The 7 Best Paella Pans, According to Chefs

The Garcima 16-Inch Double Gauge Steel Pan is our pick to make this Spanish dish

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Best Paella Pans

The Spruce Eats / Amelia Manley

The Spruce Eats Top Picks

The Garcima 16-Inch Pata Negra Double Gauge Steel Paella Pan is our number one pick. It's made in the birthplace of paella, Valencia, Spain, and heats food evenly thanks to the dimples on the base. If you want a lot of bang for your buck, the El Cid Paella Pans by Despaña is a great selection.

Valenciana, marisco, mixta, vegetariana, negra—there are many kinds of paella, the Spanish dish of rice, saffron, and proteins such as chicken or seafood cooked and served in a large, wide, and shallow pan. The type of pan you need, however, depends on your cooktop, the number of people you are serving, and whether you plan on cooking outdoors.

The best paella pans are made out of either carbon steel, stainless steel, enameled steel, or copper. Any paella pan will work on a gas cooktop. For electric, glass, or induction cooktops, you will need a paella pan with a flat bottom so it will transfer heat efficiently. Cooking outdoors or with gas? Go for paella pans that have a rounded bottom. Once you've chosen a material, choose a size that accommodates the number of people you plan to serve. "Paella is like barbecue—it works better when there are people to enjoy it,” says Alex Piñeiro, a chef who specializes in Spanish cuisine.

Best Overall

Garcima 16-Inch Pata Negra Restaurant Grade Paella Pan

Garcima 16-Inch Pata Negra Double Gauge Steel Paella Pan

Amazon

What We Like
  • Professional quality

  • Suitable for all stovetops

  • Even heat distribution

What We Don't Like
  • Heavy

  • Requires extra maintenance

Made in Valencia, Spain—the birthplace of paella—this Garcima pan is made of extra-thick, professional-grade carbon steel and has a wide and shallow cooking surface for sautéing meats and vegetables before adding rice. The “dimples” in the base mimic those of traditional paella pans and help with uniform heating. Keep in mind that since it's carbon steel, you will need to season it before cooking and be careful when cleaning.

The 14-inch bottom is large enough for up to six servings, and you'll have no fear of spilling while stirring thanks to the 2-inch-tall sloped sides. The large looped handles make it easy to transfer from the stove to the table for serving. What makes this pan so versatile is that it is ideal for most cooktops or on the grill.

Price at time of publish: $56

Material: Carbon steel | Available Sizes: 16 inches | Suitable For: Gas, electric, grill, oven | Dishwasher Safe: No

Why Carbon Steel?

Carbon steel is the traditional material for paella pans in Spain because it has the highest thermal conductivity and makes for fast and even heating. This allows you to create the perfect socarrat—the crispy, crusty part of the paella that becomes caramelized and toasted on the bottom of the pan while cooking. Carbon steel cookware does require a little work to keep it seasoned, but if you’re invested in rice, it's a no-brainer.

Best Budget

Despaña El Cid Paella Pans

Despaña El Cid Paella Pans

Despaña

What We Like
  • Oven-safe

  • Available in many sizes

  • Durable

What We Don't Like
  • Sizes larger than 15 inches must be special ordered

  • Requires additional seasoning and maintenance

“This is my go-to when I am going somewhere to cook paella and I want to leave the pan as a gift,” says Piñeiro. This affordable pan from El Cid is made from carbon steel, has a dimpled surface, and dips slightly in the middle, allowing oil to collect at the center. It's constructed to withstand the heat and flames of your oven and stove, and the round, shallow shape ensures rice cooks in a thin layer. It has two handles for easy maneuvering.

When buying a budget paella pan, Piñeiro recommends not spending more than $20 per person, so about $80 per pan that serves four people. The largest of these El Cid paella pans (15 inches) will cost you way less than that.

Price at time of publish: $24 

Material: Carbon steel | Available Sizes: 8, 9, 9.5, 10, 11, 12, 12.5, 13.5, 14, 15 inches | Suitable For: Gas, grill, oven | Dishwasher Safe: No

Good to Know

“At Boqueria, we use a medium-sized pan (14 to 15 inches in diameter), which is perfect for feeding two to four people," says Yann de Rochefort, the founder of the American-based tapas chain, Boqueria. "You can also use a smaller 7-inch diameter pan for single paellas.” If you’re serving a crowd, go 16 inches or more. Give your stovetop a quick glance to make sure it will fit. If not, you may want to also invest in an outdoor paella tripod and burner. 

Best Cast Iron

Staub 13-Inch Double-Handle Fry Pan

Staub 13-Inch Double-Handle Fry Pan

Zwilling

What We Like
  • Sturdy pan that is built to last

  • Doesn't require seasoning

  • Holds heat very well

What We Don't Like
  • Heavy

  • Expensive

While cast iron is not the most common material for paella, you can make it work. This Staub Double-Handled Fry Pan is beloved for even heat distribution and great heat retention. The large surface area with matte black enameled cast iron keeps the rice layer shallow and allows excess moisture to evaporate—perfect for top-notch toasty socarrat.

Admittedly, this pan is heavy compared to its carbon steel counterparts, but similarly, cast iron can be used on any heat source, including induction (though it can scratch glass cooktops). This pan also works well in the oven, or on your outdoor grill, and the durable matte black enamel finish requires no seasoning. Available in a few different colors, this show-worthy piece looks pretty in your kitchen and is also dishwasher safe for easy cleaning.

Price at time of publish: $270

Material: Enameled cast iron | Available Sizes: 13 inches | Suitable For: Gas, electric, induction, grill | Dishwasher Safe: Yes

Cast Iron vs. Carbon Steel

Cast iron and carbon steel are very similar. Both are made from iron and carbon, are incredibly durable, and need regular maintenance. The differences can be found in the surface texture—carbon steel is smoother and can be nearly nonstick when seasoned well—and design. Carbon steel will always be slightly lighter and usually has sloped sides, which is great for sautéing. Cast iron's thicker base allows for more even heating, while the straight sides make it versatile in the kitchen.

Best Stainless Steel

Garcima 16-Inch Stainless Steel Paella Pan

Garcima 16-Inch Stainless Steel Paella Pan

Wayfair

What We Like
  • Easy to maintain

  • Available in many sizes

  • Resists corrosion

What We Don't Like
  • Not as heat conductive as carbon steel

  • Expensive

This high-quality pan is made from 18/10 stainless steel, giving it the ultimate resistance to corrosion. That means you don’t have to season it before use, making it easy to maintain. Unlike enameled pans, you don’t have to worry about chipping, but the thermal conductivity of a stainless steel pan is about a third of a carbon steel pan.

The medium-sized, 16-inch stainless steel Garcima pan serves four to six people and fits over a large stove burner (or can straddle two). It comes with a beautiful mirrored finish and gold handles, making it perfect to hang or show off. This pan is sturdy and rigid with a classic dimpled bottom and can be used on gas and electric stoves as well as open flame, but since the bottom is ever-so-slightly convex so it is not recommended for ceramic or induction cooktops because it doesn't make complete contact with the heating surface.

Price at time of publish: $111

Material: Stainless steel | Available Sizes: 13, 14, 15, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24, 28, 32 inches | Suitable For: Gas, electric, grill | Dishwasher Safe: Yes

What Our Experts Say

“Stainless steel paella pans are the ones that are used in high-end restaurants in Spain. Among the advantages of using this type of material, there is prevention against rust, [and] good conductivity."Oscar Cabezas, the executive chef at Telefèric Barcelona, a California-based chain

Best Copper

Mauviel Copper Paella Pan

Mauviel Copper Paella Pan

Williams Sonoma

What We Like
  • Excellent heat conductivity

  • Beautiful appearance

  • Very high-quality construction

What We Don't Like
  • Requires additional maintenance

  • Very expensive

While it can be expensive, copper pans are a chef’s favorite. They have excellent heating conductivity properties, in addition to being shiny, beautiful, and dazzling enough to go from stovetop to table. The interior surface of this copper pan is made from stainless steel, allowing the interior to remain non-reactive to acidic foods.

Made in France, it features heavy-gauge 2-millimeter copper for better heat conductivity and temperature control, which helps infuse flavors in the rice. It is 90 percent copper and 10 percent 18/10 stainless steel. Two functional and beautiful riveted bronze handles adorn the sides. Like most copper pans, this is hand-wash only and will require some special upkeep to maintain a shiny copper appearance, but this pan will last a lifetime with proper care.

Price at time of publish: $530

Material: Copper and stainless steel | Available Sizes: 16 inches | Suitable For: Gas, electric | Dishwasher Safe: No

Best Enameled Steel

Magefesa Enameled Steel Paella Pan

Magefesa Enameled Steel Paella Pan

Magefesa

What We Like
  • Many sizes available

  • Suitable for all stove tips, charcoal grills, and open flame

  • Secure, double-riveted handles

What We Don't Like
  • Hand wash only

  • Must wash and dry quickly to avoid rusting

Enameled steel paella pans are popular because they don’t rust. They are made by coating carbon steel pan with a thin layer of enamel. However, the thermal conductivity of an enameled steel pan is not as good as a carbon steel pan. On the plus side, cleaning and maintenance are easier.

“Enameled steel paella pans are most common in the home," says Cabezas. "They are usually cheaper than carbon steel." This pan from Magefesa has a dimpled base, which allows for oil to be collected in the center for sautéing. The wide and shallow base makes sure that rice cooks in a thin layer. Just remember to take caution with any enameled steel pans, as they can easily chip, which will then cause them to rust.

Price at time of publish: $22

Material: Alloy steel | Available Sizes: 12, 13.5, 15, 17, 18 inches | Suitable For: Gas, electric, induction, grill, oven, open flame | Dishwasher Safe: No

Best with Lid

Cuisinart Non-Stick 15-Inch Covered Paella Pan

Cuisinart Non-Stick 15-Inch Covered Paella Pan

Cuisinart

What We Like
  • Nonstick interior

  • Versatile

  • Affordable

What We Don't Like
  • Only oven safe to 400 degrees

Paella doesn't require a lid—recipes will typically have you simmering the dish uncovered or placing it in an oven to cook ingredients placed atop the rice. The lack of a lid can mean your pan is not as versatile as one would like. That's why we love this Cuisinart version, which comes with a handled glass lid.

The steel core of the paella pan receives a nonstick coating so you won't have to worry about stuck-on rice. And of course, it has the dimples necessary for even cooking and the best socarrat. Lastly, the stainless-steel side handles are riveted on to make transport to the table easier. The pan is oven-safe up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, with the lid safe up to 350 degrees.

Price at time of publish: $55

Material: Steel | Available Sizes: 15 inches | Suitable For: Gas, electric, induction, oven | Dishwasher Safe: No

The Final Verdict

Our top spot goes to the Garcima 16-Inch Pata Negra Double Gauge Steel Paella Pan. It heats food evenly, works on all stovetops, and has sloped sides to keep things tidy. If you're on a budget the El Cid Paella Pans by Despaña has affordable and quality pans perfect for paella.

What To Look for in a Paella Pan

Material

Even heating is a primary concern for making paella, so the pan you choose should be made of a material that distributes heat evenly with no hot spots. Carbon steel, the most popular material for paella pans, does a wonderful job of heating quickly and evenly and is also very responsive when lowering or increasing the temperature of your heat source. Other materials, like stainless steel and cast iron, may not be as responsive, but they are durable and can often produce beautiful paellas and socarrat. Whatever material you choose, pick one that isn't too thin to avoid scorching.

Size and Weight

For serving one or two people, aim for a pan of 10 to 12 inches (size doesn't include the handles). Pans between 12 and 14 inches can serve up to four full-size portions, and pans 16 to 18 inches are good for six to eight servings. Since paella is a very popular dish for parties, paella pan sizes can be found up to over 55 inches in diameter. Be aware that the larger the pan, the heavier it will be when it is filled, so be sure your vessel isn't so heavy that you can't lift it off of the burner.

Features

A great paella pan with have at least two riveted loop handles attached so you can securely lift and transport it; sometimes they are coated for extra grip, but oftentimes they are simply made of metal. Some paella pans also have dimples on the pan's interior surface. These trap small amounts of liquid and help the pan cook evenly, and most traditional paella pans with dimples have a very slightly convex bottom that allows the oil to pool to assist in the sautéing of ingredients when you first start your paella. Unfortunately, that means this won't sit flat on a ceramic, glass, or induction cooktop. If you're working with either of those types of stoves, choose a pan with a perfectly flat bottom for optimum contact.

FAQs

How do you season a paella pan?

For new carbon steel paella pans, you'll want to get rid of any residue left over from manufacturing, so simmer some water in it, and then give it a scrub with a nylon scrubber and gentle dish soap. Thoroughly dry the pan, add a few drops of vegetable oil to the surface, and use a paper towel to coat the interior and exterior. Then, place it in the oven at 350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes to full season it. Pans made of other materials, like stainless steel, enameled cast iron, or copper, typically don't need seasoning.

Be sure to clean the pan thoroughly immediately after each use, and then rub it with olive oil before storing it to prevent rusting.

How do you use a paella pan?

A paella pan is used just like any other large sauté pan in the sense that you will add oil and heat the pan, then begin sautéing your ingredients. The convex shape of some pans will help your oil pool in the center, so you can easily sauté onions, garlic, and meats before adding the rice and broth. If you need a step by step guide, this paella for two recipe is a great place to start.

Can you put a paella pan in the oven?

Most paella pans can be used in the oven—just check the manufacturer's instructions to be sure.

What makes a paella pan different than other pans?

Paella pans are wider and shallower than most other types of cookware, often have sloped sides, and in some cases, feature a dimpled and slightly convex bottom. A paella pan is meant to only have a thin layer of rice—no thicker than half an inch—and the pan's shape and depth works perfectly for this purpose.

Can you cook other meals in a paella pan?

You can certainly use a paella pan for other purposes, like searing steaks or sautéing vegetables. At its core, it's simply a wide, shallow pan. Nearly anything you can do in a frying pan, you can conceivably do with a paella pan.

Can you use a paella pan on the barbecue?

As long as the manufacturer has specified it, yes—paella is often cooked on the grill. When cooking on an open flame, be sure that the pan's handles are not coated with anything that might melt when exposed to the heat of a barbecue grill.

How do you clean a paella pan?

If your pan has a lot of cooked-on food that is difficult to remove, you can soak it for a couple of hours or overnight. Fill the pan with water and allow it to sit. This will let you easily scrub away any debris with a pan scourer and soap. Rinse, then immediately wipe it dry, particularly if it's carbon steel since any moisture that is left to air dry may cause the pan to rust. Rub the pan with vegetable oil and wipe away any excess before putting it away. If you do notice any rust on a carbon steel paella pan, you can scrub it away with steel wool and season it again.

Why Trust The Spruce Eats?

Food writer and recipe developer Marisel Salazar interviewed three industry professionals for this comprehensive piece. She has a degree in communications with a concentration in nutrition from Cornell University. Originally from Panama, she has lived all over the world, including Madrid.

This piece was updated by Bernadette Machard de Gramont, an L.A.-based writer who specializes in global food and wine content. After a two-year stint at Williams-Sonoma Headquarters in San Francisco, she now researches and tests a variety of cookware, bakeware, and wine tools, and interviews field experts for their insight.

Sources

Additional reporting by
Bernadette Machard de Gramont
Bernadette Machard de Gramont
Bernadette Machard de Gramont is a freelance writer for The Spruce Eats specializing in food, wine, and kitchen products, specifically cookware.
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