Traditionally, Paella is made with a Paellera, also known as a Paella Pan or just a Paella. The Spanish Paellera is a two- handled, wide, shallow, flat metal pan. The Paella Pan can be 13.5” (34.29 cm) to 18” (45.72 cm)or wider more in diameter. Paella Pans over 18” won’t fit on a standard Stove Top. With some of the larger Paelleras a two burner technique must be employed and the pan rotated (using Oven Mitts or similar) periodically so that even heating and cooking occurs.
Smart Kitchen swears by making Paella in a Paellera. The results turn out better because of the evaporative properties of the wide, flat, conductive Paellera. As instructors though, we realize that not everyone has a Paellera sitting around at home. The technique of making Paella can also be accomplished with a Stainless Steel or Aluminum Frying Pan or Skillet. Avoid using a Cast Iron or Non-Stick Pan.
Carbon Steel Paella Pans do not belong in the dishwasher where they will rust. Enameled and Stainless Steel pans can be washed in the dishwasher but it won’t help extend their life. Cleaning them by hand is the better choice.
The best way to clean a Paella Pan by hand is to fill the dirty Paellera with about 1/2 inch of water then let it sit for a few hours or even overnight. When you pour out the soaking water, use dishwashing soap and a soft-scrub sponge to remove any remaining residue.
Across the board, a Carbon Steel Paella Pan will be higher maintenance than either a Stainless Steel or Enameled Paella Pan.
Carbon steel Paella Pans need Seasoning/Tempering and special care to keep them rust-free and in top shape. Before your first use, you should wash your Paella Pan with soapy water to remove the anti-rust coating applied by the manufacturer. Alternatively, you can heat some water and a Dash of Cider Vinegar in the pan for about 10 minutes or so. Once emptied and cooled, dry the Paella pan thoroughly, then lightly coat the insides with a bit of vegetable oil to seal the surface and prevent rusting. Use a bit of oil on a paper towel to seal the Paella Pan.
If you forget to seal the pan and it rusts, just use Steel Wool to remove the rust before using the Paellera.
Be careful of leaving an empty Carbon Steel Paellera over direct heat. The metal is thin for quick heat transfers but can also splotch if it overheats.
Enameled Paella Pans are much easier to maintain. They don't require special care beyond washing them before the first use. Avoid banging them though, because their enamel can chip. Chipping is mostly cosmetic and won’t really affect the performance of the Paella Pan.
Steel Paella Pans are almost as maintenance free as enameled Paelleras. The only caution with Stainless Steel is to avoid using steel wool with them so that they don’t scratch and don’t leave them sitting empty over direct heat because they can warp or discolor.
If you are in the market for an introductory Paella Pan or Paellera, Sur La Table carries some reasonably priced, sturdy items such as:
13.5” Paella Pan – Feeds 6 People.
15” Paella Pan – Feeds 8 People.
16.5” Paella Pan – Feeds 10 People.
22” Paella Pan – Feeds 16 People.
If you are seeking a higher end product the Amazon has the Garmion Pata Negra line which is good enough for extended restaurant work, but expensive.