Flounder and sole are in the flatfish family. Flatfish are white meat fish prized for a very mild delicate flavor.
The shape of ocean caught fish are usually set into two groups, round fish and flatfish. Round fish are what we normally think of as fish, with one eye on each side of the head and a generally aerodynamic bullet shape. Flatfish have both eyes on the same side of the head and lay flat on the ocean bottom looking up.
Common commercially harvested flatfish species include:
EAST COAST: Yellowtail flounder, Fluke flounder, Blackback flounder, Dab flounder, Grey sole and Atlantic Halibut. (Fluke flounder is common in the Gulf of Mexico also)
WEST COAST: Petrale sole, Dover sole, Flathead sole, Starry flounder, and Pacific Halibut.
Flatfish rest on the ocean floor. Both eyes look upward to find prey and to see predators. The top side of most flatfish is dark in color which helps in camouflaging itself from others. The bottom side of most flatfish is white.
Flounder can be found in shallow water such as fluke flounder in the saltwater shallows of the Texas coast. Flounder can be found in deep water such as blackback flounder in 100ft to 300ft of water off the Georges Banks off the New England coast.
Most flatfish eat crustaceans and shellfish when they are young, such as shrimp, clams, scallops sand dollars, etc. Older flatfish will eat live fish in addition to various shellfish and crustacea.
METHOD OF CATCH
Most commercially harvested flatfish are caught by trawlers that use nets to trawl on or near the bottom. Some other catch techniques include hook and line, gigging, and long line.
Whole flounder and sole that are harvested usually run from 1lb to 5lbs. Halibut are in the flatfish family, but are usually 10lbs to 80lbs. Halibut in excess of 200lbs are not uncommon.
Most flounder have a very light or white meat color. By the nature of the fish, the fillets are very thin. The top/dark side of most flatfish is slightly thicker than the bottom/white side. The meat on the top side can be darker than the meat of the white side such is the case with blackback flounder. Flounder and sole cook to a nice pearly white or creamy white color and are very mild in flavor.
There are many species of flatfish that can all be sold legally as flounder, according to FDA, as they are all part of the flounder family. That is why flounder may look slightly different from time to time. The flavor and nutritional value are very similar.
PREPARATION / COOKING
Since most flatfish are very thin, they will cook quickly. A good method is to pan fry or pan sauté. The general rule for cooking fish is 10 minutes per inch of thickness. Most flounder and sole fillets are only ½ inch thick. To sauté a flounder fillet takes only 2 to three minutes per side. To bake a flounder fillet takes 5 minutes at 350 degrees. When the fish just starts to flake at the thick end when tested with a fork, it is done.
Use mild seasonings such as better, lemon, and dill weed, as flounder and sole are very mild. Or try olive oil, salt and pepper.
Halibut are great for grilling or broiling. Follow the 10 minute per inch of thickness cooking rule.