How to prepare Dover sole

Updated July 20, 2017

Dover sole is flat, white fish that can grow up to 60 cm (2 feet) long and live for more than 50 years. Authentic Dover sole comes only from the English Channel near the port for which it is named. Some fish sold as Dover sole, particularly abroad, is actually a type of flounder. But the steps for skinning, filleting, preparing and cooking the fish are the same.

Prepare the fish

Lay the fish on a cutting board with the dark skin side up. Cut off the fins using sharp scissors. Prick the edge of the skin near the tail with the point of a sharp knife until you have enough to grasp. Pull the skin back from tail to head using a tea towel rather than fingers.

Cut the fish down the centre from head to tail, exposing the bone. Gently slice the fillets away from the bone, pulling away from the thin skin underneath to separate the fillet from the bone and skin. If you are planning to grill the sole, slice the fillets away from the centre bone but don't separate them from the skin at the outer edges until after cooking. This will help the fish stay in one piece over the hot coals.

Wash the fillets under cold water and pat dry. Season the fish with salt, fresh ground pepper and garlic powder.

Cook the fish

Cooking the sole meuniere style is a classic French treatment for Dover sole. Meuniere means "miller's wife" -- the mill provided extra flour for her use -- and this simple preparation will bring out the best flavour. Warm a small amount of extra virgin olive oil in the pan over a medium-high heat to prevent the butter from burning. Melt the butter in the pan. Dredge the fillets in half of the flour sprinkled on to a plate and saute in the pan until the fish is firm. To brown both sides, use a fish slice to carefully flip the fish. This will take three to four minutes per side. Remove the fish to a warm platter.

The sole is now crisp with a nutty flavour from the flour and butter. Serve it that way, or add a sauce. To prepare a classic picatta sauce, deglaze the saute pan by adding white wine and stirring, scraping bits from the bottom. Add 5 ml (1 tsp) garlic powder. Grate the peel from both lemons and set aside. Squeeze the juice of the lemons into the wine sauce and add half a drained bottle of capers. Sprinkle flour 15 ml (1 tbsp) at a time into the sauce and whisk until it is thickened to a sauce consistency. Continue to cook for three to four minutes to ensure the flour is fully cooked.

Pour the sauce over the fillets and garnish with chopped fresh parsley with grated lemon peel on top. Serve immediately. Bon appetit!


Choose the freshest fish. Eyes should be clear, not cloudy. The fish should smell like the sea, not sour. The flesh will spring back when touched if it is fresh.

Side dishes that complement Dover sole are pilau rice with slivered almonds, roasted garlic potatoes, grilled asparagus, broccoli carrot slaw, and fresh pasta (especially good with the picatta sauce). Serve with a chilled crisp white wine.


Prepare and serve the fish within three days of purchase.

Things You'll Need

  • Scissors
  • Knife
  • Tea towel
  • Frying pan
  • Fish slice
  • Platter
  • Wire whisk
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 100 g (2 oz) butter
  • 250 ml (1 cup) flour
  • Capers
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • 2 lemons
  • White wine
  • Fresh parsley
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About the Author

Elizabeth Park has written since 1983, with work appearing in the "Oxnard Press Courier" in Oxnard, Calif., "The Centre Daily Times" in State College, Pa., and online at VisitSouth and other websites. Park holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Pennsylvania State and completed graduate work at Rutgers University in English literature and Emory University in theology.