The 10 Best Paella Pans
This wiki has been updated 22 times since it was first published in January of 2016. Cook up some rice, throw in whatever suits your fancy and, Olé! You've made paella. Although the traditional Valencian dish calls for white rice, beans, tomatoes, chicken, rabbit, snails, and saffron, you can use any ingredients you want. Whatever you choose to add, it will be much easier to prepare in one of these dedicated pans. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best paella pan on Amazon.
A Brief History Of Paella
Paella migrated from the fields to the homes and backyards of many locals, and it became a staple throughout the region.
Paella is traceable to the 1800s, however, its origins stretch much further into the past. When Moorish armies traveled from Northern Africa to conquer the Iberian Peninsula in the 8th century, Valencia was one of many regions that fell under their rule. Located on the coast of the Balearic Sea, Valencia boasts flat terrain rife with freshwater rivers and lagoons. Once they arrived, it didn't take long for the Moors to recognize the value of these natural wetlands and transform them into rice paddies.
After centuries of Moorish influence, rice became firmly established in Spanish cuisine. Cooks would combine it with vegetables, various spices, and fish to create sumptuous communal meals devoured at family gatherings and religious ceremonies. During the 1700s, Valencians would gather to cook rice in the open air for special celebrations. They accented these early versions of paella with butter beans, eels, and the meat of water voles, which were plentiful and easily caught.
Paella as we know it was initially prepared by farmers who would congregate during the workday to share a meal. They used a large, shallow vessel capable of cooking an ample amount of food quickly, and workers consumed it straight from the pan with their own wooden spoons. As living standards improved, so did the ingredients of this rustic dish. Rabbit, duck, snails, and chicken replaced water voles, while beans and tomatoes were culled from bountiful neighboring gardens. A chef would roast his meal over wood from nearby citrus groves, and additions such as saffron, rosemary, and thyme were vital for perfecting the flavor.
People also found they had more free time, and as such, they had ample reason to enjoy leisurely courses together. Paella migrated from the fields to the homes and backyards of many locals, and it became a staple throughout the region. It was so popular that local newspapers began reporting on it, and one such publication referred to the recipe by the name of the pan it was cooked in — paella.
The dish eventually crept outside of Valencia into the rest of Spain, where other Spaniards would substitute whatever meat was regionally available in lieu of holding fast to the traditional ingredients. With the rise of tourism during the late 1900s, the dish obtained a reputation as a hallmark of Spanish cuisine.
What To Look For In A Paella Pan
Paella pans offer a clever structure that, above anything else, is conducive to cooking the famed Valencian dish of the same name. They boast two vital features: a large surface area that's shallow and wide, and a metal construction that conducts heat evenly. These attributes enable the various oils and liquids the recipe calls for to evaporate rapidly, and they allow the rice to form its characteristic caramelized crust.
These attributes enable the various oils and liquids the recipe calls for to evaporate rapidly, and they allow the rice to form its characteristic caramelized crust.
Paella pans crafted from carbon steel, cast iron, and stainless steel tend to be favorites among chefs and home cooks. Cast iron and carbon steel are relatively similar — each material is tough enough to last a lifetime and offers excellent heat distribution and versatility. That being said, they require a bit of extra care to prevent them from rusting, and they need proper seasoning in order to take on non-stick qualities. Cast iron, in particular, is very heavy, so heaving it to and fro may become tiresome. If you want to go the traditional route, consider a Spanish-made carbon steel paellera that boasts a dimpled surface.
Another important factor is the size of your pan. If you’re rustling up dinner for your immediate family or a few friends, a model with a 16-inch diameter is ideal, as it can feed up to six people. Those attempting to satiate an army of eaters will want something closer to 26 inches, which will be able to satisfy around 20 hungry mouths. Don’t fret if your pan is so large that it hangs over the edge of the heat source you’re utilizing — as long as you’ve selected one that’s made from a quality conductive material and you practice proper preparation methods, everything should cook evenly.
You should prepare paella outdoors over an open fire or grill and serve it straight from the pan. This means you’ll need a product with strong riveted handles that stay cool to the touch so you can handle and transport the vessel safely.
Tips For Making Perfect Paella
When preparing paella, there are a few tips that can aid you in your endeavor to produce a standing ovation-worthy dish. Before you begin, chop, peel, and clean your ingredients. Portion them out and place them in bowls or small ramekins, so you don’t have to worry about measuring as you go. A few simple minutes of prep before you turn on the heat will keep your stress levels down and allow you to enjoy the process, all while minimizing mistakes.
One of the most difficult aspects of attempting this meal is resisting the urge to stir it.
One of the most difficult aspects of attempting this meal is resisting the urge to stir it. It’s actually best to refrain from doing so, as you’ll prevent the delectable golden socarrat from forming on the bottom. Instead, rotate the pan as needed. This is especially helpful if you’re cooking over an open flame that has alternating cold spots.
When it comes to the rice, don’t shortchange yourself by buying whatever is cheap at the grocery store. Short grain Bomba rice is highly absorptive and will soak up all the flavor of the stock you add. Plus, it’s what the Spaniards use, so you’ll be safe from scorn if there are any purists at the table.
Be sure to brown your meat thoroughly, and don’t hold back in fear of burning it. You’ll want your protein to have a crispy skin, but not be completely cooked, as it still needs to be boiled in broth. For your stock, be generous with the salt, otherwise you’ll end up with bland rice. A good rule of thumb is to taste your dish at every stage of cooking to be sure things are on track.
It can be intimidating to tackle paella, but if you arm yourself with the proper pan, fresh ingredients, and a dash of patience, you’ll be rewarded with a delectable and addicting meal.
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