conditions around the fish counter are sufficiently cool. The fish should preferably be placed on ice but should not be totally covered by ice. When buying fish, you should also trust your senses. Fish is particularly fresh if it hardly smells “fishy”, has red gills, and the eyes are clear. In most cases, with pre-cut fillets, you have to rely on your sense of smell only. If the fillet smells sweet, has a strong fishy smell or is dry, then it is no longer fresh.

It is best to consume fish on the day of purchase. At best it will stay fresh in a regular fridge for 1 day, tops. If you intend to store fish for a longer period, Liebherr’s BioFresh technology is your best bet! You can keep fish for up to 2 days in the BioFresh safe and up to 4 days in the BioFresh-Plus safe. When frozen, fish will keep for up to 12 months. Discover our full range of BioFresh fridge-freezers here.

Liebherr BioFresh-Plus

Do Not Be Afraid Of Filleting

Clean cutting boards and sharp knives are very important when it comes to filleting fish. With flatfish, start by scoring across the tail and then hold the fish here firmly. Now you can gently remove the entire skin up to the head.

To detach the fillets, you have to make two incisions: one along the backbone from head to tail and then a second flat cut between the fillet and the backbone. You can separate out the other fillets in the same way.

Cooking Tips For Sole Fish

The sole fish season runs from May to the end of September. Sole fish caught in May are regarded as particularly tasty. This time of the year is just after they have spawned. However, experience has shown that not until June and beyond are they well-nourished and tasty. Fish connoisseurs therefore recommend enjoying sole fish from the start of June.

Sole fish can be prepared in a number of different ways. Including frying, poaching, deep frying or cooking in the oven – the lean meat is very tasty. The fish goes particularly well with butter, parsley, sage, lemon, button mushrooms, cranberries or potatoes.

Cooking sole fish

Some of these ingredients also appear in the best known sole fish dish: sole fish à la meunière. For this, the fish fillets are tossed in lightly salted flour and then browned in the pan in hot fat. The flour produces a slightly crispy skin. The fillets are then drizzled with butter and served with lemon juice and parsley. Don’t leave out potatoes and bon appétit!