Cookbook:Paella Cooking Techniques
Cooking a paella requires high heat for sautéing and then moderate to low heat for simmering. While this sounds easy, it takes a bit of practice to master.
There are several technologies to choose from when cooking a paella, all of which are explained below. You'll see right away, however, the latest technology is not necessarily the best.
Cooking a paella indoors 
Cooking indoors provides you with two options: the oven or the stove.
On the stove 
The advantage of a stove top is that you can easily adjust the heat. If you've got a large paellera you'll have to stradle it over two burners at once and constantly rotate it to ensure even cooking. Start with very high heat for sauteing. Use moderate heat for simmering and then work your way down to low heat, rotating the paellera all the time. If you've got a small paellera that fits over one burner then you don't have to rotate it. Also, never cover a paellera while making paella.
In the oven 
Using an oven is the worst way to cook a paella for three reasons: Checking the paella's progress is clumsy because you must remove the entire paellera to do so; Using an oven won't allow for the development of toasted rice at the bottom of the pan, an important part of making a paella; Finally, misjudging the cooking time will burn the entire paella. Despite these problems, many people insist on using an oven because of its convenience, so below is a brief explanation on how to do it.
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Sauté your ingredients on a stove top and follow your recipe to the point where you're ready to begin simmering the rice. Place the paellaera in the oven. Check the rice's texture after 20 minutues. Your goal is to cook the rice until it's slightly firm to the bite. Continue checking about once every 10 minutes thereafter. Reduce the heat to 300 degrees if you notice anything burning. Add more broth or water if the rice dries out too quickly. Follow the remaining instructions of your recipe.
Cooking a paella outdoors 
Cooking outdoors allows you more space to evenly distribute the heat under the paellera, something that's tricky to do on a stove. It's possible to buy small paelleras that serve two and fit over a single burner on a stove. However small paelleras tend to be more difficult to find than the larger ones that serve six or more. The reality is, cooking outdoors makes for a better paella. Spaniards know this, and for that reason many of them prefer the outdoor method.
On a gas burner 
The easiest way to cook a paella outside is to use an outdoor gas burner specifically made for paelleras. This is, without a doubt, the best method. However, these burners are expensive and you won't be able to use it for anything other than cooking paellas. But if you have the money for one, simply follow the cooking instructions for your paella recipe as if you were cooking on a stove top. However, you won't have to worry about rotating the paellera because the burner provides evenly distributed heat.
On a charcoal grill 
A less expensive approach is to use a charcoal barbecue sturdy and large enough to support the size and weight of a paellera in addition to all of the ingredients. The best barbecue design for this includes a grill with adjustable height settings. Use the lowest setting to sauté and the higher ones for simmering. If you don't have these setting then you're in for a tough time. You'll have to remove hot coals to reduce the heat on your paella as it cooks and of course this means also removing and replacing the grill and the paellera each time. If you do this, be sure to place the hot coals is a small dirt pit. Never pour water onto hot coals while cooking. This will cause a mini explosion of steam thereby throwing ash into your paella.
Over a wood fire 
Cooking a paella over a wood fire is both effective and inexpensive. It's also the method favored by paella purists in Spain. To do this you'll need a low, metal tripod or a stand capable of supporting a paellera over a fire. This website sells all of the outdoor paella cooking gear you'll need.
Another approach is to create a temporary cooking pit out of heat resistant bricks or cinder blocks. You won't have to worry much about reducing the heat on a wood fire because it will cool off gradually on its own. If your fire grows too cool, build it up with twigs and kindling. Dry pine needles work beautifully for this. However, if your fire is too big, pour small amounts of water around the edges of the flames or simply wait for it to cool down. Never pour water into the center of the fire while cooking. You'll get all of your firewood wet and you won't be able to light it again.
Serving Tip 
Always allow the paella to rest five minutes after cooking by taking it off the heat and covering with a clean, white towel.
It's customary to place the entire paellera with the freshly cooked paella on the dinner table rather than transferring the paella into a fancy serving bowl. Paella purists, however, insist the dinner guests should eat directly from the paellera.
Fixing mistakes 
- The most common beginner's mistake is to cook with too much heat. You'll wind up with undercooked rice and no broth left to cook it with. Fix this by either adding a cup of water or leftover broth from the previous steps.
- The less common mistake is to use too much broth. In this case, you'll wind up with a soupy paella once the rice is done. There are two ways to fix this: Chefs recommend increasing the heat just long enough to boil off the excess water. However too much heat will burn the rice. What also works well is to remove the excess broth with a large serving spoon.