What is a Paella Pan?


When I first started to do research on carbon steel cookware, I came across carbon steel Paella pans. I had no idea what a Paella pan was so I decided to do some research on the history and usages of Paella pans.

  1. Authentic paella pans originally came from Spain
  2. Paella pans are wide, round, and have shallow splayed sides
  3. Paella pans do not have lids
  4. Paella pans usually use rice as the base ingredient
  5. Paella pans are usually made of carbon steel, stainless steel or enamel

A Paella pan has two looped handles and may dip slightly in the middle so the oil can pool for initial sauteing. Paella pans are sometimes called Paellera pans. They are designed to cook rice in a 1/2 inch layer. The Valencians from Spain say rice should be only cooked as thick as “un ditet”, or the thickness of one finger or about 1/2 inch. The flat width surface of the Paella pan ensures that the rice contains the maximum flavor. In all cases make sure that you apply medium heat for a few minutes before applying maximum heat. This will help to prevent warping of your pan.

The Origin and History of Paella 

To help you with understanding Paella it is important to investigate the history and origin of Paella. First off, Paella is pronounced “pa-e-ya” with the “e” as in “get”.

The home of Paella is Valencia in Eastern Spain. Valencia is one of the largest natural seaports in the Mediterranean. Valencia has been one of the most important producers of rice in Spain. Rice in these areas of Spain was introduced by the Moors over 1200 years ago. The Moors were the medieval Muslim inhabitants of present-day Spain and Portugal as well as western Africa. Their culture is often referred to as Moorish.

The word “Paella” is used to describe the pan and not the dish. Paella’s origin was most likely from the Latin word for pan although it can be traced back to old Valencian.

It would be helpful to understand the Paella is popular throughout the world of global dishes. There are hundreds of different variations of Paella recipes and most cooks profess that their method of preparing Paella is the only authentic one. So no matter what recipe you choose to use, you cannot be wrong!

Paella was originally prepared by farmers and farm laborers and ate directly from the pan. They usually cooked Paella over an open wooden fire for their lunch or dinner. Sometimes, onions, beans,  snails, and tomatoes were added for flavor with the rice. At times other ingredients were added to the Paella dish such as rabbit, chicken, and duck.

Today in Spain, Paella is used frequently for parties and ceremonies. Paella has never lost its popularity and many Paella cooking competitions around Spain exist today.

What are the Different Types of Paella Pans?

All authentic style Paella pans have a few common characteristics.

  • They all have low splayed sides
  • They all have two metal helper handles

Paella pans are made of:

  • Carbon steel
  • Stainless steel
  • Enamel
  • Cast iron

There are aluminum Paella pans, but I would stay away from them for health reasons.

Cast iron Paella pans do a great job in cooking Paella but they are very heavy. If they are used on a glass top stove you have to be careful not to drop them because they can crack the cooking surface. Cast iron pans have to be seasoned properly prior to their use. The cast iron pan below is pre-seasoned.

Victoria SKL-313 Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet Round Paella Pan with Loop Handles, 100% Non-GMO Flaxseed Oil, 13″, Black

This cast iron Paella pan is the pan to go with if you are looking for a good cast iron Paella pan. Check Amazon for current price and take a look at the reviews when you get over there. This pan has a whopping 475 customer reviews and has a 4.3 out of 5 stars. You can order this Paella pan here. Stainless steel Paella pans are easy to clean and they do not need seasoning. The downside of stainless steel pans is that it is more difficult to control the heat as compared to cast iron or carbon steel Paella pans. Stainless steel is probably the most expensive of all Paella pans manufactured. If I had to pick one stainless steel Paella pan, I would choose this one from Amazon.

This Garcima Stainless Steel Paella Pan has great reviews and is reasonably priced. Check Amazon for price and availability.

Enamel coated Paella pans are easy to clean (dishwasher safe) and do not need seasoning, much like stainless steel. Controlling the heat of enameled pans is a little easier than stainless steel. A big advantage of enamel Paella pans is that they are reasonably priced.

This Garcima 16-Inch Enameled Steel Paella Pan is my favorite enameled steel pan. Head on over to Amazon to check the availability and price. You will love this pan! Check out this great Paella pan for yourself here.

 Carbon steel Paella pans are my favorite. Yes, they do need to be seasoned and oiled between uses to keep them in good condition. Most authentic Paella pans are made of carbon steel because of the ease of use. They are great for searing and for making your rice yield a golden caramelized crust. It is easy to control the temperature of Paella carbon steel pans. These pans are also probably the safest of all the available pans. They are not coated with chemicals and consist of carbon and iron.

La Paella 18″ Pata Negra Restaurant Grade Paella Pan, Large, Silver

I really like this pan because it is made of professional grade carbon steel and is extra thick and durable.  This pan is made in Spain and is reasonably priced. Check Amazon for current price and availability. This Paella pan has a 4.1 out of 5 rating and can be found here. You won’t be disappointed!

Properly cared for, carbon steel Paella pans will last you a lifetime. In fact, you could put them in your Will!

My favorite choices are #1 Carbon steel and #2 Enameled Paella pans.

How to Care for Your Carbon Steel Paella Pan

The first rule to follow when cleaning your carbon steel Paella pan is not to use soap to clean it. The second rule is to avoid putting your pan in your dishwasher. Both of these cleaning applications remove the patina and seasoning. This is not big deal because these pans can easily be seasoned again.

Merely wipe the pan with a paper towel. If that does not remove the food on your pan, wash your pan with Kosher salt under water. This should remove the remaining food. Do not forget to lightly oil your pan after it has dried to keep it from rusting.

Related Questions

Can I use my Paella pan on an induction stove? Yes, you can use your pan on an induction cooker as long as the bottom of your pan is perfectly flat.

Can I cook tomatoes in my Paella pan?  Yes, you can cook tomatoes in your Paella pan but it is NOT recommended because it is possible that the seasoning will come off. Try to stay away from acidic foods in cooking with your carbon steel pan. If the seasoning does come off, it is easy to re-establish your carbon steel coating.

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