Choosing cooking utensils for traditional paella

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Traditionally, preparing paella was a community feast in the small Mediterranean fishing villages of Valencia, Spain.
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The Origins of Paella: A Simple Traditional, Valencian Recipe, and Instructions

Paella is a delicious and traditional Spanish dish enjoyed in a wide variety of Mediterranean, South American, and Central American countries. Paella was first prepared hundreds of years ago by fishermen, farmers and natives of the Valencia region of Spain, who cooked this seafood, poultry and meat dish with rice and spices over an open fire or hearth, using a large, deep, circular pan, known as a “paella”.

Over time, this unique dish came to be identified solely by the term “paella” the Valencian word for “pan.”

The popularity of ethnic cooking has risen over recent years, and paella has re-emerged as a celebrated Mediterranean and Latin American dish. Today, anyone serious about preparing this ethnic dish, recognizes the importance of choosing paella pans and cooking utensils for traditional paella.  

If you wish to prepare paella in the traditional method that reflects the history, culture and flavors of Spain, you will need to cook the meal outdoors over an open fire. If you do not have access to an outdoor hearth or fire pit, consider other options such as a barbecue grill, propane burners, or even elevated burner sets with legs, that will enable you to modify an indoor cooking area.

Large copper or steel paella pans are a must when it comes to choosing cooking utensils for paella. It is important to note that traditional paella pans are not flat; and instead feature domed bottoms. This design allows oil to pool in the center of the pan, serving to crisp the rice as it cooks. However, this design can pose a problem to chefs attempting to prepare paella on a flat cooking surface such as electric or induction cook tops.

Lids for paella pans can be helpful, but not absolutely necessary. Traditionally, paella was prepared in a large pan without a lid. However, contemporary chefs may opt to utilize lids as they can help to retain heat prior to serving, and can prevent the rice from drying out. Long wooden handled spatulas are one of the most important accessories for preparing, stirring and serving traditional paella.

When it comes to serving paella, consider traditional cookware such as colorful matching sets of terra cotta clay cazulas. Paella kits, paella cookbooks, ceramic cookware, and other accessories can make ideal gifts for anyone passionate about culinary pursuits or ethnic cooking.  

While choosing cooking utensils for paella is certainly a helpful step toward planning a feast, selecting recipes and mastering the task of preparing paella are key. Here is a relatively simple traditional Valencia Paella recipe, along with how-to instructions.

Traditional Valencia Paella Recipe:

Cook Time – Approx. 1 Hour


1 1/4 cup dried white beans
Medium grain or "pearl" rice (½ lb – 1lb)
1 yellow onion, diced
3 medium tomatoes, diced
1 red pepper seeded and sliced
1 whole chicken or 8 chicken drumsticks, cut into ¾ inch pieces
1 1/2 lbs pork loin (fat trimmed), cut into ¾ inch pieces
1/2 lb calamari (squid) cleaned and sliced into rings
4-6 cups chicken broth
1/2 tablespoon Saffron
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 lbs raw mussels in shell (frozen or fresh)
1 lb small clams (frozen or fresh)
1 1/2 lbs raw shrimp, medium or large - shell on
1 10 oz. pkg frozen peas or 2lbs fresh green beans (chopped)  
Salt/Pepper to Taste


1.  Soak the white beans overnight and drain the liquid before cooking.

2.  Place the paella pan on the grate, burner or charcoal grill once the coals are smoldering, and add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan.  Allow the pan to heat, then sauté the onion, garlic, tomatoes, peppers and garlic in the olive oil.  Add olive oil as needed to prevent sticking.

3.  Once the onions are translucent, add the chicken, and pork. Cook, stirring constantly – about 15 minutes.

4.  Add the white beans and stir.

5.  Add the rice, and stir for several minutes to thoroughly coat the rice with olive oil.  Allow the rice to crisp slightly.

6.  Slowly pour the chicken broth into pan until contents are covered. Add the rest of the vegetables, and seafood.  Spread ingredients evenly over pan.  Allow to simmer in the broth to cook the rice beans. Stir in Saffron.  Add more broth if necessary, and salt/pepper to taste.

7.  When rice is fully cooked, remove paella pan from heat.  Cover with lid to retain heat until serving.

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