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Homemade meals are second to none. From containing all the right ingredients to being nutritious AF, cooking your favorite dishes at home is your best chance at a healthy diet. However, while many of you may enjoy spending time in the kitchen with your pots and pans by your side, few of you (if none) gets their kicks from washing a pile of dirty dishes and bowls.
That’s where one-pan meals step in. Requiring minimal equipment and practically zero cooking skills, these easy-to-make meals make healthy eating a cinch. Don’t know where to start? Then, we’re happy to introduce you to the king of one-pan meals, the mighty paella. Calling for some pretty basic ingredients and just one (!) pan, this Valencian dish is a dream come true for everyone with a busy schedule. So, all of us.
However, keep in mind that homemade paella is only as good as the pan you use. That’s why we did all the hard work for you and “unearthed” the 5 best paella pans to buy this year. Ready to bring some Mediterranean flavor into your winter weeknights? ‘Cause these pans are on fire!
What Is A Paella Pan?
As the name implies, the paella pan (paellera) is a wide, shallow pan that is specially designed to cook this delicious and versatile Valencian dish to perfection. Specifically, the paella pan features a flat, round bottom which is surrounded by splayed sides.
This unique tilted design maximizes the amount of rice touching the bottom of the pan, a cooking technique that allows the grains to absorb as much liquid as possible. So, in a way, this kitchen tool forces the rice to cook in extension and not in height, allowing it to become one with the rest of the ingredients, especially flavor-wise. That’s why paella tastes so much better than most rice-based dishes.
Resembling a skillet, this special pan is usually made of carbon, stainless or enameled steel, cast iron and brushed aluminum. It also features two ear-shaped handles which help you move it around as safely and conveniently as possible. Some paella pans also tend to dip slightly in the middle so that the olive oil creates a small “pool.” This technique maximizes flavor while sauteing.
Unlike most pots and pans, paella pans don’t come with a lid as the dish is traditionally cooked uncovered. However, many modern models feature one. That’s helpful for those of you who prefer the rice to be moist rather than crusty.
What to Look For When Shopping For A Paella Pan
Finding a good paella recipe is easy. However, finding the right paella pan is not. From the heat source used to the pan’s size, there are a lot of factors which may affect the ingredients’ flavors and the way they are combined. So, to avoid getting stuck with a mediocre paella pan, these are the four things you need to put on your must-have list.
The first and most important thing you should consider is the pan’s size. So, before you add anything to your cart, take into account the number of guests or family members you are going to cook for using this paella pan.
So, if you plan on cooking for four people tops, then a 6-11” pan is a perfect fit. However, if you want to use it on special occasions such as huge family gatherings and parties, then a 16-22” pan seems more appropriate. Lastly, if you are thinking of hosting small-scale soirees here and there, then a 12-15” paella pan is a safe bet as it can serve anywhere from five to ten people at a time.
The pan’s size also depends on the cooking and storage space you have available. If your stovetop, counter or cabinet space can barely fit a regular pan, then opting for a 22” paella pan is not such a good idea.
Paella pans are made out of many different materials. So, chances are you’ll come across several variations when you go out shopping. But, due to certain reasons that have to do with the dish’s taste, chefs and paella buffs alike agree that there are four types of material which are worth investing in. Those include carbon, stainless or enameled steel as well as cast iron.
Carbon steel paella pans are the most popular option these days mainly because it’s quite affordable and easy to maintain. This material is also a good heat conductor which means that you’ll get to cook your paella evenly every time. Plus, rice won’t stick to the cooking surface. The only concern regarding carbon steel is that it needs to be washed immediately after every use to prevent rusting.
Stainless steel paella pans are also popular among cooks as they don’t rust or wear down that easily. Plus, they don’t affect the food’s quality like other materials such as aluminum and are super easy to clean. These explain their slightly high price. The only downside of using stainless steel pans is that they need to be coated with aluminum or copper to enable heat conductivity.
Enameled steel pans are an excellent choice for those who want their cookware to last for years without rusting. This material is also an excellent heat conductor which facilitates a smooth cooking experience. Your only concern with this type of pans is that parts of the enamel may chip off due to poor use.
Cast iron paella pans are also highly heat-conductive, making cooking a breeze. Plus, they are long-lasting, meaning you’ll get a run for your money. Note, though, that they are susceptible to rusting if not maintained properly. So, make sure you season them before use and clean/dry them quickly once you are done.
Another thing to consider before buying a paella pan is the heat source you’ll be using. So, you need to think about not just the type but also the size of the burner. If you do that, you’ll find the perfect pan to fit on top of your go-to cooking source, whether that’s a stovetop, oven or an open-fire grill.
This characteristic is not a must-have for your future paella pan, but it sure can improve your cooking experience for the better. How come? These dimples “trap” small amounts of liquid which not only promote an even heat distribution but also prevent food from charring. That’s especially helpful for beginner cooks who are not yet familiar with the intricate paella cooking techniques.
The 5 Best Paella Pans, Reviewed
Are you convinced that you need more of that comforting paella goodness in your life? Then, it’s high time you found the right pan for the job. To help you out in this quest, we tested and gathered around the top 5 paella pans in the market today. Our verdict? We’re confident that your inner cook will fall in love with them right after that first sizzle.
If you are in the market for a large paella pan that can help you cook large batches of the Valencian dish at once, then this one is a keeper. Capable of serving up to 20 people in one go, this pan is perfect for anyone with a large family or a streak for Mediterranean-inspired parties. Not only that, but it’s also very easy to clean and maintain. So, less dishwashing for you. But, enough talk; here’s everything you need to know about this best-selling paella pan. Do you think it’s a match?
- Large Cooking Surface
According to the manufacturer, this pan comes with a 26” cooking surface which can feed up to 20 people at once (maybe more). Wow! Cooking for a party just got a lot easier.
- Even Heat Distribution
Just like all high-quality paelleras, this one features a dimpled bottom which promotes an even and quick heat distribution all across the cooking surface.
- Easy to Clean
Even though it’s not dishwasher-safe, this pan is very easy to clean. Just wipe the cooking surface with a wet towel and some soap, dry it, season it with a few drops of olive oil and you’re ready to use it once again.
Don’t have enough stovetop space? No problem! This paella pan is designed to withstand very high temperatures, so you can readily put it in the oven or on top of an open flame. Talk about a versatile cooking vessel!
- Durable Materials
Made of carbon steel, this product can last for years at a time, but only if you take good care of it. So, make sure you clean it carefully and season it between uses.
- Doubles As Serving Tray
Fun fact: Paella pans can also be used as serving trays. So, thanks to its large size and user-friendly design, this particular model can replace any of your serving bowls. Just place a heat-proof wooden surface on the table, grab the pan from the handles and place it there for your guests and family to enjoy. It’s as simple as that!
- Difficult to Store
We’re not going to lie: This pan is pretty big. So, if you lack the countertop or cabinet space, you may have a hard time storing it. If that’s the case, it’s best to opt for a slightly smaller pan.
- Tricky Stovetop Use
Even though this pan is deemed safe for stovetop use, the whole process can be a tad challenging, especially during the first couple of times. Due to its large size, this cooking vessel may take up more than just one burner. In fact, you may need to juggle the pan between two or even three pots to get the results you want. That’s why many prefer to put this pan on top of a stove or an open-fire grill.
Don’t let its name fool you. This “skillet” can readily double as a top-drawer paella pan thanks to its durable materials and shallow, wide design. In fact, this skillet is equipped with sloped sides that can put many supposedly authentic paella pans to shame. But, let’s see what this versatile pan has in store for you. Is it worthy of your stovetop?
- Long-Lasting Materials
This pan is made of durable carbon steel which -when properly maintained- can last for many years.
- Pre-Seasoned Surface
Unlike, many paella pans, this one comes with a pre-seasoned cooking surface which guarantees it will last for many, many years. However, a little maintenance never hurt anyone. Just sayin’.
- Quick Heating
Given the materials used, this pan tends to heat up very quickly, saving you lots of cooking time in the process.
- High Temperatures
Thanks to the materials used, this skillet/paella pan can withstand very high temperatures. That means that you can readily use it on top of an open fire during your camping trips.
- Easy Cleanup
This skillet/pan is very easy to clean. All you have to do is crape it carefully with a plastic scraper to remove any food residues and then wipe it clean with a wet cloth and some soap. Pro tip: Even though it’s pre-seasoned, make sure you add a few drops of olive oil on it after every use. This way you’ll keep it in tip-top condition for much longer.
- Uneven Heating
Since it’s not equipped with dimples, this pan doesn’t always guarantee the best results. In fact, this cooking utensil features a flat surface which makes it hard to “capture” small amounts of liquid at the bottom and infuse the rice grains with the sauce’s, veggies’ and seafood’s juices.
If you are looking for a high-quality pan to cook your paellas that is also made of durable materials, then this skillet is a no-brainer. Made of cast iron, it’s bound to last for years (maybe decades) as long as you look after it. So, if you think it would be an excellent match to your chef-worthy cookware collection, here are its best and could-be-better qualities.
- Non-Stick Surface
Made of cast iron, this skillet/paella pan is naturally non-stick, making cleaning and cooking way easier.
- Versatile Design
Even though this product is labeled as a skillet, you can readily use it to cook the paella of your dreams. Its wide, shallow cooking surface along with the splayed sides are almost identical to the ones of an average paella pan. Long story short, this skillet poses as a versatile alternative to the traditional pan version.
- High Temperatures
Cast iron is known for withstanding a wide range of temperatures, from relatively low to super high. That means that you can use this skillet in any case imaginable. So, whether you choose to shove it in your oven or put it directly above an open flame, it will still do the trick.
- Pre-Seasoned Surface
According to the manufacturer, this product comes with a pre-seasoned surface which saves you lots of time and energy between uses. However, it’s best to season it yourself every once in a while just to
- Easy to Clean
Contrary to popular belief, cast iron cookware can be rinsed with mild soap. So, after every use, remove all food remnants with a damp cloth and a few drops of soap and your paella pan.skillet is as good as new. That was easy, wasn’t it?
- Retains Heat
Thanks to its durable material, this pan also tends to retain heat, keeping foods hot for much longer than most paella pans.
- Large Capacity
With a total cooking surface of 17”, this skillet is an excellent choice for anyone who wants to make lots of paella in one go. So, if you have a large family, this should be your go-to pan.
Compared to similar products, this one is a bit costly. However, considering its cooking efficiency and durable nature, chances are it will save you lots of money down the line. So, after reading between the lines, we can say with confidence that it is actually worth the splurge.
- Rusts Easily
If not properly maintained, this skillet/pan may rust sooner than most of its peers. So, make sure you season it often enough (even after every use).
If you are still learning how to make the perfect paella and don’t want to spend a fortune on a brand new pan, this affordable model is the real deal. Costing way less than most of its peers, this Nordic Ware masterpiece is perfect for anyone who wants to experiment with the dish and can’t afford to make a bold purchase. But, low budget aside, what are this pan’s best and not-so-good traits? Let’s find out.
- Heavy-Duty Design
Since it’s made of aluminized steel, this pan is a synonym for durability. So, even if you use it on a regular basis, chances are it will not wear down quickly.
- Easy to Clean
This pan is also very easy to clean as it is made of and coated with non-stick materials. Just wipe the surface clean with a wet towel and some soap and our paella pan is ready for use.
- Even Heat Distribution
The pan’s material is also an excellent heat conductor. That means that the heat is distributed evenly all across the pan, even over to the edges.
This cooking vessel is actually very cost-effective, posing no threat to your limited budget.
- Family-Friendly Size
Do you want to make paella just for a few friends or your medium-sized family? Then, this is the only pan you’ll need. Sporting a 15-inch cooking surface, this model is perfect for medium-scale meals and can accommodate anywhere from five to ten people.
- No Heat-Proof Handles
This product doesn’t come with heat-resistant handles. So, you need to watch out every time you touch them to prevent burning.
If you want to invest in a high-quality paella pan that delivers every time and looks fancy AF, look no further. This artisanal piece of cooking equipment is made out of pure copper and can brighten up your kitchen in an instant.
Not only that, but this pan is also hand-hammered which means it can make every paella cooking session a breeze. So, if you’re flirting with the idea of growing your copper cookware collection, here’s everything you need to know about this beautiful (yet efficient) pan.
- Efficient Cooking
This pan sports a bunch of dimples which make paella cooking much more comfortable.
- Doubles As A Serving Tray
Thanks to its eye-catching rosy glow, this pan can also double as an artisanal serving tray that will steal everyone’s attention.
- Easily Cleaned
Copper is very easy to clean by nature. So, after every use, all you have to do is wipe the surface clean with a damp towel dry it. That’s pretty much it; no washing, not anything.
- Heat-Proof Handles
The handles of this paella pan are made of stainless steel which is known for its low heat conductivity. That means that they remain relatively cool, preventing you from getting burnt.
Made of pure copper, this paellera is 100% recycled which is great for the environment.
- Large Capacity
It is designed to serve anywhere from 6 to 8 people at once. That’s perfect for those of you who want to host small parties and still make a hell of an impression.
- Durable Interior
According to the manufacturer, this pan features a long-lasting cooking surface which doesn’t react with food and can last for years at a time.
The truth is that this paella pan costs an arm and a leg. However, you need to remember that each piece is hand-crafted and made of high-quality materials. That said, the price tag is totally understandable.
From the crunchy bottom layer of socarrat to the mesmerizing golden hue of the rice, paella is one of those dishes that rightfully deserve a place in your monthly menu. However, tossing the ingredients in any regular pan won’t do the meal itself or your taste buds any justice.
That’s why you should invest in a reliable paella pan that will deliver each time. If you are not sure which one is worth your attention, these top 5 paella pans are a great place to start. So, off to the kitchen!