Published May 1, 2005. From Cook's Illustrated.
Traditionalists prefer paella pans over Dutch-ovens, but how much should tradition cost?
We're sold on the practicality of our Dutch-oven paella, but we know traditionalists may balk at it. Accordingly, we put five paella pans to the test. Minor differences aside, every pan produced a fine version of our paella recipe. All provided ample surface area for the multitude of ingredients and for development of soccarat, the distinctively crusty bottom layer of rice. In the end, then, our preferences came down to price and convenience.
Our first model was up to the job, but at a price of $177.99, it should have been. Though we think that's far too much to spend on a specialty pan, this pan's extra-deep shape makes it versatile enough for use as a braising pan. We did find a cheaper paella pan also suited for this sort of double duty, but $50 still seems like too much money for a pan that is likely to see little kitchen action.
The shallower, more traditionally shaped—and cheaper—pans in our lineup clearly warranted a closer look. We didn't like the first model, finding it to be a tight fit in most ovens, and its nonstick surface inhibited browning. The plain steel (not stainless) model is prone to rust without proper seasoning. (While we don't mind the seasoning process for everyday pans, such diligence seems excessive for a pan that will spend more time in storage than on the stovetop.) But its enameled counterpart has the same rugged good looks with no special maintenance required. This pan—the cheapest one tested—gets our top recommendation.