Another thing that I want to talk about is depending on which paella pan you get, how to take care of it. The traditional and authentic Spanish paella pans are made of steel and therefore need to be "cured" before using. This is done by washing it well and wiping it down with a cloth, finally rubbing a coat of cooking oil (olive oil) on the cooking surface. After every use, you will want to make sure you hand wash it and that it's completely dry in order to avoid rust creation. Before storing it each time, be sure to rub a thin coat of oil over the cooking surface and sides. If you see any rust, just wipe it off with a paper towel. This maintenance work is a small price to pay for the incredible rice and seafood dishes it will produce for you.
The traditional steel paella pan will absorb the flavors over time and give you years of use. There is also the stainless steel pan which also gives years of use but with minimal care. There is also the "Pata Negra", which is a double gage steel which will give you good even heating. Other paella pans can be found made of copper and cast iron with a porcelain coating which will make for easy cleaning. I highly recommend avoiding any pans made of aluminum (those dark charcoal anodized pans). That was the first one I purchased and after two uses, began to warp to a point where eventually only a 3 inch diameter circle in the center was hitting the heating element, bad news! I eventually purchased a stainless steel pan with a double sandwich copper bottom which I use to this day.
Size matters. It's important that your paella pan is going to be large enough to serve the number of guests you usually have over for dinner, which for most of us is 6 people. Be careful that you don't get one so large that it doesn't fit over your cooking element or your oven. I recommend a 13 to 15 inch pan. Anything larger than that will probably not fit evenly over your burner and certainly not fit in the average non commercial home oven. Remember, these pans have handles on each side that add an additional 4 to 6 inches to the diameter. So a 16 inch pan will actually end up being 22 inches. I didn't listen to me...... and bought an 18 inch pan, not counting the handles. I have to remove my stove top control knobs for it to fit over the largest element. It doesn't come close to fitting in the oven and I don't have a cupboard cabinet with a large enough opening to store it. What was I thinking??!!
There is a wonderful website that you should go to when shopping for a paella pan. It's called http://www.latienda.com/. It has a variety of pans at reasonable prices. I have purchased supplies from them time and time again and have never been disappointed. They also have the authentic rice that is ideal for making paella, which we will discuss later. So go out and get yourself a nice paella pan. Every kitchen should have one. Not only are you going to use it for making paella (which is coming soon) but other Spanish and Latin dishes.