The traditional shape of a paella pan allows the rice to cook evenly, which is essential for making an authentic paella recipe. Paella pans are flat, shallow, wide metal dishes with sloped sides and two ear-shaped handles.
The traditional shape of paella pans maximizes the amount of rice touching the bottom of the pan. This, in turn, allows for an even and rather quick evaporation of the cooking liquids. Both conditions are necessary for cooking an authentic paella.
In short, paella pans are designed in a way that keep the rice layer thin. We could say that they allow the rice to cook in extension instead of height. This is one of the essential elements that makes paella recipes so different from other rice recipes.
An extra bonus of paella pans is that they form the socarrat, which means lightly toasted in Catalan. Socarrat is a delicious sweetish brown crust that gently sticks to the bottom of a paella pan when cooking this rice dish. It is easier to get it when cooking paella over an open fire, but with a little bit of practice you can also get socarrat on a paella gas burner or regular kitchen stove. Most paella gourmets love socarrat and we totally agree: It certainly tastes great and I’m sure you’ll love it too.
Sizes of paella pans, servings and rice amount
Paella pans come in different sizes depending on the number of guests. The amount of rice used in a paella determines the diameter of the paella pan you will need.
The minimum diameter of a paella pan should be 20 cm or 7.90″ and the sides from 5 cm or 2″ to 15 cm or 6″ depending on its diameter. Paella pans can be almost as large as you want as long as the proper proportions are kept.
Nowadays there exist paella pans made for hundreds and even thousands of servings that are often used for popular paellas cooked outdoors during town festivals particularly in the Valencia and the Catalan Countries. It is quite an amazing experience to see a cook stirring a giant sofregit in a paella pan and the huge amounts of rice and other paella ingredients added to it.
According to standards, which can also vary slightly, each paella is made for a specific amount of rice, although as can be expected, paella pan sizes vary according to the preferences of the cook and her/his particular way of cooking paella.
Guidelines for buying a paella pan
Below you can check a table we have compiled that shows the relationship between the paella pan diameter and the servings. But first, we would like to give you some recommendations for the more popular paella pans, because to some people the task of choosing the right paella size may seem daunting.
The Paderno World Cuisine 18.5 Inch Polished Carbon Steel Paella Pan can serve from 9 to 11 servings, although in the buyer reviews there are comments by some paella enthusiasts that have used it for up to 12 guests.
La Paella Carbon Steel Paella Pan, 16-Inch is for 5 to 6 servings, and from this same page you will be able to navigate easily to all the different sizes of authentic paella pans from this same brand, from 8 inches to large paella pans with 26 inches in diameter.
The Garcima 15-Inch Carbon Steel Paella Pan, 38cm or 15 inches is another affordable paella pan for 6 servings that is also made with traditional materials you may want to check. It’s safe for stovetop, oven and grill.
Best Paella Pan Sizes
In the table below you can see the number of guests or servings in the first column. The second column states the paella pan diameter. Finally, in the third column you can see the rice amounts you need for cooking a paella for one, two, four guests, etc.
|20 cm / 8 inches
|100 g / 3.5 ounces
|25 cm / 10 inches
|200 g / 7 ounces
|33 cm / 13 inches
|400 g / 14 ounces
|38 cm / 15 inches
|600 g / 1 1/4 pounds
|43 cm / 17 inches
|800 g / 1 3/4 pounds
|55 cm / 22 inches
|1200 g / 2.6 pounds
For example, if you have four guests, you would choose a paella pan of 33 cm or 13 inches in diameter. For cooking this paella you would use 400 g or 14 ounces short, round-grain rice.