The turbot has always been rare because females only begin to breed when they are 3–5 years old and the young turbot takes time to grow: the larvae are 3–5 mm long at birth and only 4–6 cm a year later. This means that they are easy prey for other fish, even though they spend the first year of their lives on the rocky sea floor, at a depth of around 20 m, feeding on plankton.

Turbot then move further away from shore, but never very far, to depths between 50–100 m.

It takes 3–4 years for a turbot to grow to 30 cm.

Its scarcity, combined with the particular finesse of its flesh, has meant that the turbot has been a highly sought after and highly valued fish since ancient times. Brillat-Savarin, in his Art du bien manger, said of the turbot: "Its beauty has earned it the nickname the 'pheasant of the seas', while its majestic size and delicious flesh has earned it the title of the 'King of Lent'."

And Carême, in his Maître d'hôtel français, wrote: "What makes turbot stand out is its size," calling it the "Prince of the seas."

It was obviously in a bid to avoid damaging the fish during cooking that the turbotière, a diamond-shaped fish poacher perfectly fitted to the turbot, was created, probably in the 17th century. 

To be called a turbot, the fish must weigh at least 2 kg. Below that, it is called turbotin or young turbot.

Wild turbot

Whatever its weight, it should be firm, with bright eyes, pink or red gills, shiny skin, not burned by the ice, and the white side should not have any marks. It can weigh from 500 g–6/7 kg, or sometimes more.

Farmed turbot

The weight varies from 500 g–2 kg.

Turbot from French farms is the best because of the highly rigorous specifications of the Label Rouge. It is slightly less fatty than the wild variety, but it has a comparable flavor (proven by taste tests). Its dorsal side is normally pigmented.

This is not the case for turbot farmed in other countries, which produce turbot that is fattier, less flavorful, and without pigmentation on the dorsal side. This is why the origin of a farmed turbot should always be checked before purchase.

The freshness criteria are obviously the same. 

Both wild and farmed turbot are sold fresh, whole and gutted, or in fillets or steaks with the skin on. Or frozen in the same way: whole and gutted or in fillets or steaks with the skin on.

The size of a turbot is always chosen according to its intended use, whether it is to be cooked whole or filleted, or in pieces. In general, 1 young turbot will feed 2 people.

Even if cooked whole, a turbot should be trimmed (fins removed) and then the head removed.

The wastage rate is 50%.

If it is going to be cooked in steaks, or tronçons, it is then split in half along the backbone, then cut into chunks. Alternatively, the fish is filleted. However, it is always best to cook the fish on the bone, in other words without removing the center bone, which imparts its unique flavor into the dish.

Whole turbot can be roasted whole, on a spit, poached, or braised. Steakscan be poached or roasted. 

Le turbot entier se rôtit, se cuit à la broche, se poche, se braise. Les tronçons se pochent ou se rôtissent.

The size of a turbot is always chosen according to its intended use, whether it is to be cooked whole or filleted, or in pieces. In general, 1 young turbot will feed 2 people.

Even if cooked whole, a turbot should be trimmed (fins removed) and then the head removed.

The wastage rate is 50%.

If it is going to be cooked in steaks, or tronçons, it is then split in half along the backbone, then cut into chunks. Alternatively, the fish is filleted. However, it is always best to cook the fish on the bone, in other words without removing the center bone, which imparts its unique flavor into the dish.

Whole turbot can be roasted whole, on a spit, poached, or braised. Steakscan be poached or roasted. 

2–3 days, between 1–3°C in the refrigerator still in the wrapping from the fishmonger. In a cold room covered with wet parchment paper and crushed ice.

Like all fish, turbot is high in protein and contains minerals and B vitamins.

This is an especially lean fish, and so provides very little of those precious unsaturated fatty acids.

Wild turbot

The turbot is a rare fish that lives off the coast of the North Sea, the Atlantic, and the Mediterranean. In France, only 500–600 tons are caught annually by small boats, using longlines. These fish are immediately gutted on board and bled in seawater in order to preserve the whiteness of their flesh, and thoroughly cleaned so that their mucus does not pollute their fine flavor. This is the reason why this fish still fetches high prices.

Farmed turbot

The price of wild turbot has led to turbot being farmed in many countries: France, Spain (the largest producer), Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Wales (UK), Portugal, the Netherlands, Chile, and China. These fish are smaller, controlled, and obviously less expensive.

Only turbot raised on French farms (Brittany, Charente-Maritime, and the Vendée) have been awarded the Label Rouge.

Both are sold all year round.

The Greenland halibut (which is different from the Atlantic halibut) is also called turbot, Greenland turbot, or Newfoundland turbot. This often causes confusion in English, and French also has the same problem. In the food industry, fillets of this Greenland halibut sometimes have an undesirable tendency of turning into "turbot fillets". The name for turbot is Scophthalmus maximus or Psetta maxima, while Greenland halibut is called Hippoglossus stenolepis. These names must be given on the label.

The brill (Scophthalmus rhombus) is often confused with the turbot. It is of the same family but has smooth skin with no bony tubercles. Part of the dorsal fin is not attached to the fin membrane, which makes the fish look frilly (hence why it is called barbue or bearded in French). Its body is also more oval.