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Paella pans, as the name suggests, are pans used in the preparation of the popular Spanish dish, Paella. A Paella pan is a wide, yet shallow pan with rounded sloping sides which ensure that the Paella is cooked evenly.
Paella is a tasty dish made using rice, vegetables, and seafood or sometimes meat. The Paella is a delicate dish whose taste best shines through when the rice is layered properly and evenly with the seafood.
Why You Should Invest in a Paella Pan Substitute
For most kitchen users who are not professional chefs, don’t run a food business, or are not from a household where the paella is served regularly, buying a Paella pan might not be the smartest investment especially seeing as you can’t use it to cook anything else.
There are others who might be interested in making the delicious meal but do not have the pan at their homes or are unable to afford it.
So how do you achieve the evenly layered rice and the Socarrat without using the Paella pan? Well, the simple answer is that people have been making Paella without the pans for a long time.
Your recipe, and even the cooking time and heat, will have to adjust but getting an amazing Paella dish without a pan is very much possible.
Top Paella Pan Subsitutes
Tasty as the Paella is, the real treasure for some fans lay at the bottom of the pan, in form of a crispy golden crust which is popularly referred to as Socarrat. It is because of this meticulous method of preparation, and the serving method that the Paella requires its own pan.
Below are a couple of cookware substitutes that can use in the preparation of a Paella dish:
A great replacement option for the Paella pan is the skillet; preferably, a skillet made of steel or aluminum. This specification when it comes to the material used in the preparation of a skillet is due to the fact that skillets made out of cast iron retain way too much heat than is needed for the preparation of a Paella dish.
Ideally, the skillet should not be non-stick, as some say it creates bland-tasting paellas. The skillet should be about 13 inches wide or larger and very shallow.
Additionally, it is also great in when you cook a Dutch baby recipe.
Pro tip: When using a skillet, dividing the ingredients that typically go into one paella pan into two skillets, creates a more even cooking.
A wok is a large oriental or Asian pan with a rounded bottom. It is typically used in the creation of traditional Asian meals. It is not that different from the Paella pan which is large and rounded at the sides; a design made for quick cooking which is the case with a wok.
Some kitchen users discourage from using the wok because it means an alteration to the usual recipe. However, the slightly different ways of making a Paella dish are worth it.
When using a wok, pair it with a slopped lip which is ideal for letting you set aside food that is already cooked. Remember that ingredients have to cook step by step and not all at once with a Wok.
Seafood or meat typically goes in first and then is set aside when cooked. This is repeated for the vegetables and then the rice.
Using a Dutch oven to prepare a paella gives you evenly cooked flavored rice. However, achieving the golden rice at the bottom might prove a little difficult as the thick and heavy bottom of the Dutch oven creates layer of toasted rice instead of the crispy Socarrat at the bottom.
An ideal alternative to the Dutch oven, if you determine to get the crispy bottom layer, is the cast iron cocotte. This is a French version of a Dutch oven. A cocotte often has a lighter bottom than a Dutch oven.
Hotel pans are great for making large quantities of Paella. So if you have a large family gathering or an event and do not have enough Paella pans, this is a good alternative.
Try to get a flat-bottomed pan, as they are better for Paella preparation than a bottom-rounded pan. Just remember that when using a hotel pan, the meat or seafood and the vegetables cook separately. Then, the rice is cooked separately as well before all being thrown together in the pan.
Shallow Sauté Pan
A four-quart shallow sauté pan, which is wide and about three inches deep, is a great alternative as you can maintain the flavor of your paella as you cook.
Ideally, get a sauté pan that has both a helper handle on one side and a long handle on the other. This is important as it makes the sauté pan easy to use.
When using a sauté pan, it is important that you don’t cover the pan while the paella is cooking. This will steam your food maintaining moisture.
Another alternative is to use a frying pan just as long as you don’t overcrowd your pan. Get a long frying pan (about ten inches or longer) and you can make paella.
When using a regular frying pan, the vegetables and seafood or meat go in first. When they are brown, they should be taken out and set aside.
Then the rice puts in the pan, it should allow to cook at regular heat for about 5-6 minutes. After this, the heat should reduce to medium for about 3-4 minutes, and then taken back up for 4-5 minutes.
This is important to get the right crusty taste and a nice socarrat.
Rice Cooker and Shallow Pan Combo
This combo might be a little more work than people would like. However, it also provides an alternative method to the paella pan. This involves using the rice cooker to cook the rice while cooking and browning your meat and vegetables in the shallow pan and mixing them methodically afterward.
If you cook with rice a lot, you might also benefit from using a high quality rice dispenser.
With today’s modern cookware you have so many options for what to cook your paella in. Remember to keep an eye on your cook times for the meat and vegetables. And when it comes to the crispy soccarat, thinner materials and a quick blast of heat at the end will work best.