When making paella, having the right-sized paella pan is essential. But what size paella pan should you have for the number of servings you’re preparing? Unfortunately, this question raises more questions than answers. What’s clear, however, is that the number of servings, or “raciones” as they’re called in Spanish, doesn’t always translate directly to real-life portions.

The exact size of the paella pan you should get depends on the number of paella servings you need to make. Obviously, you’ll need a smaller pan to make paella for two people compared to one for eight.

The following table illustrates the relationship between the number of paella servings and the paella pan size. This is the sizing we use throughout our website and aligns with the sizes used by chefs in the finest paella restaurants.

Number of ServingsPaella Pan Diameter (inches)
2-410-12
6-814-16
10-1218-20
14+22+

Keep in mind that these sizes are approximate and may vary slightly based on the specific recipe and your personal preference for the paella’s thickness and presentation. It’s always a good idea to have a slightly larger paella pan than needed to avoid overcrowding and ensure the best results. Happy paella cooking!

Manufacturers Use Different Sizes

A summary like the one above seems to address the initial question regarding the required paella pan size. However, this conclusion is complicated by the fact that manufacturers and many stores provide significantly different proportions, leading to confusion.

In comparison to the table, most providers indicate the following proportions:

As you can see, this significantly deviates from the servings in the previous table. The reason behind this difference remains a mystery, especially considering that almost all paella pan manufacturers are located in the vicinity of Valencia. Valencia is the city of paella, and the local people know very well that you cannot make paella for 7 people in a 36 cm pan. Perhaps, in the past, the requests from foreigners or the commercial sector have influenced these recommendations…

However, the fact remains that one says you need a paella pan size X, while another insists it should be size Y. This creates quite a bit of ambiguity.

What Size Paella Pan Should I Buy?

In an attempt to clarify the uncertainty regarding the relationship between paella pan size and the number of paella servings, we sought an explanation from a manufacturer. They highlighted the distinction between a so-called serving of food (read: a hearty plateful) and a tasting with modest portions for a small dish.

So, when purchasing a paella pan, carefully consider the purpose for which you will be making paella and how many people will typically be at your gathering. Then choose the paella pan size that best suits your needs, and you can’t go wrong.

Are you making paella for a larger gathering this time and only for your own family the next? Then it might be wise to purchase two different paella pans. This way, you’ll always have a paella pan of the right size on hand, and with proper care, a paella pan can last for years.

Do You Need a Paella Pan to Cook Paella?

The answer to this question might be somewhat surprising: no. You don’t necessarily need a paella pan to make paella. The primary reason paella is typically prepared in a paella pan is the lack of other pots or pans with such a large surface area. The paella pan is the tool, not the objective.

What Can I Use Instead of a Paella Pan?

In addition to a paella pan, any shallow pan with a flat base is suitable for making paella, as long as the bottom has a surface large enough for the number of paella servings you want to make in the pan.

You’ll need to place the pan on a heat source that allows you to heat the entire bottom of the pan evenly. With these few requirements, you can make a delicious and even authentic paella using any pan.

The problem, however, is that such pans are scarce and often quite expensive. On the other hand, paella pans are very reasonably priced.

What Makes a Paella Pan Special?

I’ve already addressed this question more or less in the previous content. A paella pan is particularly suitable for making paella because the pan is shallow and has a large surface.

The reason these two characteristics are so important has to do with the required thinness of the rice layer in the paella. In Spain, the finger is used as a measure. If the rice layer in the paella is about a finger’s thickness (2 cm), you’re using the right-sized paella pan.

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