When making paella, a paella pan in the right size is an essential tool. But what size paella pan should I get for the number of servings I am making? Unfortunately, this question raises more questions than it answers. What is clear, however, is that the number of servings, or ‘raciones’ as they are called in Spanish, does not correspond to real-life eating.
Do you need a paella pan to cook paella?
The answer to this question may be somewhat surprising – no. You do not necessarily need a paella pan to make paella. The main reason for paella generally being prepared in a paella pan is the lack of other types of pans with such a large surface area. The paella pan is the tool and not the goal.
What can I use instead of a paella pan?
In addition to a paella pan, any shallow pan with a flat base is suitable for making paella, as long as the bottom has a surface large enough for the number of paella servings you want to make in the pan.
Also, you will need to place the pan over a heat source that allows you to heat the entire bottom of the pan evenly. With these few requirements, you can make a delicious and even authentic paella using any pan.
The problem, however, is that such pans are scarce and often very expensive. On the other hand, paella pans are generally priced very reasonably.
What is special about a paella pan?
I already more or less answered this question in the above. A paella pan is particularly suited for making paella because the pan is shallow and has a large surface area.
The reason these two characteristics are so important has to do with the required thinness of the rice layer in the paella. In Spain, you use your finger as a measure. If the layer of rice in the paella is about one finger (i.e. a little less than 1 inch) thick, you are using the right size paella pan.
What size paella pan should I get?
The exact size of the paella pan you should get depends on the number of servings of paella you need to make. Obviously, you need a smaller pan when making paella for 2 people than for an 8-person paella.
The table below shows you the ratio between the number of paella servings and the size of the paella pan. This is the size we use everywhere on our website and it matches the sizes used by chefs in top Spanish paella restaurants.
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Manufacturers use different sizes
A table like the one above seems to answer the question about which size paella pan you need at first. Were it not for the fact that manufacturers and many shops indicate quite different proportions and confusion arises.
Compared to the table, most suppliers indicate the following ratio:
- 14-inch paella pan for 7 portions
- 17-inch paella pan for 10 portions
- 18-inch paella pan for 12 portions
- 20-inch paella pan for 13 portions
- 22-inch paella pan for 16 portions
- 24-inch paella pan for 20 portions
As you see, this is quite a difference from the number of portions in the previous table.
Why this difference is there is so far a mystery. Especially because almost all manufacturers of paella pans are located in the vicinity of Valencia and know very well that you can not put a paella for 7 in a 14-inch paella pan. This will only succeed if you only use rice and no other ingredients.
The problem, however, is that one says that you need a size X paella pan, while the other says it has to be size Y, causes a lot of confusion.
For this reason, we have requested the Wikipaella Foundation to make a statement about it. Wikipaella was founded a couple of years ago to protect the traditions, recipes and preparation methods of authentic paella. When this clarity comes, we will, of course, mention it on our website.
What size paella pan should I buy?
As long as the discussion is not clarified, there will remain some uncertainty about which size of paella pan to buy. Do you go along with the sizes of the manufacturers and the shops that copy these indiscriminately, or do you deviate from this and use the sizes of those who use the pans daily?
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