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!
If you want the taste of Spain but can’t get away, making paella at home is easier and cheaper than a plane ticket. But to do that, you’ll need a good pan specifically designed for this hearty dish.
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 when you are cooking it with other food. You want all the ingredients to be perfectly mixed together!
This means that the best paella pans are actually wide and shallow. Here is my short list of the best pans for paella:
- Garcima 16 Inch (40 cm) Paella Pan (Overall Best Paella Pan)
- La Paella 18″ Pata Negra Restaurant Grade Paella Pan (Best Commercial Pan)
- Garcima 16-Inch Stainless Steel Paella Pan (Best Stainless Steel Pan)
- Victoria Cast Iron Paella Frying Pan 13 Inches (Best Cast Iron Pan)
- Cuisinart Non-Stick Paella Pan, 15″ (Best Pan with Lid)
- La Valenciana Enameled Steel Paella Pan (Alternative)
Read on to find what else makes pan good for paella.
What to Consider When Buying a Paella Pan
Pan Size and Servings
Paella pans are wide, shallow, and round. They are measured using the pan’s diameter. You won’t find standard pans smaller than 10 inches in diameter, although there are some mini 6-inch pans (15.2 cm) for single servings.
In terms of serving sizes, I often use a 10-inch frying pan (25 cm) to cook paella for my two young children and me. (My husband avoids rice). So I would say a 10-inch paella pan can serve a full meal for 2-3 people.
If you are preparing paella as a starter or appetizer, you can double the number of approximate servings. Of course, it’s important to 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 should 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 large enough to serve paella along with another dish.
If you really want to go all out? Consider an 18-inch (46 cm) pan, which serves 7-10 people. This would easily serve 4 adults and 4 kids, making it ideal for entertaining. OK, if all the kids are hungry teenagers, you might have a problem. In that case, grab a 20-inch pan!
Does the Pan Fit on Your Stove?
Anything beyond 12 inches, and it’s unlikely that you could fit the paella pan on a single burner of a normal stove. The large diameter doesn’t have to be a problem, though. You can use multiple burners. However, it’s still important to check that the pan will fit on your stove.
I think gas stoves are best for large paella pans, although you can use other types of stoves.
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, I use my gas stove top. My paella pan fits on my stove, so it’s not a problem. A burner would take up too much room in my house and only be used once or twice a year.
If you’re interested in outdoor burners, you can check out my roundup guide.
Paella Pan Material
Pans for paella come in several different materials. You can find cast iron, carbon steel, nonstick, or even a stainless steel paella pan.
Enameled Steel Pan
The most traditional material for paella pans is enameled steel. It appears black with some white spots on it. It’s the one I use.
Carbon Steel Pan
If you frequently use your pan, you might want to consider a carbon steel paella pan for its excellent durability and even heat distribution. A carbon steel pan is more work, though. You’ll have to season it and take care not to overheat it. For more information, see my carbon steel skillet guide.
It’s normal to get a bit of burnt rice on the bottom of the pan. For some people, that crispy rice 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 enameled steel, which is easier to clean up.
Stainless Steel Pan
As you can imagine, a stainless steel paella pan is particularly hard to clean! Food likes to stick to stainless steel, especially when you crank up the heat. If I were you, I would pass on stainless steel for paella unless you enjoy doing dishes. (In that case, more power to you.)
Nonstick should be easy to clean, as well. I’m a bit nervous about burning something on a nonstick pan. 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 ideal paella pan material is carbon steel. On the other hand, if it is for more occasional use or you can’t be bothered with extra work, enameled steel is the best low-maintenance material.
Most paella pans made for home use are constructed with enameled steel, whereas most restaurant paella pans are made from carbon steel.
Paella Pan Alternatives
Don’t have a paella pan? Don’t let that stop you from enjoying this masterpiece of Spanish cuisine.
You might be asking yourself, “Can I use a 10-inch or 12-inch frying pan as a paella pan substitute?” Yes, you can! I do this all the time, even though I have a paella pan. Sometimes 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. There’s 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 for making paella. It would be tempting to stack the rice too deep in the pan, resulting in burnt rice on the bottom and undercooked rice on the top. That would be a paella tragedy. Stick to frying pans or sauté pans, instead.
A Note About 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 induction paella pan isn’t even a paella pan at all? Sometimes other options might work better, but if you want a designated pan for paella, go with any of the carbon steel paella pan options below. They should all be induction compatible.
The thing to watch is the size. This can be especially tricky with induction stoves. 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 better.
Paella Pan Reviews
Read on for detailed reviews of the best paella pans on the market.
Garcima 16-Inch (40 cm) Paella Pan (Overall Best Pan for Paella)
Garcima is a big manufacturer of traditional wide and shallow paella pans. Garcima products are made in Spain, and the brand is responsible for a few of the products reviewed in this guide. This company continues to manufacture products in Alaquàs, Spain, where they’ve been based since 1920.
This large enameled steel paella pan is one the most convenient options. It’s easy to clean, but the actual cooking surface is healthier than non-stick.
It’s also big. This pan is large enough to feed 5 – 7 people if you’re serving paella as the sole main course. You can feed even more people you’re making paella as a side dish or appetizer.
Is this pan too big for your stove? You will probably want to angle it across at least two, if not more, burners. If you have a one-burner stove, you should look for something else. Otherwise, you should be OK using this pan.
Unfortunately, there are reports of the enamel wearing down over time. It all depends on how much you use it!
Some users also complain about this paella pan burning the bottom of the rice. The thing is – that’s supposed to happen! That 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 Garcima enameled pan is the best choice for those who want an easy-to-use 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 Garcima 18-inch (45 cm) carbon steel paella pan is very durable, but you do need to take care of it, especially after washing. Regular seasoning and drying immediately are ways to get the most out of this heavy-duty carbon steel pan.
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 quite large, even for a paella pan, so it’s crucial to measure your stovetop and make sure it will fit. You will need multiple (at least two) burners heating it. Don’t forget–you need room to move it around to spread the heat evenly around the pan. The good news is that carbon steel is lightweight, so the large size won’t be as burdensome.
This restaurant-grade carbon steel pan is for people who know they will be making paella often. If you have a large family or frequent guests, you’ll be set. Avoid this carbon steel pan if you are planning on cooking paella occasionally or 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 Stainless Steel Paella Pan)
This 16-inch (40cm) pan is another Garcima pick. It’s on the expensive side, but you do get an authentic paella pan made in 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 a bear to clean.
The manufacturer says you can serve 4-6 people with this stainless steel paella pan, but 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 with it, though. Instead, you can just use your everyday frying pan.
A stainless steel paella pan can take a lot of abuse, and (in theory) doesn’t need a lot of care. However, it is more work to clean up the scorched rice from stainless steel. If you’re willing to trade easy cleaning for long-lasting durability? You’ve found a viable option.
- Family size pan
- Traditional paella pan made in Spain
- Long lasting and durable stainless steel
- 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 Grilling Paella Pan)
Garcima also offers this 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 carbon steel pan will need two burners, so check it fits on your stove.
There are other options, though. Garcima also offers a big 22-inch pan (55 cm) that they say serves 7 to 12 people (I reckon 9 to 14 people, so 9 to 12 meals is a safe bet).
They also offer the biggest paella pan I’ve ever seen available for sale – 40 inches (100cm)! The manufacturer claims this pan produces 85 servings. Honestly, I would have said 35-45 full meals for that size, but I’ve never used a pan that big. It’s gigantic.
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 (150 cm), ostensibly 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 Victoria pan is the only cast iron paella pan included in this guide. Larger paella pans are better when made with carbon steel than cast iron. Cast iron is very heavy and not suited for large pans.
Here’s the problem with this pan- it’s basically a slightly larger frying pan without the handle.
And did I mention it’s heavy? Very heavy.
I estimate that 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 ravenous teenagers! You could even use it with guests if you have other courses to 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 Cuisinart is a lovely paella pan. It’s non-stick, so easy to clean and comes with a nice glass lid.
It’s also a great size. I estimate 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, but not on most single burners. It’s also not too heavy!
In theory, the lid and non-stick cooking surface make this a versatile pan.
The nonstick surface is also 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. Which you will be if you’re making paella the traditional way.
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 option with a lid, almost by default. The thing is, I don’t think you really need a lid when cooking paella. It’s not a dish that splashes liquid everywhere, and you want some of the water to evaporate.
The one use for a lid could perhaps be when warming up leftover paella (when you want to trap heat and moisture), but I can think of easier ways of doing that!
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
Since this pan is by Cuisinart, a well known mainstream cookware brand, it’s easier to shop around to compare prices. I suggest also taking a look at Bed Bath & Beyond, if available.
Enameled steel is a nice alternative and works well for this type of pan. 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, coming in 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 whether 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.- 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
Is Carbon Steel a Good Material for Paella Pans?
Carbon steel is an excellent material for paella pans. It has an even heat distribution, is incredibly durable, and can take a lot of abuse.
Carbon steel paella pans are lighter than cast iron, and easier to clean than stainless steel. They make for the best quality pans in the long run.
The only real downside with carbon steel cookware is that you need to season it and take care when cleaning it. You look after carbon steel pans in the same way as you look after cast iron. The biggest difference is that carbon steel is lighter than cast iron; this is especially true for carbon steel paella pans where the metal is particularly thin.
Can I Make Paella in a Stainless Steel Pan?
Stainless steel isn’t the greatest material for paella pans. It tends to have hotspots, especially if using a gas burner. That leads to unevenly cooked results, which can ruin a good pan of paella. Not only that, if you burn the bottom layer of rice (as you are meant to), stainless steel pans can be especially difficult to clean.
I would recommend not buying a stainless steel paella pan unless you have a specific reason to do so. However, if you already have a stainless pan, there’s nothing stopping you from trying to cook some paella in it! It should turn out OK, especially if you regularly stir it and don’t try to burn the bottom layer of rice.
It’s important to preheat your stainless steel pan before adding food. Cold stainless steel will draw the oil into its pores, making food stick even worse. Preheat the pan on medium heat for a few minutes until a water droplet sizzles.
Add oil and let it heat for a moment (not to smoking), then add your food. Stir it frequently and keep the heat as low as possible. Higher heat will cause food to stick. If you do get your stainless steel pan dirty, then check out my guide to cleaning it.
Why Are Paella Pans Shallow?
A wide and shallow pan is best when cooking paella because it enables water to evaporate and the rice to cook evenly. If you had a deep pan, the top layer of rice could end up uncooked.
As it is, even with a shallow pan, the heat distribution means that the bottom layer of rice next to the cooking surface actually ends up burnt. (This is called socarrat and is considered a delicacy.) If you’re new to that term, don’t knock it until you try it!
Best Paella Pans: My Recommendation
For a paella novice, I would suggest 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 Pan for Paella Experts
For those who see themselves making paella every week and want to cook for more people, I would suggest a carbon steel pan, like the Garcima 18-Inch Carbon Steel Paella Pan. The carbon steel is extra work but makes for a much more durable pan.
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 pan for grills, such as BBQs, as carbon steel pans 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 paella pan.