Mediterranean cooking is becoming more and more popular in the United States, and the number of pans and cooking utensils to choose from has increased dramatically over the years. Paella pans are one of those items that come in many shapes and sizes, and which one you choose depends on what type of stove or oven you are going to be using, how many people you intend to cook for and what price you want to pay.
Paella pans come in sizes ranging from as small as 7 inches to as large as 36 inches diameter. Sometimes paella is made on a stove top or grill and sometimes in the oven. The largest size pan that fits in a domestic oven is about 17 or 18 inches (check the size of your oven before buying), and if you only want to use one burner on your stove top, then 12 - 14 inches is probably as big as you want to go, and is usually big enough for most people. 22 inches is the largest size that you could fit on a domestic stove top by placing the pan over more than one burner.
How often you are going to use the pan, how long you want it to last, and how much you want to pay should be considered when choosing a pan.
Polished Carbon Steel
This is the traditional pan used in Spain. Polished steel is extremely durable, economical, and conducts heat better than any other metal. Care for these pans is similar to cast iron cookware, in that they must be seasoned. They can be used on gas stoves, in any type of oven, over campfires and grills. They are not recommended for use on electric or ceramic stove tops. They are usually the most economical to buy and produce great results. The polished carbon steel pan shown above is available at the Gourmet Fusion store.
These pans have absolutely zero maintenance, they cook fast and are easy to clean and do not need seasoning. Obviously, this does not come without a price, and you can expect to pay approximately three times the price of a carbon steel pan for one of these state of the art pans.
These pans are ideal as an entry level pan, as they heat up fast and clean up easily, and do not require seasoning. They are, however, a little more fragile and would not be used in a restaurant or by a professional chef, but can work successfully in the home kitchen and are less expensive than the Stainless Steel.
Restaurant Grade Stainless Steel
These pans have all the same features as the polished carbon steel pans, but are made from steel which is about twice as thick to make them indestructible. These pans will stand up to extreme repeated use under high heat without distortion and are ideal for restaurants and professional chefs. They cost about twice as much as the polished carbon steel, and would probably not be needed in most home kitchens.
Copper pans are also available and make a very attractive choice, especially if you will have the pan on display in your kitchen. Copper pans often have a tin lining because it has better food release properties. They are extremely heavy and also expensive.
This type of pan would not be used by the traditional Spanish cook, but they certainly help if cleaning up is one of your concerns. Usually constructed from a high quality steel with a non-stick coating applied to the cooking surface. Prices for this type of cookware vary greatly depending on the brand.