Who hasn’t ever heard that a paella made with firewood tastes better or is better? Although it may not seem like it, firewood is essential to make a paella that tastes great.
So why does a paella cooked over a wood fire taste different from a paella cooked over a gas fire? Quite simply, the wood gives the rice a different cooking and this, combined with the different levels or intensities of the fire, make our paella special.
In this article, we are going to explain the tricks that you should take into account so that your wood-fired paella comes out delicious.
We will tell you how to make a wood-fired Valencian paella, and also how to make a wood-fired seafood paella.
What type of wood to use for a paella?
Let’s start by knowing the types of wood we should use to make our wood-fired paella, because NOT all of them work, hey!
Nobody should ever think of making a wood-fired paella with very fat firewood or that which we have found in a factory. Paella requires special or recommended types of firewood.
From paelladominguera, we always recommend cooking our paella with orange tree wood or olive wood. And very important: it must be very dry! If we make our paella with wood that is damp for any reason, it may not light properly and it will make the process very difficult.
Before we begin, here is the step-by-step recipe for Valencian paella, with all the details of its preparation. Since in this article we are focusing on the wood-fired paella and not so much on its ingredients, etc.
Valencian wood-fired paella
We will start by detailing the tricks to make a Valencian paella on firewood.
Once we have our wood ready and our paella pot well levelled, we are ready to start. The key to success will be to have good control of the fire, both in terms of intensity and ensuring that it is well distributed in all areas of the paella pan. If we do not control this, we could cause a part of the paella to burn more or, on the contrary, that a part of the paella is not completely cooked and the rice remains hard.
And before detailing the control of the fire, we leave you a trick that will help you a lot during the preparation of the paella to firewood. Look for a stick among the wood that you are going to use that is thin and long, so that you can use it to control the fire and not burn yourself.
We will divide the intensity of the fire into three different phases, which we will explain below.
Meat and vegetables
To start cooking our wood-fired paella, we will make a small pyramid with small, thin sticks, getting the fire going.
In this first phase, it is important not to have too much fire, as we want the meat and vegetables to cook slowly (as the Valencian paella recipe dictates).
At this point, we can concentrate the fire in the middle of the paella pot, and we will add small sticks when we see that the fire is being consumed.
Bring the water to the boil and add the rice
When we reach the point where we add the water, we have to bring it to the boil. This is the moment when we have to achieve an intense fire.
To do this, add more wood and spread it well over the entire surface of the cauldron. And we will see how the fire starts to become livelier and more intense.
At this stage, we can use some thicker logs, which will keep the fire going.
We are not going to go too much into the Valencian paella recipe in this post but, when we add the rice, we must keep the fire intense during the first 10 minutes of cooking.
It is important to keep adding wood and not let the fire burn down too much.
Valencian Paella cooked over an intense fire:
Valencian Paella on a wood fire with medium heat:
Last minutes of cooking
For the last 10 minutes of cooking the rice, we must leave a very low heat or practically the embers left over from the high heat phase.
This phase is very important for our paella to come out well and for the rice not to burn, but also for it not to become hard.
To do this, the little fire left from the previous phase must be distributed and, if there is a log that burns too much, it must be set aside. This could burn the rice in that part of the pot.
If we want to get socarraet, we can leave our paella on the heat for a couple of minutes more, but we run the risk of it burning, so it should be a short time.
Valencian wood-fired Paella. Embers:
When the rice is ready, remove the paella pan from the heat and leave it to rest for about 5 minutes before serving or starting to eat.
This is the perfect moment to make a picadita or to show off our wood-fired paella by sending a photo to our friends.
Making the most of the firewood
Several hours after the fire is completely extinguished, we can select the pieces of firewood that are left and save them for when we have a barbecue. After all, this is already natural charcoal and will be a great way to start the fire.
Making wood-fired seafood paella
To make a wood-fired seafood paella, the procedure would be very similar. Let’s summarise it without going into too much detail:
- For the first phase (where we cook the seafood, prawns, etc.), we will use a low flame and focus it in the middle of the pot.
- When we add the water and the rice, we will add fire and distribute it well to achieve a high heat intensity.
- Finally, in the last few minutes of cooking the rice, use the little fire left over from the previous stage or the embers themselves.