Paella was invented in Valencia, Spain, as a way of making a nice meal out of surplus food and some rice. It’s incredible how many tourists come to Spain to eat this “delicacy” without realizing that it started as a leftovers meal!
Paella, when cooked, needs to be spread around the pan. The rice should be an inch (2.5 cm) deep, or less. This helps keep the rice nice and loose which is important as you are cooking it with other food.
This means that the best paella pans are actually wide and shallow. Read on to find what else makes pan good for paella.
Paella Pan Size and Servings
Paella pans are wide, shallow and round.
Paella Pan sizes are measured across their diameters.
In terms of serving sizes, I often use a 10 inch frying pan to cook paella for my two young children and me. (My husband avoids rice). So I would say a 10 inch paella pan serves 2-3 people as a full meal.
If you are doing paella as a starter, or part of the meal then you can double the number of portions.
Now remember that the servings go up faster than the size. So a 20 inch pan would serve a full meal for 8-12 people.
Most people would get a 14 inch (4-6 full meals) or a 16 inch pan (serves 5-7 people). That’s enough to cook a family meal. If you have visitors then it’s enough to serve paella along with another dish.
If you really want to go for it entertainment wise then consider an 18 inch (7 – 10 people). This would easily serve 4 adults and 4 kids. OK, if all the kids are hungry teenagers you might have a problem – then consider a 20 inch!
Does it fit on your stove?
Beyond 12 inches and it’s unlikely that you could fit the paella pan on a single burner of a normal stove. This doesn’t have to be a problem – you can use multiple burners. Do check it fits on your stove.
I think gas stoves are best for large paella pans, though you can use other types.
If you have a single burner stove, or the size you want won’t fit, you may need to look at other options. I would suggest a burner and pan combo. This would also let you cook it outside, or keep your stove free for other dishes.
Since I cook paella for the family, or a small number of guests, and my paella pan fits on my stove, I use my gas stove top. A burner would take up too much room in my house and only be used once or twice a year.
However if you are interested in outdoor burners check out my roundup guide.
Paella Pan Alternatives
You might be asking yourself – if I have a 10 or 12 inch frying pan could I use this as a paella pan substitute? Yes you can! I do this all the time, even though I have a paella pan. It’s just easier to use the smaller pan.
A frying or sauté pan will work beautifully as long as it is the right size. No need to spend money on paella pans. The main advantage of a paella pan is that it lets you cook for more people.
But I wouldn’t recommend a saucepan to cook paella with. It would be tempting to stack the rice too deep in the pan. This would mean overly burnt rice on the bottom and undercooked rice on top.
Induction Paella Pans
Any pan that will work on an induction stove can be used as an induction paella pan. You might be better off getting a large frying pan that you are confident works on an induction stove. You could use this 12.5 inch frying pan to cook paella for about 4 people, for example.
So am I really saying the best paella pan for induction cooktops isn’t even a paella pan at all? By all means choose any of the carbon steel paella pan options below and they should be induction compatible.
But I would worry about the size. If the pan covers one burner but not the other one completely, the second burner may switch off. Paella pans are really quite big for induction stoves. That’s why using a couple of normal pans might work well.
Paella Pan Material
You can have cast iron paella pans, carbon steel, nonstick, or even a stainless steel paella pan. The most traditional material for paella pans is enamelled steel. This looks black with some white spots on it. It’s the one I use.
If you are using your pan a lot you might want to consider a carbon steel paella pan as it will be more durable. Carbon steel is more work though.
It’s normal to get a bit of burnt rice on the bottom of the pan. For some people this is even a delicacy, but I don’t recommend eating it for health reasons. However it does make clean-up harder. That’s why I prefer enamelled steel which is easier to clean up.
As you can imagine, a stainless steel paella pan is particularly hard to clean up!
Nonstick should be easy as well. I’m a bit nervous about burning something on nonstick. But it should be OK as long as the temperature stays under 260 °C (500 °F).
So if you are prepared to look after it and will use it a lot, the best paella pan material for you is carbon steel. On the other hand, if it is for more occasional use or you can’t be bothered with extra work, you will find the best material for paella pans to be enameled steel.
Paella Pan Reviews
Garcima 16 Inch (40 cm) Paella Pan (Overall Best Paella Pan)
Garcima is a big manufacturer of traditional, made in Spain, paella pans. They are responsible for a few of the products reviewed in this guide.
This large enameled steel paella pan is one the most convenient. It’s easy to clean, but healthier than non stick.
It’s also big. Big enough for 5 – 7 people, if having paella as the sole main course. More if paella is only one of several dishes.
Is it too big for your stove? You will probably want to angle it across at least 2, if not 3 or 4, burners. If you have a one burner stove – look for something else. Otherwise, you should be OK.
Unfortunately there are reports of the enamel wearing over time. It depends how much you use it!
Some users also complain about this paella pan burning the bottom of the rice. The thing is – that’s what meant to happen. This bottom layer of caramelized rice is called “socorrat” and many Spaniards claim it’s delicious. Personally I avoid it – I’m suspicious of anything burnt.
But socorrat is part of the cooking process – and a sign of a good traditional paella pan.
This is the pan for those who want an easy to use traditional paella pan.
- Easy to clean
- Good size
- Simple to make traditional paella
- Enamel wears away over time
- You need more than one burner on your stove
La Paella 18″ Pata Negra Restaurant Grade Paella Pan (Best Commercial Paella Pan)
This 18 inch (45 cm) paella pan is a carbon steel pan. This makes it very durable but does mean you need to take care of it, especially after washing.
The manufacturer says it serves 6 to 8 people. I would have said 7 to 10 people – so perhaps assume it will serve about 7-8 people, and you will be safe!
18 inches is big, even for paella pans, so do measure your stovetop and make sure it will fit. You will need to have multiple (at least two) burners heating it. Don’t forget – you need room to move it around, so as to spread the heat.
This carbon steel pan is for people who know they will be making paella often. If you have a large family, or frequent guests this is ideal. Avoid if you are planning on cooking paella occasionally, for a small number of people – this pan is too much for that.
- Delicious paella meals for 7-8 people
- Carbon steel is very durable
- Very affordable price for such high quality
- Traditional Paella pan made in Valencia Spain
- Very big to manage – will it fit on your stove?
- Carbon steel is more work
Garcima 16-Inch Stainless Steel Paella Pan (Best Paella Pan for Gas Stoves)
This 16 inch (40cm) pan is on the expensive side but you do get an authentic traditional paella pan from Spain.
This is probably the best stainless steel paella pan around. I’m not sure I would pick stainless steel as an ideal material though. It’s perfectly normal for the rice on the bottom of the pan to burn a little, and stainless steel can be hard to clean.
The manufacturer says you can serve 4-6 people, though I would go with with 5-7 full meals for a 16 inch pan. Let’s call it 5-6 people!
So it’s enough for most families, perhaps even a couple of guests.
If you want something smaller, Garcima offer a 10 inch pan. I wouldn’t bother though – use your everyday frying pan.
A stainless steel paella pan can work quite well on gas stoves in my experience. So if you are looking for something specific this could be the best paella pan for your gas stove. Just remember, though, it will be more work to clean up the scorched rice.
- Family size pan
- Traditional paella pan made in Spain
- Long lasting and durable
- Gold colored handles fade over time
- Stainless steel is harder to clean up
- Expensive for what you get
Garcima 18-Inch Carbon Steel Paella Pan (Best Paella Pan for Grill)
Garcima are offering a high quality, but expensive, traditional paella pan. Since it’s a carbon steel pan, it will last, though it will need some care.
The 18 inch (46cm) one (reviewed) serves 5 to 8 people according to the manufacturer. I reckon it could serve 7 to 10 full meals – let’s call it 7 to 8 people.
The 18 inch pan will need two burners so check it fits on your stove.
There are other options though. They offer a big 22 inch pan (55 cm) that they say serves 7 to 12 people (I reckon 9 to 14 people – so 9-12 meals is a safe bet).
They also offer the biggest paella pan I’ve ever seen available for sale – 40 inches (100cm) which they say produces 85 servings. Honestly I would have said 35-45 full meals for that size, but I’ve never used a pan that big.
Seasoning a carbon steel pan that size also sounds like a big job to me!
I don’t recommend you buy it unless you have a restaurant. It’s unlikely to fit on your gas stove and is too big to manage. You would need at least two people and a very big stovetop to manage this.
Funnily enough there are even some bigger sizes listed, including 60 inches (150cm), notionally their biggest paella pan. At the time of writing these aren’t available, so I don’t know if they actually exist! In any case if 40 inches is too big, 60 inches is ridiculous. You would need specialist equipment and 3-4 people to manage it.
The 18 inch pan is enough for most people, maybe even a little too big.
- Range of sizes
- Sturdy, long lasting carbon steel pans
- Restaurant quality traditional pans
- Affordable price for the quality / size offered
- Needs to be seasoned before use
- Extra care needed when using
- Prone to hot spots – you need to rotate occasionally
Victoria Cast Iron Paella Frying Pan 13 Inches (Best Cast Iron Paella Pan)
This is the only cast iron paella pan included in this guide. Larger paella pans are better made with carbon steel than cast iron. Cast iron is very heavy and not ideal for large pans.
Here’s the problem with this pan – it’s basically a slightly larger frying pan without the handle.
And it’s heavy. Very heavy.
I reckon this pan produces enough paella to have full meals for 3-5 people. It should work for a family of 4-5 unless your kids are all devouring teenagers! You could even use it with guests if you have other courses on offer as well.
As a bonus there is a separate glass lid available to purchase.
- High quality and long lasting
- Pre seasoned with flaxseed oil (the best seasoning oil)
- Expensive for size
- Small for a paella pan
- Cast iron does need extra care
- Very heavy
Cuisinart Non-Stick Paella Pan, 15″ (Best Paella Pan with Lid)
On paper this is a lovely paella pan. It’s nonstick, so easy to clean up, and comes with a nice glass lid.
It’s also a great size. I reckon 15 inches (38cm) is enough to feed 4-7 people, so it’s definitely enough for the family and perhaps for guests as well. It should fit on most stoves though not on most single burners. It’s also not too heavy!
The nonstick surface is advertised as durable.
There is no mention of PTFE so it probably has it. PTFE can be OK, except that traditional paella involves burning the rice on the bottom of the pan. You need to make sure that you keep the temperature below 260 °C (500 °F).
The nonstick surface scratches easily, especially when scraping off, ummm, stuck food.
If you really want a lid, you might consider this an advantage. It’s so hard to find paella pans with a lid, making this the best paella pan with lid almost by default. Yet I don’t think you really need a lid when cooking paella. It’s not something that splashes liquid everywhere, and you want some of the water to evaporate.
Overall, I can’t see this pan lasting long or have anything really to say for it. It’s not one I would get.
- Glass lid
- Nonstick (in theory)
- Decent size – manageable and serves whole family
- Probably has PTFE
- Prone to hotspots
- Scratches easily
Enamelled steel is a nice alternative and works well in paella pans. The enamel, although not fully nonstick, is non adhesive, making it easy to clean. The steel provides a strong base and decent heat transmission.
I like this pan, and not just because of the material. It’s made in Valencia, Spain. For the world, Spain is the home of Paella. But, for Spain, Valencia is where Paella originated.
It’s also a good size at 13.5 inches (34cm). This is enough for a family and perhaps some guests, but is also manageable on most stoves.
According to the manufacturer it serves 6 people. I would have said 4 – 5 people, but it depends on the size of the serving and if it’s the only course.
There is also a 24 inch (60 cm) version which the manufacturer says can cook 20 servings at a time. This is probably too big for most stovetops.
The 13.5 inch version is also excellent value and very affordable.
It isn’t one you would buy to use every day though. The enamel surface will wear away with heavy use.
If you are new to paella pans, this is a great one to start with. Unfortunately it’s frequently unavailable.
- Excellent value
- Great starter pan
- Serves whole family
- Non adhesive surface
- Very affordable
- Easy to clean
- Will lose enamel coating if used heavily over time.
- Too small if cooking full meals for large number of guests
- Often unavailable
Best Paella Pan
For a paella novice I would choose the Garcima 16 Inch (40 cm) Paella Pan. You get a decent, traditional pan for an amazing price. It’s irresistible!
It won’t last forever (unsurprising at this price). You might also find yourself wanting a bigger pan. No problem – just upgrade to one of the others I’ve reviewed!
Best Paella Pan for Experts
For those who use their paella pan every week and want to cook for more people, I would suggest a carbon steel paella pan, like the Garcima 18-Inch Carbon Steel Paella Pan. The carbon steel is extra work but it will last lifetimes.
I reckon you could get 8 full meals out of it. If serving two main courses (one of which is paella), then there are potentially 16 servings in it.
It’s also the best paella pan for grills, such as BBQs, as it can take the heat of the grill best.
On the other hand, it is big! Perhaps too much so for some stove tops / people. Make sure you know what you are getting into before buying this carbon steel pan.