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What type of paella pan should I buy ?


What type of paella pan should I buy ?

The word paella means more than a recipe, the word takes its name both from the pan in which it is prepared, and the method of preparation which takes its name from the utensil.

The origin of the paella pan is in Valencia, Spain, where legend has it that workers out in the field would cook their lunch in the simplest of implements that were available to them, and using the fresh seasonal ingredients native to Valencia.

How is a paella pan made ?

The traditional paella pan is round in shape and made from polished carbon steel.  The pan has low slated sides and two curved handles set opposing each other around the rim, and riveted into the side of the pan.  The pan is typically flat no more than a few centimeters tall, and the diameter of the pan can vary, but is usually dependent on the number of people to be served. 

The material used in making the pan is always thin so as to transmit heat immediately and also to cook quickly when removed from the heat source, maximising heat control.  The bottom of the pan is not flat but slightly convex, and characterised by a lattice of small shallow dimples, allowing the rice to become textured through slight variations in cooking conditions.

Whilst this describes the traditional pan, there are a number of other varieties of pan on the market each with its own pros and cons.  The most important thing when choosing a paella pan though is to make sure it is going to fit inside your oven or over your stovetop.

Garcima 28cm Paella PanWhat are the different types of paella pans ?


Polished Carbon Steel Paella Pans

This is the classic paella pan, and the one used by professional paella maestros.  The advantage of this type of pan is that over time a patina develops from the reaction of many of the ingredients with the steel in the pan.  This thin film develops on the steel and imparts a certain flavour to the dish, which, believe it or not to a true connoisseur is the mark of an authentic paella.  An authentic carbon steel pan will have a dimpled base which gives the rice a certain texture whilst cooking.

Carbon steel pans because the steel is not surface protected require a little more care than other types of paella pans in order to prevent them from oxidising – so always follow the care instructions provided.  If they do develop any oxidation it can be cleaned off with a scour.

Carbon steel pans are suitable for gas hobs, open fires, and oven.  Typically the convex base would make them not so suitable for flat electric or induction stove tops.  

Enamelled Steel Paella Pans

An enamelled steel paella pan is still quite traditional and is much easier to look after than a carbon steel pan because the enamel protects the surface from rust.  Enamelled steel pans tend to be a little less durable though because the enamel chips easily if banged or bumped around.

The enamelled steel pan is similarly suited for all types of heat sources except for flat electric or induction stove tops.

Stainless Steel Paella Pans

The stainless steel paella pan is very similar to the carbon steel paella pan with the main advantage being that the stainless steel does not rust and therefore requires less care.  On the downside stainless steel paella pans tend to be much more expensive, and they do not develop a patina as a carbon steel pan would, and therefore don’t impart any unique taste to the paella.

A stainless steel paella pan will often have a reinforced base making it substantially heavier than a carbon steel pan, and also impairing the pans ability to transfer heat quickly through the steel.

Cast Iron Paella Pans

Whilst not so popular, cast iron paella pans are available.  These pans are much heavier and take much longer to cook paella due to slower heat transfer.  They also retain heat much longer and this must be taken into account when the paella is removed from the heat source – it is likely to keep cooking for some time in the pan.

Non Stick Paella Pans

Non stick paella pans are treated with a special non stick surface which can make them easier to clean than other paella pans.  They also tend to develop a soccarat, or rice crust, more easily than the other types of pan though the rice ends up less textured.  The disadvantage of this type of pan is that it cannot be scraped with a metal utensil lest the non stick surface be damaged, and does not lend itself to eating paella direct from the pan.

What size paella pan should I buy ?

Paella pan size should be selected based on the number of people you intend to serve.  The chart below is just a guide and you will get to know over time which pan size suits you best.  

Traditional paella cooks like a very thin paella which means that a larger pan contains less rice and serves less people.  Modern Australian paella tends to be cooked thicker with more of a focus on ingredients and toppings, and would tend to use a smaller pan to serve a larger number of people. 

The other factor to bear in mind is the size of your oven or cooktop.  Whilst possible it is not recommended to cook paella over multiple burners because of the loss of control over heat and the abundance of cold spots on the bottom of the paella pan.

The table below gives a rough guide as to what size paella pan to buy based on the number of people you want to serve.  Remember to add another few inches to either side to allow for the handles.

Pan Size

(click to view)

Number of Servings















Should I buy a Paella Kit ?

Paella kits are a great entry into the world of paella.  Usually a paella kit will include a paella pan, special paella rice, and key ingredients paprika and saffron – or at least a paella spice mix.

Paella rice, paprika, and saffron are quite specialised ingredients and can be hard to find in the supermarket, especially good quality brands.  A good paella kit takes all the work out of shopping, and all you need to buy are the fresh ingredients which are easily available from the supermarket. 

A paella kit should be good value too, and will typically cost much less than it would cost to buy all the ingredients separately.

Look for a good quality enamelled or carbon steel pan, and imported ingredients including a short grain paella rice.

Read some of our articles below on choosing the right rice and spices for your paella :

At Saffrondust we are passionate about paella.  We love saffron and we love the colour and flavour that fresh saffron adds to a paella dish.  We have a huge range of paella pans and paella kits, all with free shipping to Australian addresses. 

Browse our range of high quality imported paella pans and paella kits.

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