Every country in the world has a dish that is recognized as its own. We know China for its rice, sushi is from Japan, Turkey is famous for its baklava, and so on. But what I want to focus on is a traditional Spanish dish. Everybody knows about paella, and I think it’s safe to assume that all of you had paella at least once in your lives.
Paella is not a simple rice dish. It takes skill and passion for making one that has the perfect taste. In its early days, paella was made with rice and local meats, which were chicken, rabbit, chorizo, and snails. Keep in mind that this is the Catalonian coastal region of Valencia, where the paella was first made. At least from what we know today.
In the last years, paella suffered a few alterations. Since it became so popular, chefs all around the world customized the recipe to their own liking. We now have seafood in paellas, such as shrimp, clams, and mussels. It depends on the region and what can be found in the sea.
As for the vegetables, the most common are white beans, green beans, garlic, onions, tomatoes, and whenever they are in season, artichokes. Spices like saffron and smoked paprika are a must in this dish, but cooks can add whatever they think it’s best. In the end, the chef will garnish the entire dish with lemon wedges. I made myself craving a paella just by writing down the ingredients. I can imagine how it looks and I can even smell it.
A brief history of the paella pan
Of course, there is a special pan for cooking this dish. You cannot do it in a regular pan. I mean, we have special pans for pancakes, for eggs, frittata, and many others. Why would paella be any different? But before moving on to what makes the best paella pan, I thought that you may be interested in a brief history of how the paella pan was made and why.
In the region of Valencia, the wood was quick burning. Paella needed a low, slow boil, which meant that you couldn’t cook the dish in a regular deep pan over the fast burning wood. The people needed a solution, so they made the paellera. It was a lot wider than other existing pans, but it met its purpose, which was the exposure of a large quantity of food to the base at the same time. That is why a deep pan was excluded.
The pan didn’t have high sides, it still doesn’t, which allowed quick evaporation of the liquids and smoke from the fire would get mixed up with the cooking. That only improved the flavor of the paella. Stirring the rice was not recommended because it would stop it from becoming crunchy and toasted. That is why the base of the pan needed to be evenly heated.
Today, the paella pan is not very different. It’s still the same large pan. Authentic paella is cooked in pans that have dimples in the base. It helps with heat distribution. However, a lot of pans are flat because the cooking surface is flat. Since the evaporation of the liquid is essential, the pan has never had and still doesn’t have a lid.
What makes the best paella pan
There are quite a few things you should consider before purchasing a paella pan, but it all revolves around three factors: size, material, and cooking source. Some say that the handles are also very important, and I agree.
- Size – you can find paella pans from 9 to 28 inches. You will determine the size according to how many people you will serve. For a family of four, a 6 to a 10-inch pan is enough. If you cook for 10 people, the 15-inch paella pan will suffice. 16 people will require a pan that is 22 inches in diameter, and the 28-inch pan can be enough to feed paella to 25 people. When choosing the size, remember to take into consideration the size of your stove top and storage areas.
- Material – the most common used materials in the production of paella pans are stainless steel and carbon steel. You can also find aluminized steel and cast iron. The carbon steel is the most popular because it distributes heat evenly and is more affordable than other materials. However, if you don’t clean the carbon steel paella pan right after you use it, it can rust pretty fast. The metal will react to heat, so it will change color every time you use it. Personally, I find that interesting. Just like the pans made of cast iron, the carbon steel cannot withstand dishes that have high levels of acidity, like tomato sauce. Stainless steel is more appealing, but it’s more expensive than the carbon steel. It doesn’t rust, it’s easy to clean, and you can even put it in the dishwasher. Cast iron is another viable option. It is an excellent heatconductor and lasts for a very long time. The drawback is that it needs to be cleaned right after you serve the food. Otherwise, it will rust.
- Cooking source – this is important because a large pan will not fit a small stove top. You need to think where you are going to cook the paella. A lot of people use a regular-sized stove top, but use two burners at the same time. If you are interested, you should know that there are special paella burners. They are not very expensive, but they require a source of gas to keep the burner going.
- Handles – as you can imagine, a big paella pan requires maximum strength to lift it up. For that, you need strong, sturdy handles that can take the pressure. If they are not properly welded, they can simply fall off or break. And what is more upsetting is that it can break when you serve the paella. Everything would be lost. Of course, there are safety issues involved as well. If a heated pan falls on your legs, you can get severe burns. That is why it’s important to look at the handles and how they are attached to the pan. You can choose the best paella pan you can find, but if it has poorly constructed handles, it’s worthless.
What are the best paella pans?
Nobody tried them all, of course, but from the multitude of paella pans, there are a few which stand out. I searched and found a few of the best paella pans. That is according to people who already bought them.
The Hungry Cuban Paella Pan
This paella pan is made of carbon steel, which means it needs seasoning before usage. It is not ideal, but if you cannot afford a stainless steel paella pan, this is the best alternative you have. It measures 15 inches in diameter, which means you can easily cook paella for 10 people. The thing with carbon steel is that it requires heavy scrubbing if you don’t wash it immediately after use. It can be annoying at times, but people who buy carbon steel paella pans already know that.
The pan has a nice design. It has a graycolor, but it will alter after a while (completelynormal,) and the handles are red. Speaking of handles, they are securely attached. There is no chance they will break. The Hungry Cuban pan has dimples, which can collect the excess liquid in the dish. The heat is distributed evenly throughout the base, which ensures a crunchy rice. You can use it on the stove top, oven, gas or charcoal grill.
The thing that seems to annoy everyone when this pan is concerned is the stickers. When you receive it, there are several stickers. You get instructions on how to remove them, but even with those getting them off is a struggle. Other than that, this is a paella pan that I would recommend. Click here to read more reviews and buy on Amazon.
Nordic Ware 40030 Paella Pan
This is a 15-inch paella pan as well. Believe it or not, this size is the most common. It’s not too big, but not too small either. It’s just right. The pan provided by Nordic Ware is made of aluminized steel, which is good for more than one reason. It’s an excellent heat conductor, nothing will stick to it or burn, and rust is not an issue. It’s very easy to clean.
While paella pans have a depth of 2.5 inches, this one is a little deeper. We are talking about 3 inches, which is a bit much. The less depth a paella pan has, the quicker the liquid will evaporate. After all, that is the whole purpose of the pan. It’s not a serious issue as long as you are very patient.
The base of this pan is not dimpled, and you cannot use this pan on open flames. That is because aluminum is a highly conductive metal. The temperature will reach very high levels fast. That is not recommended for paella, so stay away from open flames.
The handles appear sturdy enough, but they seem to heat more than others. As long as they stay where they were put, it’s acceptable. You can use kitchen mittens if you like. They don’t become burning hot, but it’s a little bit too close to comfort. The Nordic Ware paella pan is entirely affordable. It can also be used for something else. However, if you can afford it, I recommend another paella pan. This is one of the best paella pans but only in this price range. There are others far better. Click here to read more reviews and buy on Amazon.
La Paella Pata Negra Paella Pan
This 18-inch pan is a restaurant grade paella pan. It is made of carbon steel that is extra thick and durable. It may be a little spicy when it comes to price, but in my opinion, it is worth it. The design is simple, silver and black, with black handles, and it has dimples at the base. It appears to be very sturdy. It may seem large to you, but you can cook an excellent paella in it. It will not stick, it will not burn, and the liquid will evaporate in the perfect amount of time.
Keep in mind that I would not recommend this paella pan for stove tops. It’s better if you use a burner. That will make sure that the heat will be distributed evenly. You can also use it on gas or charcoal grills. The handles are more than reliable. Nothing can break them, let alone high temperature.
You will receive a pamphlet with the pan in which you can find tips for cooking an excellent paella and two recipes that you can try. When it comes to maintenance, you know how it goes with carbon steel. You need to clean it right away after use so it wouldn’t rust. Click here to read more reviews and buy on Amazon.
All three products are chosen judging by people’s reviews. I find them reliable. However, there can be only one that it’s the best. For me, the La Paella Pata Negra Paella Pan is one of the best paella pans available. It provides enough space, you can cook for a lot of people, and it is made of high-quality materials. Unless you can afford a stainless steel pan, this is the best choice you can make.
It is said that paella brings people together. That may be true. I have never seen anyone cook a paella at home just for themselves. Usually, this dish is served when the entire family is around the table. I always believed that the larger the quantity of food, the better the taste. A paella makes no difference. And it all starts with the right paella pan. Click here to buy on Amazon
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