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Do I really need a paella pan?

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I've never made paella, but I'm ready to try. But one recipe I read said you "must" have a special paella pan. I've gone 32 years without making paella, and while I may improve my average, I don't know that it's going to become my go-to dish. What's so special about a paella pan? Can I make do without one?

Possible substitutes that I own: a large (12 inch?), straight-sided All-Clad skillet with a lid; a large AC saucier with lid; a slant-sided AC saute pan, no lid; and a cast iron skillet with high, straight-ish sides.

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  1. I'd made paella a number of times, but went that many years without the proper pan. To quote a cliche, I think the proper pan kicked it up a notch. In fact, it wasn't one of my go-to dishes before, but it is now. I'd go with the large, straight-sided All-Clad. If you think it might be something you'll do on a regular basis, go for the pan. I bought one of the cheap enamel ones in a Latin specialty store for very little money and it both works and looks as well as anything a good deal more expensive. The presentation is pretty spectacular and I do think it makes a better paella, but it can wait until you decide whether or not it would be worth not only the money but the space.

    1 Reply
    1. re: JoanN

      I think JoanN has offered perfect advice all around here. It's probably the 3qt All-Clad skillet with straight sides, which is perfect for paella sans paella specific pan. And once you figure out whether you want to make it a lot, then you can revisit the specialty pan.

    2. I've made paella in a large skillet & it was fine. I've been toying with making it in my wok - certainly large enough, but would the round bottom work okay?

      1 Reply
      1. re: amymsmom

        For what you're trying to accomplish when making a paella, a flat bottom pan is preferable to a round one. I'd stick with the skillet and forget the wok. The rice wouldn't cook as evenly.

      2. I make mine in a 4 quart shallow saute pan. It works out beautifully and still looks impressive when I bring it to the table. I only use the cover to keep the food warm after I take it out of the oven. The saute pan is about three inches deep and very wide, so it is a perfect shape. It just has a long handle and a helper handle on the other side.

        1. The first time I had it, my friend winged it in a cast iron skillet, and that worked Ok for a few people. You don't really *need* one, but if you're making paella for more than a few people, it's helpful and will come out better. You can get a traditional carbon steel one for probably $10-$20, maybe a little more if you want a big one.

          What you DO absolutely need is proper Spanish smoked paprika. I didn't understand why people always say that until I got some, but seriously - this is essential.

          Another tip - technically, a paella should be made over an open fire outside; if you're cooking in a gas oven, you can try putting the paella pan directly on the oven floor. I've had pretty good success with this method.

          1 Reply
          1. re: will47

            Tienda.com has the black pans in all different sizes and a lot less expensive than anything allclad. They also sell the stands for cooking over a pit fire which is a lot of fun on the beach with some extremely fresh shellfish. Will47 you are definetly right about the spanish smoked paprika being essential but be careful not to over power the saffron in your paella.