For many of us, paella conjures up images of sun-soaked Spanish holidays by the sea, and making it at home recreates those memories. The word ‘paella’ is the original old Valencian name for the pan itself – versions of the dish were cooked over an open fire by farm workers and labourers for their lunch. Paella remains a widely popular dish in Spain and is often cooked for large gatherings and occasions. It’s a great one-pot dish that can feed the whole family.
How to choose the best paella pan
Traditional paella pans are made of carbon steel. They have two metal handles, a wide, flat base and shallow sides. The wide, flat design allows the liquid to evaporate easily and a crisp, crusty base to form on the bottom of the pan – this is known as ‘socarrat’ and is a highly desirable part of the dish. If you’re a regular paella-maker, this design is going to produce better paellas than a standard non-stick frying pan or casserole dish.
These days, paella pans come in all materials, from traditional carbon steel to cast iron and stainless steel. Each has different care and cleaning requirements. It it is possible to buy paella pans that come with a lid, but the vast majority don’t.
How to season a paella pan
Carbon steel paella pans and some others, such as cast iron, will need seasoning before use. This is a simple process that involves heating oil in the pan, then allowing it to cool. These pans will need seasoning regularly to build up a non-stick coating that will improve over time. They usually aren’t dishwasher-safe as this would remove the oily coating. Cleaning should be done gently by hand and without much detergent.
Some carbon steel pans now come with a non-stick coating, which often means they don’t need much, if any, seasoning and they’re dishwasher-safe.
What paella pan to buy
It’s worth considering what size paella pan would suit your needs. Pans come in a huge variety of sizes, but if you intend to use it on the hob and don’t have a particularly large burner size, then you won’t get the most out of one of the very large pans. Similarly, if you hope to use a larger pan in the oven and grill, check it’ll fit first. If you’re new to making paella, check out our 10 tips for next level paella or watch our step-by-step prawn & chorizo paella video.
Many paella pans are oven-safe, can be used under the grill and even on the barbecue, making them versatile pans that aren’t limited to paella. Use your paella pan on the hob for fry-ups, pancakes, risotto or bolognese; it can also be used for grilling meat or cooking pasta bakes. If it’s barbecue-safe, use it for vegetables or cooking on a campfire.
Best paella pans at a glance
- Best overall paella pan: ProCook non-stick paella pan, £15
- Best for beginners: Prue’s World paella pan, £26.99
- Best for big families: Sous Chef enamelled eight-person paella pan, £16.99
- Best non-traditional paella pan: Stellar paella pan, £116
- Best cast iron investment: Staub cast iron paella pan, £129
- Best large traditional: Vaello Campos carbon steel paella pan, £15
- Best small traditional: Samuel Groves carbon steel paella pan, £21
- Best hob to table serving pan: Kuhn Rikon Black Star serving/paella pan, £159.99
- Best paella pan with a lid: Judge paella pan, £47.40
Best paella pans to buy in 2021
ProCook non-stick paella pan
Best overall paella pan
This budget-friendly pan is a great all-rounder that’s made from carbon steel with a non-stick coating. The 38cm diameter makes it a great choice for four-to-eight-person recipes, and although the deep sides aren’t traditional, they do help contain the food while stirring. The non-stick coating works well and we achieve some crisp socarrat on the base of the paella without any sticking. It’s easy to clean, but as an added bonus it’s also dishwasher-safe.
As with most paella pans, you’ll need to use oven gloves because the handles get hot, but it’s oven-safe up to 260C, making it a multi-purpose pan that can be used for everything from fry-ups to flatbreads or pasta bakes. Some seasoning is required before the first use (and on a regular basis thereafter), but it’s quick and simple to do. This pan is not compatible with induction or hot plate hobs.
- Available from ProCook, £15
Prue’s World paella pan
Best paella pan for beginners
This 36cm carbon steel paella pan has an effective non-stick coating and doesn’t require any seasoning before use, so it’s an excellent choice for novice paella cooks. It’s big enough for a four-person recipe and we’re able to create a crispy socarrat bottom in places without any of it sticking to the pan. The turmeric in our paella recipe stains the non-stick coating though, so if you’re precious about pristine pans, that may be off-putting.
It has bamboo handles and they do get quite warm, but not as hot as most traditional pans with metal handles, making it a safer choice. It can be used on all hobs including induction, and the non-stick coating makes it a great choice for a whole host of other dishes, like curries, Spanish omelettes and risottos. The bamboo handles mean it isn’t dishwasher-safe and can’t be used in the oven or grill either, but it’s easy to use and good value for money.
- Available from Lakeland, £26.99
Sous Chef enamelled eight-person paella pan
Best for big families
The 33.5cm diameter base (38cm diameter at the top) makes this a whopper of a pan that can easily accommodate enough paella for eight people. Made in Spain, this enamelled paella pan has an attractive black-and-white design that gives it a more modern appearance than other pans on the list. It’s oven-safe but not suitable for ceramic or induction hobs. To ensure it heats evenly across the wide base, use it on a large ring, ideally a large gas burner.
The enamelled coating stops it rusting, doesn’t require seasoning and makes it low maintenance, but it doesn’t have very good non-stick properties: our paella sticks quite badly to the bottom. It’s not dishwasher-safe, so you have to give it a good soak and scrub after cooking. Having said that, the sticking will depend on the contents of your recipe. Overall, this is a sturdy, well-made pan that’s built to last and it makes a great paella.
- Available from Sous Chef, £16.99
Stellar paella pan
Best non-traditional paella pan
If you’re in the market for a paella-style pan that can be used regularly for lots of other meals, this 30cm stainless steel one is a good choice. It can be used on all hobs and is oven-safe up to 240C, so it’s also perfect for curries, casseroles, bolognese and risotto – it won’t sit gathering dust while you’re not making paellas. It doesn’t have a traditional paella pan shape and it’s made of stainless steel, but it’s well-built, sturdy and comes with a lid and lifetime guarantee.
The main drawback is that it’s not non-stick – when we use it to make paella, there’s a layer of rice welded to the bottom of the pan at the end of cooking. Thankfully, the heavy gauge stainless steel stands up well to being scrubbed and is also dishwasher-safe. With regular seasoning, sticking should become less of an issue.
- Available from Horwood, £116
Staub cast iron double-handed frying pan
Best cast iron investment
Cast iron isn’t traditional for a paella pan, but is excellent at retaining heat, making this an ideal hob-to-table pan. This is one of the most expensive pans on our list, but cast iron should last a lifetime so it’s worth the investment. The clean lines and matte black finish give it a modern, rustic style that’s very different to most paella pans.
This 26cm pan is just big enough for our four-person paella recipe and it sits comfortably on most large hob rings. Not only is it suitable for all hob types, it can also be used in oven, under the grill and even on the barbecue. It requires a small amount of seasoning before use and we don’t experience much sticking when making our paella, but it does produce some of the desirable crisp socarrat base – this comes away from the bottom of the pan easily with a plastic spoon. This strong and sturdy pan maintains a good, even heat but the handles get hot. Due to the cast iron, it’s also much heavier than other pans on this list. It’s a good-quality pan that would make a great gift.
Vaello Campos carbon steel paella pan
Best large traditional paella pan
Manufactured in Valencia, the home of paella, this authentic traditional paella pan is a substantial 38cm and big enough for six-to-eight-person recipes. It’s not suitable for induction hobs and the base isn’t completely flat, so we wouldn’t recommend it for electric hobs either. It will work best on a large gas burner, but can also be used on a barbecue.
Carbon steel isn’t non-stick, so the pan needs seasoning before use and oiling to stop rust forming. We do experience some sticking when making paella despite having seasoned it first (this pan is not dishwasher-safe). But, over time the seasoning will build up and the non-stick properties should improve. The handles get warm but not too hot to touch, and we’re impressed with the socarrat that forms at the base of the pan.
- Available from Divertimenti, £15
Samuel Groves carbon steel paella pan
Best small traditional paella pan
This traditional-style carbon steel paella pan looks and feels very authentic, but is actually made in England. We try the 30cm pan, but it’s available in six sizes, from 20cm to 46cm, so there are plenty of options to choose from. It’s a good weight and the thick steel feels really well made and sturdy. It’s oven-safe and is suitable for all hob types, including induction – the flat base means it’ll work well on electric hobs.
It does require seasoning before use, but this is an easy process. With regular seasoning, it’ll develop a good non-stick coating. As with all carbon steel pans, it will rust, so it needs oiling and can’t be washed in the dishwasher. The pan heats evenly, but the handles get hot so you’ll need oven gloves. It’s just big enough for a four-person recipe, and we do manage to create some crisp socarrat on the base of our paella. Most of it lifts away easily with a plastic spatula, but there is a little sticking.
- Available from Samuel Groves, £21
Kuhn Rikon Black Star serving pan
Best hob-to-table serving pan
This is the most expensive pan on our list – it’s made in Switzerland from heavy gauge iron, comes with a 10-year guarantee and should last a lifetime. The quality is excellent and it’s a durable pan that looks great as a serving dish, too. It’s suitable for all hob types, plus the oven and grill, and has excellent heat retention properties so it’ll keep food warm at the table.
It’s a versatile pan that can be used for plenty of foods and recipes, including searing meats, making crisp rosti, curries and paella, or simply to serve other foods. It requires a lengthy 30-minute seasoning before use, but after this, none of our paella sticks to the base of the pan and it cleans really easily with just water. There is a little turmeric staining in the base after cleaning, though. It’s not dishwasher-safe and it’s recommended that you do not use any detergent when hand-washing. It’s important to let this pan air-dry and oil it again once fully dry. It does require a bit of special treatment, but for such a good-quality pan, we think it’s worth the extra care.
Judge paella pan
Best paella pan with a lid
Most paella pans don’t come with a lid, but if you would prefer one, this stainless steel pan is a good option. This 30cm pan can easily accommodate four to six portions. It distributes heat evenly, but is slower to heat up than some of the thinner carbon steel pans. It’s oven-safe up to 210C and suitable for all hob types, so it’s a versatile option that can be used for plenty of other recipes, like pastas and risottos. The lid allows you to keep the moisture in casseroles, too.
It doesn’t require any seasoning before use, but that means it doesn’t have non-stick properties – some of the paella rice sticks quite badly to the base, which requires soaking after use. On the plus side, it’s dishwasher-safe. Despite being air vented, the handles still get hot when used on the hob. We make a good paella with some socarrat on the base and the lid is useful for stopping the leftover paella from drying out while it cools.
How we tested paella pans
Unsurprisingly, we put all of the paella pans to the test by making our chicken & chorizo paella. While making the paella, we assessed several areas of the design and usability for each pan, including how quickly it heats up and how evenly the heat is distributed, as well as whether it has good non-stick properties. We also noted whether the handles got hot and how easy each pan was to clean.
Before use, we seasoned those that required it and assessed how easy this process was. We also took into account what heat sources the pan could be used on and other notable features like weight, quality and value for money.
This review was last updated in June 2021. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability, please get in touch at goodfoodwebsite@.