If you purchase a new paella pan to make the Classic Seafood Paella, you’ll have a choice of stainless-steel, enameled-steel, and carbon-steel pans. According to the story’s author, Sarah Jay, each material has its pros and cons, but carbon steel is the most traditional. Not only is it preferred for its rapid heat conductivity, but as a reactive metal, carbon steel also influences the paella’s flavor.
The minor downside to a carbon-steel pan is the extra care it requires. Like a cast-iron skillet, it’s prone to rust, so it should be seasoned before the first use and carefully cleaned and re-seasoned between uses. Sarah Jay recommends these steps for the care and keeping of a carbon-steel paella pan:
Before first use: Pour about 1/4 inch of water into the pan and add a splash of white vinegar. Set the pan over medium heat just until bubbles appear on the bottom—this removes the manufacturer’s anti-rust coating. Pour out the water and vinegar and wash the pan well with soapy water. Dry thoroughly with paper towels and then use a dry paper towel to lightly coat the inside with olive oil to seal the surface.
Between uses: Scrub the pan clean using hot soapy water and a steel-wool pad. If necessary, you can let the pan soak for several hours to loosen hard-to-remove particles. Rinse and dry thoroughly and then lightly coat the surface with fresh oil. Store in a dry place. Before the next use, wipe off the oil coating—a tinge of orangish residue on the towel is normal.
Should you forget to dry and oil the pan and it rusts, just scrub the rust off with steel wool, then wash and oil the pan—no harm done.
Note to smooth-top ceramic and induction range owners: A traditional paella pan has a dimpled bottom, which helps promote even cooking and keeps the pan rigid. However, a dimpled pan is slightly convex and therefore doesn’t make good contact with a smooth-top burner. A special flat-bottom pan is available for smooth-top ranges.