Which paella pan is best?
Originally from Valencia, a rice-growing region in Spain, paella is a slow-cooked dish of meat, seafood and vegetables that are all simmered with saffron. This deeply flavored culinary masterpiece uses a pan that is wide and fairly shallow. This exposes as much of the rice as possible to the bottom, allowing it to form the crispy crust — the socarrat — that paella is famous for.
The Matfer Bourgeat Black Steel Paella Pan is the pan professionals choose when cooking at home. It’s durable, well-made and nonstick with proper seasoning and care.
What to know before you buy a paella pan
This dish’s high cooking temperature and long duration of cooking require that a paella pan be durable and able to heat evenly.
There are several materials to choose from.
- Carbon steel: Carbon steel is the traditional material for paella pans designed to last for generations. They heat evenly and hold that heat for a long time, but they need special care to prevent rust and remain nonstick.
- Cast iron: Cast iron is great for use over an open flame, but it is very heavy. It also requires specific seasoning and care. You can get enameled cast iron, which is easier to care for.
- Nonstick steel: These pans are not traditional, but they do provide a nonstick surface. Make sure you select a pan that is PFOA-free.
- Stainless steel: These pans work well and look great, but they don’t release food as easily and can be expensive.
Paella pans are traditionally large, up to 32 inches in diameter, but they can be as small as 8 inches. Regardless of the size, the pan should have straight sides that are no more than 3 inches deep. This shallow surface helps achieve the perfect texture of rice, meat, seafood and vegetables.
Nonstick vs. raw materials
While nonstick pans make food release more easily, some cooks prefer to limit the number of potential chemicals leaching into their food. Look for raw materials, such as steel or cast iron.
What to look for in a quality paella pan
It is hard to find stay-cool handles on a paella pan. These are usually coated with something that minimizes heat transfer from the pan. If you don’t want to fuss with pot holders, this is a useful feature. However, keep in mind that even stay-cool handles can get warm, and proceed with caution.
The dimples on the bottom of a paella pan look like the dimples on a golf ball. These shallow indentations promote even heating.
Lids are optional because they are not traditionally used to prepare paella. However, if you plan to use your pan for other dishes where a lid would come in handy, this is a nice addition to have.
Free from harmful chemicals
Many people avoid nonstick cookware due to the potential for chemicals to leach into food. The newest generation of these slippery pans uses coatings that are PFOA-free and nontoxic with no chance of food contamination.
How much you can expect to spend on a paella pan
When it comes to these pans, the lower the price, the lower your expectations should be. Expect to spend $25-$250.
Paella pan FAQ
What else can you prepare in a paella pan?
A. If you don’t have the space — or patience — for a unitasking kitchen tool, don’t worry. Use your paella pan to prepare:
- Shallow-fried chicken.
- Egg dishes.
- Sauteed vegetables.
- Pork chops.
- One-skillet meals (on the stovetop or in the oven).
Can paella pans be used on induction burners or backyard grills?
A. Some paella pans are safe for use on all surfaces, including induction burners and backyard grills. If you want a versatile pan that can be used on every cooking surface, cast iron is your best bet. It is heavy, but its durable construction and ability to be nonstick with proper care make it a good choice.
Do paella pans require special care?
A. Some paella pans do require special care to retain or develop a nonstick surface. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for care that are included with your pan.
What’s the best paella pan to buy?
Top paella pan
What you need to know: Once this pan is seasoned, it releases every morsel easily.
What you’ll love: The deep sides of this pan accommodate large batches of paella. It weighs 7.6 pounds and feels substantial. The handles are oven-safe at high temperatures. This pan works on all surfaces, including induction burners.
What you should consider: It is the most expensive option, so if you don’t make paella often, you might want to choose a different pan.
Top paella pan for the money
What you need to know: This slightly smaller pan is good for people with less storage space who still want a well-constructed pan.
What you’ll love: It’s a 15-inch nonstick pan that uses Hydrolon, a water-based, nontoxic coating, on durable carbon steel. Dimples on the bottom distribute heat evenly. The handles are chrome-plated to stay cool, and the pan is dishwasher-safe. The packaging is made from 70% recycled material.
What you should consider: It feels less substantial than more expensive models.
Worth checking out
What you need to know: It’s a pan that makes paella for a group of six to 10 people.
What you’ll love: The carbon steel distributes heat evenly through dimples hammered into the bottom of the pan. It heats quickly and is great for cooking eggs too. It comes with recipes and is made in Spain.
What you should consider: Because it is raw steel, it requires additional care.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Suzannah Kolbeck writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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