How to Cook Flounder (With Recipes)

Updated on March 17, 2016
Gordon Hamilton profile image

Gordon has been sea fishing and cooking since childhood. He loves coming up with tasty ways of cooking his fresh catch when he gets home.

Delicious but incredibly simply baked whole flounder
Delicious but incredibly simply baked whole flounder

Flounder are a type of flatfish, found in the form of several different sub-species around the world. They are not always a popular eating fish and this is for a number of reasons. They don't look particularly meaty and they are frequently perceived as being difficult to clean or fillet. The truth is however that the lovely white flesh of a flounder can be extremely delicious to eat, provided it is prepared and cooked in an appropriate fashion. This page will show both how to fillet a flounder and how to simply gut and clean it for cooking whole. In each instance, a tasty recipe will be provided which is easy to prepare at home.

How to Fillet a Flounder

Whole fresh flounder, straight from the sea
Whole fresh flounder, straight from the sea

Filleting a flounder or other type of flat fish is a very different proposition from filleting a round fish such as a mackerel or cod. The bone structure means that there are four fillets on the fish - two on the top and two on the bottom. Unfortunately, it is often only practical to fillet the very largest of flounder as the size of particularly the two smallest fillets doesn't make the effort worthwhile. The flounder which was filleted below was borderline but the procedure is the same regardless of the size of the fish. Remember that just like when filleting any type of fish, a proper filleting knife is essential if the job is to be done properly. This fact is probably even more important when filleting flat fish than when filleting round fish.

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A deep cut is made around the flounder's headA deep cut is made along the flounder's backboneRemoving the first fillet from the flounderThe first fillet is removed from the flounderSecond fillet is removed from the flounderRemoving the third flounder filletThird flounder fillet has been removedFourth and final flounder fillet is removedThe flounder head and bones can be washed off and used for stockFour small flounder fillets
A deep cut is made around the flounder's head
A deep cut is made around the flounder's head
A deep cut is made along the flounder's backbone
A deep cut is made along the flounder's backbone
Removing the first fillet from the flounder
Removing the first fillet from the flounder
The first fillet is removed from the flounder
The first fillet is removed from the flounder
Second fillet is removed from the flounder
Second fillet is removed from the flounder
Removing the third flounder fillet
Removing the third flounder fillet
Third flounder fillet has been removed
Third flounder fillet has been removed
Fourth and final flounder fillet is removed
Fourth and final flounder fillet is removed
The flounder head and bones can be washed off and used for stock
The flounder head and bones can be washed off and used for stock
Four small flounder fillets
Four small flounder fillets
  1. Lay the flounder on a chopping board, top/mottled side uppermost. With your filleting knife, make a deep cut all the way around the head.
  2. Make a nick across the top of the tail, all the way through tho the bone. Starting at the tail, make a cut from the nick you have made along one side of the backbone, all the way up to the head. Keep the knife flush against the backbone.
  3. When filleting fish, move the knife in one direction only. Begin carefully slitting the knife through the flesh, cutting out from the backbone and always being guided by the bones, until you can remove the first fillet. Do exactly the same with the second top fillet.
  4. Turn the fish over that the white belly side is exposed. Simply follow exactly the same procedures as you did with the other side of the flounder.
  5. When you have removed all the fillets, you may wish to wash all the blood and guts from the head and skeleton and use it to make fish stock.

How to Skin a Flounder Fillet

A cut is made near the narrow end of the flounder fillet through to the skin
A cut is made near the narrow end of the flounder fillet through to the skin

When you have your flounder fillets, it is likely you will still want to skin them before they are cooked. This is a very easy process and is exactly the same as skinning a fish like cod or haddock.

  1. Lay the fillet on your chopping board, the narrow end at your weaker side.
  2. Pinch the narrow tip of the fillet with your weaker hand and - with the blade of the knife angled away from your hand - make a slit in to the flesh to the skin but do not go through the skin.
  3. Slide the knife backwards and forwards over the skin - at right angles to the fillet - and pull gently but firmly on the skin end with your weaker hand.
  4. The skin should easily and cleanly come free.

Skin has been cleanly removed from flounder fillet
Skin has been cleanly removed from flounder fillet

Pan Fried Flounder Fillets with New Potatoes and Peas

Flounder fillets are fried in butter and served simply with new potatoes and peas
Flounder fillets are fried in butter and served simply with new potatoes and peas

Cook Time

  • Prep time: 5 min
  • Cook time: 40 min
  • Ready in: 45 min
  • Yields: One serving

Ingredients

  • 6 baby new potatoes, or as required
  • Butter, some for potatoes and some for frying flounder
  • Pinch of chopped chives
  • 1 tbsp plain/all purpose flour
  • Salt and pepper
  • Skinned fillets from one flounder
  • 2 tbsp frozen peas, or as required

Instructions

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Butter and chives are added to drained new potatoesSeasoned flour for dusting flounder filletsButter is added to small, non-stick frying panFlounder fillets are dusted in seasoned flourFlounder fillets are added to frying panFlounder fillets are turned after just one minuteFlounder fillets are plated
Butter and chives are added to drained new potatoes
Butter and chives are added to drained new potatoes
Seasoned flour for dusting flounder fillets
Seasoned flour for dusting flounder fillets
Butter is added to small, non-stick frying pan
Butter is added to small, non-stick frying pan
Flounder fillets are dusted in seasoned flour
Flounder fillets are dusted in seasoned flour
Flounder fillets are added to frying pan
Flounder fillets are added to frying pan
Flounder fillets are turned after just one minute
Flounder fillets are turned after just one minute
Flounder fillets are plated
Flounder fillets are plated
  1. Put the potatoes in to a pot of cold, salted water. Bring to a boil and simmer for thirty minutes.
  2. Drain the potatoes and return them to the empty pot. Let them steam for two or three minutes before adding a little butter and the chives. Swirl to combine.
  3. Add the peas to a pot of boiling water to simmer for three minutes.
  4. Scatter the flour on a plate and season. Start a little bit of butter melting in a small, non-stick frying pan until it reaches a medium to high heat.
  5. Pat the flounder fillets in the flour on both sides. Gently shake to remove excess before laying in the pan. Fry on a medium heat for one minute each side.
  6. Lift the flounder fillets to a serving plate. Drain the peas and add along with the potatoes.

How to Gut and Clean a Whole Flounder for Cooking

A whole flounder ready to be gutted and cleaned
A whole flounder ready to be gutted and cleaned

Flounder is like any other fish in that it is subject to certain size limits, depending upon where and how it is caught. Just because a fish is a "keeper", however, doesn't mean that it is suitable for filleting. This is particularly true with flat fish like flounder. If you do catch a flounder that is on the smaller side, therefore, you may wish to consider this cleaning method rather than trying to fillet it.

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The head is cut from the flounder and removedKnife is inserted in to flounder's belly cavityA small downward cut is made to extend the belly cavity opening and remove the gutsKitchen scissors are the best tool for removing the flounder's finsThe tail is cut from the flounderThe fins are carefully cut from the flounderTail and fins have been removed from the flounder
The head is cut from the flounder and removed
The head is cut from the flounder and removed
Knife is inserted in to flounder's belly cavity
Knife is inserted in to flounder's belly cavity
A small downward cut is made to extend the belly cavity opening and remove the guts
A small downward cut is made to extend the belly cavity opening and remove the guts
Kitchen scissors are the best tool for removing the flounder's fins
Kitchen scissors are the best tool for removing the flounder's fins
The tail is cut from the flounder
The tail is cut from the flounder
The fins are carefully cut from the flounder
The fins are carefully cut from the flounder
Tail and fins have been removed from the flounder
Tail and fins have been removed from the flounder
  1. Lay the flounder belly side down and darker/mottled side up on a chopping board.
  2. Cut around the head, all the way through. Remove and discard.
  3. The belly cavity is just below the head. Insert your knife in to the cavity and make a small cut down the way to open it up a little bit more. Use your fingers to pull out and remove the guts. Wash the fish and and wipe the blood from your board with kitchen paper.
  4. Cut off the tail with a knife. Use a robust pair of scissors to snip off the pectoral fins.
  5. Lift the flounder in your weaker hand and carefully snip off the fins around the edge on either side.

Baked Whole Flounder with Deep Fried Potato Wedges

A whole, prepared flounder is baked with some subtle flavourings before being served wimply with deep fried potato wedges
A whole, prepared flounder is baked with some subtle flavourings before being served wimply with deep fried potato wedges

While there are some types of white fish - such as perhaps monkfish, or even cod - which can take the addition of an excessive number of strong tasting ingredients, flounder is definitely not one of those fish. The taste of flounder is incredibly delicate and if you do want to experience the taste and enjoy the fish at its best, be careful what ingredients and how many you add. Big, bold, rich, tomato based sauces will simply overwhelm the fish and while the meal may very well be delicious, you will not get the true taste of the flounder. This incredibly simple creation complements the flounder but in no way overwhelms its natural flavours.

Cook Time

Prep time: 1 hour

Cook time: 40 min

Ready in: 1 hour 40 min

Yields: One serving

Ingredients

  • 1 medium baking potato, cut in to six wedges
  • 1 prepared flounder
  • 1oz butter
  • 1 small shallot, peeled and finely sliced
  • 5 or 6 capers
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Malt vinegar

Instructions

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Potato is cut in to six segments or wedgesBed of butter for baking flounderScored flounder is laid on the butterShallot, capers and lemonFlounder is seasoned and dressed for the ovenFlounder is carefully wrapped in foil for bakingDeep fried potato wedges are drained on kitchen paperBaked flounder is carefully unwrappedBaked flounder is platedTucking in to baked flounder and potato wedges
Potato is cut in to six segments or wedges
Potato is cut in to six segments or wedges
Bed of butter for baking flounder
Bed of butter for baking flounder
Scored flounder is laid on the butter
Scored flounder is laid on the butter
Shallot, capers and lemon
Shallot, capers and lemon
Flounder is seasoned and dressed for the oven
Flounder is seasoned and dressed for the oven
Flounder is carefully wrapped in foil for baking
Flounder is carefully wrapped in foil for baking
Deep fried potato wedges are drained on kitchen paper
Deep fried potato wedges are drained on kitchen paper
Baked flounder is carefully unwrapped
Baked flounder is carefully unwrapped
Baked flounder is plated
Baked flounder is plated
Tucking in to baked flounder and potato wedges
Tucking in to baked flounder and potato wedges
  1. Put the potato wedges in to a pot of cold, salted water and bring to a boil. Simmer for ten to fifteen minutes, just until you can see the skins starting to separate.
  2. Drain the potato wedges and lay them in a single layer in a plastic dish. Refrigerate uncovered for a minimum of half an hour.
  3. Take the potato wedges from the fridge and deep fry for five minutes until they are only just starting to take on colour. Drain on kitchen paper and refrigerate as before for a further minimum half hour.
  4. Put your oven on to preheat to 375F/190C.
  5. Lay a large sheet of tinfoil in a deep baking or roasting tray. Break up the butter in to small pieces and arrange as a bed for the flounder. This will prevent it sticking to the foil.
  6. Lay the flounder on the butter, dark side up. Scatter with the shallot and capers. Pour over the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
  7. Carefully wrap the foil in to a loose but sealed parcel. Bake in the oven for twenty minutes.
  8. Deep fry the potato wedges for five more minutes until crispy and golden. Drain on kitchen paper while you remove the flounder from the oven.
  9. Be careful of escaping steam as you carefully unwrap the foil. Use a fish slice to plate the flounder and a spoon to drizzle with some of the cooking juices.
  10. Plate the potato wedges and season them with salt and malt vinegar.
  11. To eat a flounder served in this fashion, begin by carefully peeleing away the dark skin. Use your fork to slide the meat off either side of the backbone. The backbone should then easily lift free, allowing access to the meat underneath.

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    • Gordon Hamilton profile image
      Author

      Gordon Hamilton 4 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

      Thanks again, Carly. These are not often the fish I target but there are times of year when there is little else available and needs must :) They make for far better eating than many people imagine.... :)

    • CarlySullens profile image

      CarlySullens 4 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      You are so good at instructing people on how to cook. This is a great hub for those who love to fish and do not know how to prepare those fish once they are caught. Great job!

    • Gordon Hamilton profile image
      Author

      Gordon Hamilton 4 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

      Thank you very much, Eddy. I'm glad you find these ideas useful. I always find it a shame that flounder are so under-rated. I hope you give one of these ideas a try.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      A very useful recipe ;I vote up and share.

      Enjoy your day and thanks for sharing.

      Eddy.

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