What’s the Best Carbon Steel Paella Pan? [2021 Buying Guide]

In this post, you’ll find the top 5 carbon steel paella pans, how we picked them, the benefits of carbon steel for cooking paella and how to season and care for paella pans.

These are the best pans to get that perfect sear without the rice or seafood sticking to the pan, and help you nail that perfectly cooked paella – every time.

Let’s dive right in!

Why Choose Carbon Steel Paella Pans?

Carbon steel is the traditional cookware material for paella pans in Valencia (on the east coast of Spain), where this delicious dish originates from. In fact, every Valencian kitchen has at least one polished carbon steel paella pan.

carbon steel paella pan benefits

A carbon steel pan has the highest heat conductivity, is thinner and lighter than cast iron pans, yet just as durable. The large cooking area allows the rice to be spread in a thin layer to help evaporation and develop that golden caramelized crust.

This pan is not completely flat, but slightly concave at the bottom, created by prickling the bottom of the pan with small dimples. Maintaining a carbon steel pan is fairly easy: After each use, wash and thoroughly dry the pan and then rub it again with oil.

And the best news?

Carbon steel pans are usually cheaper than stainless steel and enameled carbon steel pans. And with proper care, you can use them for years.

However, these traditional carbon steel pans usually need some seasoning before the first use and some maintenance (though not frequent) – to ensure they don’t rust. Also, they are not dishwasher safe.

What Size Paella Pan Do You Need?

paella pan size how to choose
Image from thewanderlustkitchen.com

Paella pans come in a variety of sizes, from 8″ (20cm) to 60″ (150cm), which is big enough for serving 25 people. The size of your paella pan depends on the number of meals you want to prepare.

The ideal size for home cooking (4-6 people) is a 15″ or a 16″ carbon steel paella pan. If you want to invite a few friends over, you’ll need an 18″ or a 22″ pan, which is big enough for 7-12 people.

For sizes from 18″ and more, you’ll need a paella burner or tripod for an open fire.

Good to Know
For making the best paella dish, the rice layer should be thinner than a finger (1/2 inch or 12 mm). This way, the socarrat (thin layer of the crunchy, caramelized paella) gets evenly browned.

The Top 5 Carbon Steel Paella Pans

Through our research, we found the 5 best carbon steel paella pans, including the best value one, the best budget pick, and the best paella set for outdoor cooking.

Let’s kick things off with the best value pan:

1. Garcima 15″ Carbon Steel Paella Pans Best Value

garcima paella pan review
Garcima 15-inch authentic paella pan – check price on Amazon
  • Weight – 2.42 pounds
  • Cooktops – stovetop, oven, grill, open fire (over tripod)

The Garcima authentic carbon steel pans are our top 2021 choice for cooking paella at home. They come in all the sizes you’ll need (13-inch for 4 people, 15-inch for 6 people, 18 inches, and 26-inch for outdoor cooking for 10-12 people).

Garcima is a family-owned company from Valencia that has been making carbon steel paella pans for almost a century. It is now considered the leading manufacturer of paella pans in Spain.

carbon steel paella pan made in Valencia

The Garcima paella pans have the traditional design and dimple bottom (that helps with uniform heating) and two riveted handles, that remain cooler than the pan. They can be used on a gas stove, a grill, a gas burner, and an open fire tripod, but not on an induction cooktop.

The best choice for home cooking (4-6 people) is the 15″ pan, which is not so heavy-duty (2.4 pounds) and can be easily transferred to the table.

Garcima Paella Pan Pros

  • Authentic family-made manufacturer from Valencia
  • Handles stay cool
  • Great cooking performance

Cons

  • The dimpled bottom prevents use on induction
  • must be seasoned to prevent rusting and improve performance. If it does rust – a few passes with steel wool take it right off.

Price – check today’s price on Amazon

Good to Know
For induction you’ll need heavier steel, completely flat-bottomed pans that are also not dimpled (outside). We recommend the Lodge carbon steel pan for induction.

👉 If you need the best paella pan for outdoor cooking and serving more than 8 people, choose the one below:

2. Garcima Mediterraneo Paella Pan Set with Burner Best for Outdoor Cooking

garcma paella pan and gas burner set
Garcima paella pan with gas burner – check price on Amazon
  • Weight of burner – 13.32 pounds
  • Recommended pan size – 16-inches
The Garcima paella pan set is the perfect choice for simultaneously feeding 10 people or more (choose the number of servings to get the ideal pan size) using a burner with reinforced legs.

The 14-inch burner fits paella pans up to 20″ in diameter, and has two rings of flame that you can control independently with its own knob. However, they connect to one tank and you can not split it into two tanks.

The burners run hot even on the lower setting so you’ll have to be careful not to burn the food, and use it on the lower setting to simmer.

The sturdy tripod is 30 inches tall and the complete set is very easy to assemble and use out of the box, so you can easily take it apart and bring it to parties outside your home.

The Garcima carbon steel paella pan that comes with this set can also be used for stews, beef dishes, and stir fries, and not just delicious, authentic paellas.

Pros

  • Great customer service, the company will replace the pan if you have any problems

Cons

  • No wind guard on the flame so it can go out at any time and there is nothing to secure the pan to get it perfectly centered on the burner (without standing on your head to see it).
  • Does not come with a regulator hose

3. Lodge 15-inch Carbon Steel Skillet Most Versatile

Lodge carbon steel skillet for paella
Lodge Carbon Steel Skillet – best price on Amazon
  • Weight – 6.42 pounds
  • Cooktops – gas, electric, ceramic glass, grill, oven, open fire, induction

Lodge has a line of carbon steel pans, one of them is an excellent 15-inch paella (made from 12-gauge American carbon steel) pan that is preseasoned with natural soybean oil, with sloping sides, and 2 riveted handles made from pure iron.

This pan allows for stable and even cooking, and can be used on gas, induction, electric, ceramic glass,  outdoor grills, and open fire. Basically every heat source except for a microwave.

carbon steel pan benefits for paella

We recommend not to rely on the pre-seasoning and to add seasoning yourself before the first use. This way, the pan becomes quite nonstick with a bit of use.

The darker it gets, the better it becomes. It may appear a bit rough-textured, but it gets smoother with use.

Lodge Paella Pan Pros

  • Heavy-duty construction, made to last for decades
  • Works with any cooking surface except microwave ovens.
  • You can cook many other foods with this pan, including big pieces of meat.
  • Great value for the price
  • Made in the USA

Cons

  • Handles made from pure iron require the use of mittens to avoid burning your hands.

4. BK Black Carbon Steel Paella Pan Most Lightweight

black steel preseasoned paella pan
BK paella pan – check price on Amazon
  • Weight – 5.29 pounds
  • Cooktops – All cooktops except microwave

The BK carbon steel paella pan is durable enough for outdoor cooking and develops a naturally nonstick surface as you use it. The handles are made from cast iron and offer a sturdy and durable grip.

The pan is pre-seasoned and ready to use out of the box, and you only have to remove the thin silicone wax coating that protects it by washing it. Many users claim that this is amazingly nonstick – from the first use.

Black carbon steel is stain-resistant, corrosion-resistant, and highly durable. It is safe up to 600 F and can be used over all surfaces, including open fire and induction.

lightweight carbon steel pan

This pan is more lightweight than average, weighing only 4 pounds, which makes it easy to handle.

BK Paella Pan Pros

  • Pre-seasoned properly
  • The most lightweight 15-inch pan you’ll find

Cons

  • Some buyers claim that the wax coating was hard to remove and the pan needed seasoning after the removal

Price – check today’s price on Amazon

5. Made In Blue Carbon Steel Paella & Griddle Pan Best for High Heat

MadeIn Paella Pan & Griddle Pan set – $195 at MadeIn
  • Cooktops – all cooktops

We love this perfect outdoor cooking set, that comes with a 13″ carbon steel paella pan and an 11″ griddle pan with 62 perforations that allow for flames to make direct contact with solid foods.

The 2 mm thick blue carbon steel (made in France) can tolerate heat up to 1200 F without bending or warping, so you can take it to your next camping trip.

Both pans can be used on any cooking surface, including induction, and they develop that well-known black patina over time, adding authentic flavor for perfectly cooked results.

traditional paella pan

Plus, the pan has sturdy handles that make it easy to grip when stirring or transporting it from stovetop to table.

Blue carbon steel is the very same material that makes the brand’s continuously sold-out frying skillet

MadeIn Pros

  • 45-day trial and free shipping for returns
  • Extra sturdy blue carbon steel
  • Excellent customer service

Cons

  • You’ll have to remove the wax layer carefully
  • The pans are not dishwasher safe

Price – the 2 pans cost $195 at MadeIn (free shipping on returns)

How to Season and Clean a Carbon Steel Paella Pan

Before the first use, fill the paella pan with soapy water and 1 spoon of salt, and boil the mix for 2 minutes.

After drying it, pour a few drops of olive oil (this is Mediterranean cooking after all), and use a paper towel to coat the inner bottom and sides of the pan with a thin layer. Remove excess oil if needed.

After each use, clean the pan by hand (like every other pan you have), dry well with a cloth, and season with oil the same way, before storing it.

This process will increase the pans’ longevity.

Paella Pan FAQ

Is a Carbon Steel Pan Safe for All Cook Tops?

The best cooktop for the traditional, slightly curved paella pan is a gas stove. For electric, ceramic, or induction, you’ll need a flat-bottomed paella pan, so you’ll get a good heat transfer. Most carbon steel pans can tolerate at least 600 F and can be used over an open fire as well.

Is Carbon Steel Better than Stainless Steel?

Carbon steel pans conduct heat quicker and more evenly than stainless steel and have a naturally non-stick surface. They are thinner and lighter than stainless steel, and they are also thinner – without compromising on durability and longevity. ‘

The thin and lightweight carbon steel makes them easy to transfer to a dinner table, and you can safely use metal cooking utensils – without scratching or damaging them.

You can use carbon steel paella pans on almost any cooking surface, including gas stoves, ovens, grillers, open fire, and they perform extremely well over a paella burner.

RELATED: Cast Iron vs. Carbon Steel Pans – What Should I Choose?

What else can you do with a paella pan?

Other than paella, you can use carbon steel paella pans as a roasting pan (searing steaks, chicken cutlets, and roasts), in place of a wok, as a griddle for bacon, pancakes, and breakfasts, and even for cooking over an open fire when you go camping.

How do you choose a paella pan?

Choose your paella pan according to its material (carbon steel is traditionally used), your cooking surface (for induction use flat bottom pans only), and the size according to the number of people you want to feed. The larger the pan, the thinner the rice layer will be, which translates into a better paella.

The KM Team

 

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