There are many versions of the famous rice dish called paella. From the original Valencian version, that includes rabbit and snails, to vegetarian and seafood paella (paella de marisco) to paella mixta, which is a mix of chicken, meat, and shellfish, and is probably the most popular paella on Spanish beaches.
This step-by-step guides you through the basics of preparing a perfect paella, regardless of what kind it is.
Before beginning preparations, it's important to ask, "How many people will be eating?" Once you answer that, you can decide what size and type kind of pan is needed.
The Paella Pan
Paella pans, sometimes called paelleras are made especially for the job. They are round, open, metal pans, which are approximately 2-2.5 inches deep (5-6 cm). These pans spread the heat and withstand cooking over hot coals. Paella pans can be made of carbon steel, stainless steel or enamel and have two handles. The material, shape and shallow depth of the pans are what make them perfect for cooking rice, which is the focus of the paella.
Paella pans are readily available in sizes from a 9-inch pan that makes 1-2 servings, and costs about $10, all the way to a 45-inch pan that makes 120 servings and costs upwards of $400. Carbon steel paella pans in three typical sizes used by home cooks are shown in the photo above.
Two to Four Servings: To prepare a paella for up to 4 people, you can use a 12-inch, heavy-bottomed, 3-inch deep, frying pan, or a 12-inch paella pan. You can also use a large electric skillet with a thermostat control.
For Larger Groups: A 18-inch paella pan makes up to 12 servings, while a 24-inch pan makes up to 19 servings. Remember, due to the shape of the pan, the amount can be reduced to half as many servings without negatively affecting the quality of the paella.
Perfect Paella Tip: Don't worry if the pan looks "old" after its' first use. Simply wash, dry and immediately rub with oil, and it will last many years.