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 slopping 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. 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.
Why You Should Invest In A Paella Pan Substitute
For most kitchen users who are not professional chefs, run a food of 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 would have to be adjusted but getting an amazing Paella dish without a pan is very much possible. Below are a couple of cookware substitutes which could be used in the preparation of a Paella dish without compromising the taste and quality of the 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, and it should be about 13 inches wide or larger and very shallow.
Pro tip: When using a skillet, dividing the ingredients that would 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 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 are discouraged from using the Wok because it means an alternation to the usually recipe. However, the slightly different ways of making a Paella dish is 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 and remember that ingredients have to be cooked 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 skillet gives you evenly cooked flavored rice but achieving the golden treasure at the bottom might prove a little difficult as the thick and heavy bottom of the Dutch oven allows a great layer of toasted rice instead of the crispy Socarrat at the bottom.
An Ideal Alternative to the Dutch oven if you’re determined to get the crispy bottom layer would be the cast iron cocotte which is commonly mistakenly for a rounded Dutch oven. It has a lighter bottom; just remember to avoid stirring the mixture to achieve this layer.
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 are cooked separately and the rice is cooked separately as well before all being thrown together in the pan.
SHALLOW SAUTE PAN
A four-quart shallow sauté pan, which is wide and about three inches deep or something even larger is a great alternative as you can maintain the flavor of your paella as you cook. Ideally get a sauté pan which 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 as this would affect the quality of your food. It’s best to wait till the paella is out of the oven before covering it to retain your food’s heat.
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 could make a either a regular paella or a vegan paella. When using a regular frying pan, the vegetables and/or seafood or meat goes in first. When they are brown, they should be taken out and set aside. Then the rice is put in the pan, it should be allowed to cook at regular heat for about five to six minutes, after which the heat should take down to a medium for about 3-4 minutes, and then taken back up for four to five 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 but 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.
While the Paella pan is the best option for making a paella dish, it is important to note that the absence of it doesn’t have to mean cancellation of your plans to cook a Paella as there are great options out there.