One of the most frequent questions that both our clients have in paella cooking classes in Malaga and our blog readers ask is what type of container or paella pan is the best.

The truth is that there is no single answer since the best paella pan will depend on the type of heat used (induction, gas, firewood, …), for how many people, maintenance, etc.

how to choose the right paella pan

Some of the Paelleras we use at home (Malaga, Spain)

That is why we have created the following guide where we detail the types of paella pans there are, when to use each one and where to get them outside of Spain.


Before going into the subject, it is important to clarify a concept that many people come across and that is really very confusing: the difference between paella (food), paella (container), paellera and paellero.

Paella and Paella pan

In Valencia and some parts of Catalonia, the word Paella is used to refer to the container where it is cooked in addition to the dish itself.

This is so because the word Paella comes from the Latin patella, which means small frying pan or container for cooking, and valencians continue to use this meaning of the term, which is perfectly correct as stated by the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language.

Therefore, we can find on the internet or if we go to Valencia that the term Paella is used both for the recipe and to refer to the container.

So what is a Paella Pan Called then? The answer is Paellera

Seeing the confusion that this causes, most manufacturers, as well as in the rest of Spain we refer to the container where the paella is cooked as Paellera, which the RAE also considers correct:

“Metal container such as a frying pan, shallow and with handles, used to make paella”


Finally, the paellero is the special gas burner or grill prepared to make paellas. To use it, it’s crucial that you choose the right size for your paella pan which will cover in a minute.


The dual ring gas burner for paellas we use at home

When using a paellero, a support feet is very recommendable for leveling.

stand set paella

Support feet for leveling the Paellero

With that out of the way, let’s move on to the different types of paella pans.


We can differentiate two large groups according to the heat source in which it is going to be cooked. Thus, we distinguish between pans for gas or wood stove and pans for induction or glass-ceramic.

1. Paelleras for Gas or Firewood (also suitable for grill and oven)

1-1 Polished or Carbon Steel Paelleras

These are the traditional paella pans and they are also known as “iron paelleras”. They are the most used by professionals in restaurants since they are the ones that best absorb and distribute heat throughout the surface. The base is slightly convex so that the oil accumulates in the center and to help distribute the heat evenly.

The drawback of these paella pans is that they rust and therefore require treatment before being used for the first time and after each use.

Note: There are thicker ones that are more resistant to heat that are usually used to make traditional Valencian paella over a wood fire.

polished steel paellera

Our 50cms family iron Paella.

1-2 Enameled or Vitrified Steel Paellera.

They are the same as iron ones, but covered with black ceramic enamel with white specks that prevent rust, so they do not require maintenance after using them.

The result is practically the same in both paella pans and only an experienced chef could notice any difference between a paella cooked with the enameled paellera and the traditional one.

This enameled paellera is the paella pan we use on our cooking classes in Malaga

enameled steel paellera

These are the paelleras we always use on our cooking classes

1-3 Stainless Steel Paelleras

As the name implies, they do not rust, so they do not require any special maintenance or cleaning. They are very recognizable due to their mirror finish and are the ones that are usually gifted for this same reason.

On the other hand, they don’t do as good a job distributing heat as the first two and if the fire does not heat the entire surface equally, it can deform it.

That is why for this type of paella pan it is always recommended to use a paella burner or stove the size of the pan so that it distributes the heat evenly. Its slightly convex base also helps.

2-Induction & Vitro-Ceramic Paelleras

The difference with traditional pans is that the induction paelleras are completely flat at their base to optimize the contact surface. They are also thicker to withstand the highest concentration of heat.

There are the same types as in traditional paella pan, depending on the material:

2.1 Polished steel or iron paella pan

2.2 Maintenance-free enameled steel paella pan

2.3 Maintenance-free stainless steel paella pan and very shiny.

induction paelleras

3-Non-Stick Paelleras

The previous paella pans do not have any non-stick treatment so the rice (or what is going to be cooked) can stick to the surface.

For this, there are, like non-stick pans, non-stick paella pans to prevent food from sticking.

But you have to take into account a fundamental characteristic of paella: the socarrat

No self-respecting paella can be considered a paella without socarrat. It is a thin toasted layer of the rice that is in the bottom and that is formed just before the rice begins to stick, at the end of cooking. For many it is the best part of the paella and I couldn’t agree more.

Therefore, if you want to make a good paella in good conditions, this type of paellera is not recommended.

What is the Best Paella Pan?

Although there’s no straight answer to that question, in our opinion, the best and most versatile one is the enameled Paella Pan, as it does not require maintainance and the result is almost the same as with the traditional carbon steel pans . Also, it distributes the heat better than the stainless steel pan.

Choosing the right size . How big a Paella Pan do I need?

The size of the Paella Pan will depend on the number of people to cook for and the size of the heat source. The rule here is to choose the largest size that fits well your heat source be it a stove, grill, oven, paella burner or over a live fire

Following these rules you’ll  get to choose the right paellera and cook a true paella in it :

1. Amount of broth

The broth level should be slightly above the screws of the handles so that the rice cooks well, and is loose. This will make the rice to absorb all the flavors.

2. Amount of rice

The general rule that never fails is to use 100 grams of rice per person.

A perfect Paella Valenciana should have a thin layer of rice just as thick as one finger. This way the rice will absorb all the flavors and will form at the bottom the delicious socarrat. For that reason, Paella Pans are made shallow and wide.

3. Manufacturer’s labeling

This one often leads to confusion:

Most Paella Pans labels include the top diameter (measured without the handles) and the number of servings.

Well, if you want to cook a true Paella this last piece of information should be ignored as it refers to the maximum cooking capacity of the Paella Pan with the maximum volume of liquid possible.

If you fill the paellera up all the way to the top, the number of servings will be higher but the rice on the upper part will be probably soggy, the middle part a bit undercooked  and the bottom part possibly too toasted or even burned.

Where to buy a Paellera?

Spanish Paelleras are very famous and can be found almost in every country. There are many online and physical  shops that sell Paelleras.

We have created the following equivalency table between the top diameter, the material and the number of servings following the above mentioned rules to make it easier for you.

All these Paelleras are sold through amazon . Just click on any of the images or links to see the full description (scroll to the right if you’are on a mobile to see the full list), prices, reviews and so on.

Polished Steel
See on Amazon

See on Amazon

See on Amazon

See on Amazon
Enameled Steel
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See on Amazon

Not available

See on Amazon
Stainless Steel
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Not available

See on Amazon

Not available

Do Paella Pans have Lids? –  Paella Covered or Uncovered?

No, Paella Pans don’t need Lids and it’s of vital importance that you cook it uncovered because all the liquid has to evaporate without adding extra moisture to the rice.

Once the Paella is done and all the liquid has evaporated you need to let it stand for a couple of minutes over very low heat to get the best part of the Paella- the socarrat- which is a crust of rice formed during those last minutes at the bottom of the pan.

About the Author: Spain Food Sherpas

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