Paella is a delicious recipe that anyone can enjoy, regardless of if they are meat eaters, vegan, or vegetarian. The recipe can be customized in numerous ways, and not only by changing ingredients. The way you cook the paella also matters. But what are the differences between cooking over wood versus gas? In this blog post, I will be going over the two main differences between wood and gas cooked paellas and why you may prefer one over the other.
Cooking over wood or gas will not drastically change the paella itself, but will change how you cook it and affect the flavor significantly. If you enjoy smoked foods, then you will almost certainly enjoy a wood fire paella. You will still want an authentic Spanish paella pan, like the Machika Carbon Steel or Enameled Steel Paella Pans. Machika pans are made in Valencia, Spain and built specifically for cooking paella. With this in mind, what are the actual differences in cooking process if the pan and ingredients do not change?
Wood Fire Paella Cooking Differences
Cooking paella is typically very simple nowadays. After all, a gas or electric stove top is easy to control, and you have precise control. Some electric stoves have various heating element sizes and can maintain a particular temperature range with only a turn of the dial. However, the size of electric stoves limits how large of a pan you can use. If you are looking to cook a very large paella dish, a gas paella burner or wood fire set-up will be much better.
While the pans are designed to distribute heat evenly throughout the metal, a very small heating element can still cause food in the center of the pan to burn. Some ways the cooking process will differ when cooking wood-fired paella versus gas-cooked are:
- Longer preparation
- Faster cooking
- Must be outdoors
- Less control over heat
Getting ready to cook paella over a gas burner is as easy as setting your pan down and turning on the burner. With wood fire, you have to prepare much more to get started. For example, since you need wood, you will need to make sure you have dry firewood ready. The wood should be fit for cooking, so dry hardwoods only. Certain types of wood may be bad for your health and give the paella a bad flavor. You can read more about which wood you should use by clicking the link here to go to our article on cooking wood fire paella dishes. There, we go over what type of wood you should use and offer some tips and tricks for cooking over a wood fire.
An important thing to note when cooking over wood fire is the difference in heat. A wood fire is usually going to be much hotter than a gas burner. The flame is larger and harder to control. The surrounding area also gets very hot, so liquid evaporates quicker. When cooking with wood fire, you should keep a cup of water or broth on standby. If you notice the dish drying up before the rice or other ingredients are cooked, you can add a little more liquid.
Must Be Outdoors
While most gas burners should be used outdoors, a properly ventilated area is often enough to use them indoors. You should always follow the product recommendations, but many burners are made for indoor use. Cooking with wood is different. Unless you have a fireplace or indoor wood oven, you will need to be outdoors. Burning wood will produce lots of smoke that is dangerous to breathe. Make sure you cook your dish outdoors when using wood. Make sure you also check the weather before starting. The last thing you want is for it to start raining in the middle of cooking
Less Control Over Heat
Since you have less control over the fire than you would a gas burner, you should carefully monitor your paella when cooking with a wood fire. If your fire gets too large and hot, you can easily burn your paella in a couple of minutes. Keeping the flame at a good size can help keep the dish at the right temperature. You may also want a stand to keep the pan elevated instead of directly on the burning wood.
Flavor is a big part of why many people cook paella over a wood fire. If you’ve ever had smoked meats or wood fire barbecue, then you will know the difference. Certain types of wood imbue unique notes and flavors that you just do not get with gas, which is flavorless. If you are looking for the most authentic paella experience, then you should make sure to cook using wood. When paella was first invented hundreds of years ago, the only way to cook it was with a wood fire!
Get Cooking Today with Machika!
Whether you are looking for recipes or to buy a new paella pan, we have your back over here at Machika. We believe that the kitchen is an important place for the family to grow and for people to learn important life skills. Cooking is invaluable and creates traditions that can be passed down throughout the generations. You can click here to check out our blog full of helpful cooking articles and recipes.