100 Techniques

Technique #84: Look to the Grill for the Ultimate Paella

Festive paella is a showpiece meal that’s perfect for a crowd. While most modern recipes call for the stove or oven, paella is best made on the grill.

Published Aug. 9, 2023.

This is Technique #84 from our 100 Techniques Every Home Cook Can Master.

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Though nowadays there are all sorts of paella recipes that use multicookers, stovetops, the oven, and even slow cookers, paella was originally made on the grill—and many Spanish cooks still prepare it that way.

Live fire gives paella a subtle smokiness and provides the opportunity for an extra-large cooking surface that encourages even and thorough development of one of the hallmarks of paella—the prized caramelized crust known as socarrat.

But grilling presents challenges. Quicker-cooking proteins overcook while they wait for heartier items to cook through, and keeping a charcoal fire going strong is tricky.

We developed a technique for grilled paella using an efficient, reliable grilling method involving no special equipment. It produces a uniformly crisp, golden crust topped with tender-chewy rice strewn with perfectly cooked moist chicken, sausage, shellfish, and vegetables.

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Ready Your Grill and Get a Big Pan

You need even, long-lasting heat that doesn’t require refueling.

That’s easy enough to achieve on a gas grill. For a charcoal grill, we use a whopping 7 quarts of charcoal (instead of our usual 6 quarts) and cover the lit coals with 20 fresh briquettes, which gradually ignite during cooking.

A sturdy stainless-steel roasting pan is grill safe, deep enough for all the food, and easy to maneuver; plus its large surface area maximizes the amount of socarrat.

Ingredient Timing and Placement is Key

To cook everything to perfection, it’s best to not only stagger the addition of ingredients but also pay attention to how to place them in the pan.

Brown chicken thighs directly on the grate and then arrange the thighs around the pan’s cooler perimeter to keep them from overcooking. Sauté chopped onion, roasted red peppers, and tomato paste, add the rice to coat with oil, and then pour a hot broth mixture into the pan.

Arrange the shrimp and clams in the middle of the simmering rice, partially submerging them so they won’t overcook, and scatter small pieces of chorizo on top. Quick-cooking green peas are the final addition, at which point let the paella cook until the rice grains are perfectly plump and the crust sizzles invitingly.

A steel roasting pan full of paella on a charcoal grill.
Adding seafood during a later recipe step, and only partially submerging it, allows the shrimp and clams to cook through without overcooking.
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Step by Step: How to Grill the Ultimate Paella

Follow these steps to learn how to perfectly stagger and place your ingredients to produce the best grilled paella.

Step 1: Ready the Grill for Chicken

Build large, hot, single-level grill fire. Grill chicken until lightly browned on both sides.

Step 2: Add the Vegetables and Rice

Heat oil in roasting pan on grill and cook onion and roasted red peppers. Add rice and stir until grains are well coated with oil.

Step 3: Simmer Rice, Vegetables, and Chicken

Arrange chicken around edge of pan and pour in broth mixture. Smooth rice into even layer, making sure nothing sticks to sides of pan and no rice rests atop chicken. Bring to simmer.

Step 4: Add Seafood and Chorizo

Arrange shrimp in center of pan. Arrange clams in center of pan, evenly distributing with shrimp and pushing hinge sides of clams into rice slightly. Distribute chorizo evenly over top.

Step 5: Add Peas and Let Rice Absorb Broth

When rice is almost cooked, sprinkle peas evenly over paella and cook until liquid is fully absorbed and rice on bottom of pan sizzles.

Step 6: Cook Until Crust Forms

Continue to cook until even golden-brown crust forms on bottom. Check bottom of pan frequently with metal spoon, rotating and sliding pan around grill as necessary to ensure uniform crust formation.

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Cook along with us as we walk through our entire Paella on the Grill recipe.

Recipes That Use This Technique

Give our grilled paella recipe a try and taste the difference that a live fire can make.


Paella on the Grill

A live fire lends Spain’s beloved rice dish subtle smoke and a beautifully caramelized crust, but it can make evenly cooking the other elements a challenge.
Get the Recipe

Don't Have a Grill Handy? Make One of These 4 Recipes

If you don't have access to a grill right now, try one of our other trusted paella recipes that use a different piece of equipment.



Paella can be a big hit at restaurants but an unwieldy production at home. Could we re-create this Spanish classic in two hours without using any fancy equipment?
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Cast Iron Paella

Saffron-infused paella is a popular Spanish rice and seafood dish that's packed with flavor, but unusual ingredients and complicated preparations can make it intimidating to tackle at home.
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Multicooker Paella

The Instant Pot helps turn paella into a weeknight meal.
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Slow-Cooker Paella

We thought the opportunity to try making paella in a slow cooker was too good to be missed.
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