What Is a Paella Pan? (And Do I Really Need One?)

Martha Stewart


March 29, 2019

This wide, shallow pan does make for the best paella but there are alternatives
Jennifer Anderson

Chances are you've seen a paella pan-the wide, shallow cooking vessel used to make the Spanish rice-and-meat (or seafood) dish of the same name. But have you ever cooked paella in one? If you're thinking of taking the plunge and getting a paella pan of your own, here's what's you need to know.

First and foremost, it's important to note that paella is the definitive dish of the Valencia region of Spain, and the pan defines the dish-literally. "Paella" is a Valencian word derived from the Latin term for "pan." Paella pans are wide and shallow to create maximum surface area, allowing liquid to evaporate and to form as much crispy golden crust (socarrat) on the bottom as possible. "Paella is not just a dish, it's a way of life in Valencia; everything revolves around the paella pan … around rice culture … It's 10 or 12 ingredients transformed through fire into a really beautiful and cohesive dish," declares Matt Goulding, author of the IACP Award-winning book "Grape, Olive, Pig: Deep Travels Through Spain's Food Culture."

Carbon, Stainless, or Enameled Steel? Deciding What Kind of Paella Pan to Buy
Paella pans are constructed from a variety of materials. How do you choose the right one? Carbon steel paella pans are traditionally used across Valencia, the heart of paella country. They are affordable, lightweight, and conduct heat very efficiently. Carbon steel does require some seasoning and maintenance between uses, so be sure to follow the instructions that come with your pan.

You have other options, too. Stainless steel paella pans are heavy-duty and do not require any special upkeep. They are more expensive than carbon steel pans but they are very durable and should last you a lifetime. Last but not least, you can purchase an enameled steel iteration. Affordable, lighter than stainless, and easy to clean, enameled steel pans are even dishwasher safe.

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