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Grilled Dover sole

Updated: Wed, 5 April, 2023

Dover sole is at its most wonderful best when skinned and simply grilled, with lashings of butter and a few capers.

grilled dover sole

How to best cook Dover sole?

If turbot is the king of fish, Dover sole surely must be the queen. It’s actually easier to cook than turbot, which is a big beast and there’s always a quandary what to do with it.

Is it better to roast it whole? Or chop it into quarters, on the bone? Or fillet it and lose some of the flavour, and quite a bit of the expensive flesh even if it's expertly done?

With Dover sole there’s no problem. Cooked simple, grilled on both sides, served with caper butter is definitely outstanding.

Plus, the best thing about the sole is you can’t really spoil it. Even when slightly overcooked it will still be firm but delicate and succulent.

Many ways to skin a sole

I always cook sole skinned because it just looks so pleasing with the white flesh exposed, slightly scorched from all that butter, with capers dotted all over on a plate. And Dover sole skin is not great to eat, even for crisp fish skin connoisseurs like me.

You can buy your fish skinned in the supermarket or ask your fishmonger to do it, but skinning a Dover sole is actually quite easy.

You should first cut off the long dorsal fins on both sides with a pair of scissors. Then make an incision in the skin at the tail end, insert the knife underneath to get purchase and then just pull it off with a piece of paper towel for a better grip.

You can cut heads off or not, just make sure you don’t cut off too much flesh – it's the plumpest close to the head.

If you'd rather cook the sole with the skin on, no problem. Trim the fins as above and adjust the cooking time to about 6-7 minutes on each side, depending on the size of course.

dover sole

Not all soles are the same

Apart from the Dover the queen of soles, also known as common sole, named from where it used to be fished the most abundantly, there is a lemon sole and a much rarer megrim sole. The family of flatfish includes plaice and flounder too, though none of them are as prized as the Dover.

Sole is a sustainable, not only a healthy choice and it is plentiful in Cornish waters.

Do not try skinning lemon sole though. I tried once and I did eventually succeed, but the experience bore resemblance to pulling teeth with bare hands.

When I told my fishmonger about it he fell into a tray of kippers, laughing. They share the name, those two soles, but don’t succumb to the same treatment.

skinned grilled dover sole with capers

What makes a Dover sole the tastiest?

Butter, butter and more butter – that's the key to tasty grilled fish. That actually applies to lemon sole too – cooked with SKIN ON – and plaice, John Dory, flounder or brill. I melt butter in a small pan and brush the fish all over, then baste it again during the cooking.

Depending on the size to a certain extent, skinned Dover sole needs 5 minutes on each side under hot grill.

A very large fish, over 350g, should be cooked for a minute longer on each side. If you want to share it, you’re in for a treat: Dover sole is fantastically easy to fillet and portion onto individual plates.

Dover soles are like wine

And an interesting fact about Dover soles – they need aging. Unlike most fish, those are the tastiest having lounged around in the fridge for a few days.

That's also when the skin will come off more easily, which makes perfect sense: after all ‘aging’ is the initial phase of breaking down the tissue. Though we’d rather not think about it like that, and no surprise!

grilled dover sole

More grilled fish recipes

Sea bream and sea bass, those two fishes we can never decide which one of them is better, can be grilled whole unless really enormous. Grilled balsamic bream recipe will work with bass as well.

There are some fancy ways to prepare salmon but simple grilled fillets are sometimes just what we need.

Mackerel is inexpensive and super healthy; also super easy to cook, grilled with a spice crust.

More sole recipes

Lemon or Dover sole fillets in creamy Parmesan sauce are an easy and elegant dish.

You can also roast the whole lemon or Dover sole, skin on, on a bed of sliced lemons and herbs.

Grilled Dover sole

Servings: 2Time: 20 minutes
Rating: (2 reviews)


  • 2 whole Dover soles (about 250g each)
  • 50g (3½ tbsp.) butter
  • salt and black pepper
  • 2 tsp capers in brine, drained
  • juice of half a lemon


1. To skin the fish, cut off the long dorsal fins on both sides with a pair of poultry or kitchen scissors. Make an incision in the skin at the tail end, insert the knife underneath to get purchase and grab the end of the skin with a piece of paper towel for a better grip. Pull towards the head, making sure no flesh sticks to the skin. Either cut the heads off or leave them on. You can skin only the dark side or both.

how to skin dover sole

2. Preheat the grill to high with a rack set underneath. Melt the butter in a small pan on the hob.

3. When the grill is hot, season both sides of the soles with salt and pepper and brush them generously with melted butter.

4. Place the fish under the grill and cook for 4-5 minutes on each side (depending how large they are), brushing again with butter at least once halfway through.

how to grill dover sole

5. Turn up the heat under the remaining butter to get it foaming and add in the capers and lemon juice; let it bubble up then turn off the heat.

6. Serve the soles with plenty of caper butter poured over and green vegetables on the side.

Originally published: Fri, 10 October, 2014

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Your comments

Anna @ CuisineFiend
Hi William - thank you for the comment, though I'd say 20 minutes might be too long for a Dover sole, unless it's a huge fish.
9 months ago
William E Culver Jr
Simple tasty recipe. I just used foil on small coat a butter 4tablespoons for me portion larger. When ya flip filets add more butter. I used green olives instead of capers. Add salt pepper to one side as prep when ya flip on grill ad more salt n pepa..15 to 20 min perfectly cooked fish.
9 months ago
Anna @ CuisineFiend
Hi Gary - I'm very pleased to hear that!
3 years ago
Gary Whitehouse
Brilliant recipe, thank you. I searched‘grilled dover sole’ but wanted it exactly like this. Not covered in a fancy sauce or served with something I needed a whole day to produce! Great tip on skinning too
3 years ago

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Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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