The Secret to Stovetop Paella: Go Small

Serious Eats


September 24, 2019

Daniel Gritzer

Traditional paella is cooked in a huge pan over a massive fire. The even heat provided by that fire helps to offset the steel pan's inherently poor conduction. When cooking paella on the stovetop, however, your heat source is limited to your burner size. The first step: Give up on paella for a crowd and make small batches for fewer people instead.

The most obvious pan to use is a traditional paella pan, and indeed you can, but it helps to understand its construction. Traditional paella pans are made from thin sheets of steel. Steel is a particularly bad conductor of heat, which is why stainless steel pans almost always have some kind of conductive core, like the aluminum sandwiched inside the steel exterior of a tri-ply pan. A paella pan's doesn't have a conductive core, so it heats unevenly due to the steel's poor conduction. That doesn't matter when you have a large and even source of heat underneath the pan, as one does when making paella the traditional way over a live fire, but on a stovetop burner it can be a problem.

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