Finding the best Paella Pan
Paella is the most famous dish in Spain, and for a very good reason – it’s utterly delicious. A few years ago I was lucky enough to visit Barcelona and got to sample authentic paella. Months later I was still thinking about the delicious meal I had so I decided I’d perfect my own paella at home.
The first thing that expert paella chefs will tell you is that one of the primary rules to making great paella is to use a good paella pan. However there are a wide variety of paella pans available with variations in size, shape and the composition so it pays to do a little research before making a purchase.
What makes a paella pan special?
Before you buy a paella pan you should first understand why there are pans specifically for cooking paella, and why you can’t just use a regular pan.
The answer lies in the paella pan’s shape. As opposed to other pans commonly used to cook rice dishes, paella pans are shallow and have sloping sides. This helps the rice to cook evenly and aids the development of the crust on the bottom of the pan, known as the socarrat, which adds flavour and texture and which is an important part of any good paella.
As paella pans get larger they grow in diameter rather than depth, and this allows a thin layer of rice to be cooked over a greater surface area allowing for a better creation of socarrat. Traditional paella pans have dimples in the base of the pan that also aids the formation of socarrat.
Paella is traditionally cooked over an open fire however there are paella pans that are suited to cooking on all types of heat source including gas, electric and fire. In addition to absorption of liquid by the rice, evaporation is also a fundamental part of cooking paella which is the reason that a traditional paella pan does not come with a lid.
Generally speaking, the two most important considerations when buying a paella pan are the size of the pan you require, and the material it is made of.