Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

plaice Pleuronectes platessa, the most important flatfish of the European fisheries, has a range from the extreme west of the Mediterranean up to Iceland and Norway. The large red or orange spots on its brown ‘back’ (i.e. eyed side) make it instantly recognizable.

The maximum length is 90 cm (just 3'), but it is unusual to find a fully grown plaice measuring more than 50 cm (20").
The esteem in which this fish is held varies considerably, no doubt reflecting the fact that its quality as food depends not only on the season (spring is best) but also on the ground from which it is taken. Plaice from sandy bottoms are excellent, with firm and sweet flesh, while those from mud or gravel are likely to be poor fare. Danes and Swedes are among the greatest enthusiasts for plaice, and the former at least prefer to buy their plaice alive. It happens that the plaice is very tenacious of life (Day, 1880–4, records that one remained alive for 30 hours after being removed from the water), so this is not as difficult as one might think.