Originating in Valencia, Spain, paella is one of the Iberian nation’s most famous dishes. Paella is named for the cooking vessel it is made in; the word “paella” actually means “frying pan” in the regional language of Valencian. Paella valenciana is traditionally made with rice, vegetables, and meats such as chicken, rabbit and snails. Paella de marisco is made with rice and seafood such as clams, mussels, shrimp and fish. The dish is typically seasoned with garlic, paprika, and saffron.
Paella pans have a flat bottom and a wide, shallow shape, which provides a large surface area for even cooking. This shape helps cooks achieve paella’s coveted crisped rice crust known as socarrat. Traditionally, the paella pan is used not only to cook the dish, but also to serve it. Read on to learn more about how to choose the best paella pan for your kitchen.
- BEST OVERALL: Lodge Carbon Steel Skillet
- RUNNER-UP: Virtus Spanish paella pan
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Garcima 16-Inch Carbon Steel Paella Pan
- BEST SMALL: Garcima 12-Inch Enameled Steel Paella Pan
- BEST LARGE: Garcima 28″ (70cm) Pata Negra Restaurant Grade Paella Pan
- BEST WITH LID: Cooks Standard 12-Inch Stainless Steel Stir Fry Pan
- BEST CAST IRON: Lodge Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet with 2 Loop Handles
- BEST OUTDOOR SET: Garcima Tabarca Paella Pan Set with Burner
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Paella Pan
There are a number of important factors to think about as you choose the best paella pan for your cookware collection, including how large a paella pan you want and whether you prefer a seasoned or unseasoned pan. This guide will explain some of the decisions you’ll have to make before purchasing the best paella pan for your kitchen.
The size of your paella pan will determine how many people your paella will serve. While a paella pan’s size is typically indicated by its diameter, its depth is also important. Traditional paella pans range in depth from 1.5 inches to 5.5 inches.
Here are some paella pan sizes, measured by diameter, and their corresponding serving sizes:
- A 10-inch pan serves 1 to 2 people.
- A 14-inch pan serves 2 to 4 people.
- A 16-inch pan serves 4 to 6 people.
- An 18-inch pan serves 6 to 8 people.
- A 20-inch pan serves 7 to 10 people.
- A 24-inch pan serves up to 16 people.
Paella pans are generally made from one of the following materials:
- Carbon steel is the material from which most traditional paella pans are made. It conducts heat quickly and evenly, and has a naturally nonstick surface. It is reactive, which lends an added flavor to the paella that some cooks find desirable. The downside of carbon steel is that it can be difficult to maintain and is prone to rust.
- Stainless steel pans are easy to maintain but are generally more expensive than their carbon steel counterparts. Tri-ply stainless steel pans with an aluminum core provide excellent heat distribution. The disadvantage of stainless steel pans is they do not have a nonstick surface.
- Enameled steel pans are made from carbon steel that has been coated with a layer of enamel. These pans are easier to maintain and don’t rust. Like carbon steel, they have a naturally nonstick surface. The downside of enameled steel pans is that the coating can scratch or chip, which potentially shortens their lifespan.
- Cast iron pans are durable but are heavier than paella pans made of other materials. Cast iron also takes longer to heat up. Properly seasoned cast-iron pans are nonstick. However, it can be difficult to make a crispy socarrat with one of these pans.
- Black steel pans are simply carbon steel pans that have been coated with a naturally occuring hardening treatment. This treatment gives black steel an organically nonstick surface. The disadvantage of black steel pans is the coating requires regular maintenance, and can wear away over time.
Pre-seasoned vs. Unseasoned
Most carbon steel pans require seasoning before the first use. To season a carbon steel paella pan, clean it thoroughly and then coat it with a generous amount of vegetable oil. Bake the oiled pan in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes. Maintaining a carbon steel pan is fairly easy: After each use, wash and thoroughly dry the pan and then rub it again with oil.
Many cast iron pans come pre-seasoned and therefore don’t need to be treated before use. Stainless steel and enameled steel pans are unseasoned but do not require seasoning.
Because they are used for both cooking and serving, carbon steel paella pans are lightweight and can be easily transferred to a dining table. Enameled steel pans are slightly heavier than uncoated carbon steel, and stainless steel pans are heavier still. Cast iron pans weigh a lot more than steel pans, making them suitable for cooking but not ideal for serving.
Not every type of paella pan works with every stove. The type of cooktop you have will also inform which paella pan is best for you.
- Gas stoves are compatible with either curved- or flat-bottom paella pans. These pans can be made from carbon steel, stainless steel, enameled steel, copper, or cast iron.
- Electric and glass-top stoves require flat-bottomed paella pans. Pans made from carbon steel, stainless steel, enameled steel, copper, or cast iron are compatible with these kinds of stoves.
- Grills and open fires are compatible with carbon steel, stainless steel, cast iron, or enameled steel pans.
- Induction cooktops are compatible with stainless steel and carbon steel pans that specify induction compatibility.
Lid and Handles
Whereas most conventional frying pans have a single handle, paella pans are typically constructed with two side loop handles. These handles make it easier for the cook to transport the finished dish to the table for serving.
Most paella pans do not come with lids. Traditional paella recipes call for the dish to be cooked uncovered so the liquids can evaporate from the pan. Some paella recipes do, however, require the dish to be covered in the final stages of cooking. Many all-purpose frying pans (and some paella pans) come with lids. Some home cooks invest in these lidded pans because they can be used to make a number of different dishes, not just paella.
Cleaning and Maintenance
The best way to maintain your paella pan will depend on its construction. Most paella pans will last longer if they are washed by hand rather than in the dishwasher.
Carbon steel pans require regular seasoning—drying the pans carefully after washing them, and then coating them in a layer of vegetable oil—in order to prevent rusting. When ready to use the pan again, wipe off the excess oil with a paper towel.
Stainless steel and enamel-coated paella pans do not require any special maintenance. Simply care for them as you would care for any other pots and pans.
Our Top Picks
Now that you know how to choose the paella pan that’s right for you, it’s time to start shopping. Our top picks are among the best paella pans of various sizes and materials. This list offers a variety of top-notch paella pans that will suit your needs and budget.
Lodge is known for their cast iron skillets, but this carbon steel option is perfect for evenly conducting heat at high temperatures. It’s made with thin, 12-gauge carbon steel, which makes it lightweight and easy to maneuver. This pan comes pre-seasoned with vegetable oil, providing a natural, easy-release surface that is ideal for paella.
This pan has a 15-inch diameter, meaning it will accommodate a paella that will serve two to five people. It’s compatible with gas and electric stovetops, outdoor grills, open fires, and even induction stoves. This carbon steel skillet should be hand washed, carefully dried, and seasoned with oil after every use.
This Spanish-made paella pan is thin, lightweight and constructed with carbon steel for optimal heat conductivity. It has a hammered, dimpled bottom that will help home chefs achieve the perfect socarrat.
With a diameter of 18.5 inches, this pan serves paella for six to eight people. It has a shallow depth of 2 inches, and is both oven- and broiler-safe. This pan can be used on all types of cooktops, including induction cooktops. The Virtus paella pan does require some maintenance, though: In order to prevent rusting, its carbon steel surface must be washed, carefully dried, and then coated with oil after every use.
This carbon steel pan from Garcima has the signature dimpled bottom emblematic of traditional paella pans. The textured surface helps to enhance the texture of the socarrat by promoting faster liquid evaporation. The material provides even conductivity while remaining sturdy and durable.
This paella pan’s 16-inch size is perfect for a family of four to six; this same pan is also available in a variety of other sizes. The 16-inch pan is meant to be used on a single large burner or two closely-spaced standard burners. It’s oven-safe and can be used on gas or electric stovetops and charcoal grills. Because it’s constructed with carbon steel, it should be hand-washed and dried immediately and seasoned with oil after use.
Looking to serve up a paella for just two or three people? This Spanish-made 12-inch pan by Garcima is a terrific option. It’s made from enameled steel, which has many of the benefits of carbon steel but is easier to maintain. The black-and-white speckled coating prevents rusting.
This pan has a shallow depth of just 1.5 inches and is small enough to be used on a single burner. The same enameled steel pan is also available in a 20-inch version, which is suitable for larger gatherings.
The Garcima Pata Negra paella pan is made in Valencia, Spain, the birthplace of paella. It’s constructed of heavy-grade carbon steel, which is ideal for heat conductivity and retention. It should be hand washed, dried immediately, and coated in vegetable oil after every use to prevent the carbon steel from rusting.
This pan is 3.5 inches deep, 24 inches in diameter, and serves up to 16 people. It’s compatible with gas and electric stovetops as well as gas and charcoal grills, so it’s perfect for larger indoor or outdoor gatherings. This pan is also available in 15-inch, 18-inch, 20-inch, and 24-inch versions.
Home cooks looking for a versatile paella pan that’s easier to maintain than carbon steel should look into this stir fry pan from Cooks Standard. Though this product isn’t marketed as a paella pan, its wide, shallow shape is perfectly suited for making paella. The fact that it also comes with a tempered glass lid is a bonus in our view, because it can be used to make a number of dishes. Because the pan is made from stainless steel, it does not require seasoning or heavy maintenance. The pan’s aluminum core prevents “hot spots” and conducts heat evenly.
The Cooks Standard pan has a 12.5-inch base, and the diameter of the upper rim is 16.5 inches wide. It has a depth of 3 inches. It’s compatible with gas, electric, glass, induction and most other cooktops. Though the pan itself is oven safe up to 500 degrees, the lid can only be exposed to temperatures of up to 350 degrees.
Those looking to invest in a cast iron pan that can be used for paella should consider this model from Lodge. Most cast iron skillets have a single handle, but this model comes with two loop handles, which makes it similar in construction to a traditional paella pan. Its 2-inch depth is also on par with its traditional cousins. The pan is pre-seasoned, meaning it can be used right out of the box and has a naturally nonstick surface. It has a 17-inch diameter and can dish up a paella for five to eight people.
One of the things we like most about this cast iron option from Lodge is that it can be used most anywhere: in the oven, over a grill or campfire, and on most standard indoor cooktop surfaces. The downsides are that cast iron is heavy, and requires some maintenance to keep in top shape.
With this all-in-one set from Garcima, you’ll be ready to serve paella to a crowd at your next barbeque or outdoor get together. This set comes with a paella pan, a 20-inch-high reinforced steel tripod on which to set the paella pan over the table, and a burner to keep the dish warm.
Garcima’s 20-inch carbon steel paella pan can serve between seven and 10 people. The burner is big enough to hold pans of up to 24 inches. Because of its carbon steel construction, the pan must be hand-washed and dried immediately after use and then rubbed with oil to prevent rusting.
The set also comes in larger and smaller sizes, allowing you to pick the ideal version for your outdoor gathering. Burner regulator sold separately.
FAQs About Your New Paella Pan
If you still have questions about how to choose the best paella pan for your cookware collection, the following commonly asked questions may help.
Q. What is a paella pan?
A traditional paella pan is a wide, shallow frying pan with curved sides and two handles. It is used to cook paella, a rice-based dish from Spain that features meat, seafood and/or vegetables.
Q. What should I look for in a paella pan?
When shopping for a paella pan, look for a product that is wide, shallow, and has a flat bottom. Materials like carbon steel, enameled steel, and stainless steel are ideal for making paella.
Q. Can a paella pan be used for daily cooking?
Products marketed as paella pans can certainly be used to cook things other than paella, including eggs, stir-fried dishes, and sautéed or seared meats and vegetables.
Q. Can a paella pan go in the oven?
Most paella pans are oven-safe if they are made from carbon steel, stainless steel, cast iron, or enameled steel. Nonstick pans, however, should not be used in the oven.
Q. Does a paella pan need a lid?
Paella pans typically do not come with lids because most paella recipes call for the ingredients to be cooked uncovered to allow liquids to evaporate. Some paella pans and many frying pans come with lids anyway, which allows you to use them for a number of other dishes.