Protein: Seafood, Shellfish, Shrimp
Origin: Spain, Europe
Method: Smoker or grill, StovetopJump to Recipe
My first experience with paella was in college, and I must admit I was a bit intimidated by it. I was in Barcelona during a break from studying abroad. I knew that while in Spain that I had to try this iconic dish. When they first brought out the menu, I was a little taken back seeing all of the fresh seafood, heads and all. This was not something commonly experienced in mid-Kansas where I grew up. I am pretty sure I ordered a chicken paella. The next time I tried paella, I was determined to try something more authentic. I believe we were in Grenada or Seville, and I had my future wife with me this time. She had grown up in the Pacific Northwest so was comfortable with seafood. This time we ordered some Wood-Fired Seafood Paella, cooked over a grill in front of the restaurant. We fell in love with the flavors and texture. While I freely admit I may have still avoided the head on shrimp the dish opened up a lot of new culinary doors for me.
Making the Wood-Fired Seafood Paella
Gather your ingrediants
For this recipe you will need onion, garlic, tomato, olive oil, paprika, white wine, seafood stock, and a lemon. As with any paella, you will also need a paella rice such as Bomba rice, and saffron.
Key ingredient: Saffron
A good quality saffron is the heart and soul of paella. Yes, it is an expensive ingredient but a little goes a long way. Don't skimp or go cheap when picking your saffron. These yellow-orange threads are derived from the stigmas of saffron crocus flower, and without them you are just making seafood rice.
Key ingredient: Bomba Rice
Bomba rice is a short grain rice that is grown for use in paella. Bomba rice is able to typically absorb 2-3 times its volume in water, and is also "non-stick" due to its high amylose content. We have had great luck finding Bomba Rice at World Market, and it is also available on Amazon. If you cannot find a proper paella rice, you can substitute another short grain rice like arborio, however, you will want to decrease the amount of liquid in the recipe.
Key ingredient: Fresh Seafood
One of the great aspects of this Wood-Fired Seafood Paella, and Paella in general, is the ability to customize with your favorite seafoods. As I have mentioned before our son loves shellfish so one of our favorite versions include shrimp, mussels, scallops, and chorizo. We have also made great versions with calamari, clams, and octopus. Be as creative as you want.
Cooking the Wood-Fired Seafood Paella
Prep your grill or smoker
Our 2 favorite ways of preparing this dish are on a ceramic grill/smoker like a Big Green Egg, and on our Breeo firepit. There are slight variations in cooking between the 2 and I will describe both. If you are using a different type of smoker or grill follow the direction for cooking on the Big Green Egg, as it will be the most similar. The paella can also be made entirely on the stovetop.
If you are looking for more great recipes to cook on the Breeo, check out our Santa Maria Style Tri-Tip, Nigerian Party Rice: Wood Fired Jollof Rice, Grilled Jamaican Jerk Chicken, and Chargrilled Oysters. Also check out some of our great Big Green Egg recipes.
Set up a grill or smoker for direct heat and preheat to 400 degrees. If using a ceramic grill, like a Big Green Egg, set it up with a place setter with the legs up, but do not place a grill grate on yet. Get a nice steady fire going on your firepit if you are using one.
Warm the broth
Gently heat the seafood stock, wine, paprika, and ½ tea of the saffron in a saucepan. Do not simmer or boil, just gently warm to allow the flavors to meld. If you cannot find seafood stock you can use a chicken broth or even just water if you wish. We do prefer the added flavor of using a stock or broth.
Prepare the sofrito
The first step in making the Wood-Fired Seafood Paella is to make a basic sofrito. Sofrito is basically a mixture of onion, garlic, tomato, and olive oil and provides the foundation for the paella. To make the sofrito, place the paella pan on the grill or smoker and add the olive oil. Heat until the oil is hot, but not smoking. Sauté the onion until soft, about 5 minutes. Next add in the tomato, garlic and ½ teaspoon of saffron and continue to cook for about 3 more minutes. If using a ceramic grill, place the paella pan directly on the pre-heated place setter.
Quickly sauté the rice
Next add in the rice and stir to evenly coat in the oil and cook for about 1 minute. Stir well to combine all of the flavors.
At this point you may choose to move the pan to indirect heat. Leaving the pan on direct heat will result in the bottom rice becoming slightly charred and crunchy, which is the more traditional way of making paella. This dark caramelized bottom is referred to as socorrat and is considered one of the best parts of paella. Paella without socorrat is like cake without icing.
If you want all of the rice to remain soft, move to indirect heat at this point. For softer rice on a ceramic grill like a Big Green Egg, remove the paella pan from the place setter, add a grill grate to the Big Green Egg then return the pan to the grill grate. If you are cooking over a fire pit like a Breeo or open fire, raise the level of the grate to decrease the heat.
Add the warm broth/wine mixture
Next stir in the seafood broth and peas. Give it a quick stir then leave it alone. This will be the last time you stir the rice.
Adding your seafood
Different seafood will take different amounts of time to cook perfectly. Typically the paella will take about 20-30 minutes to cook the rice. It will be closer to 20 minutes if you are using a higher heat for a crispy bottom, or as much as 30 minutes if you are gently simmering with indirect heat.
Below is a rough guide as to when we typically add different types of seafood.
Immediately after stirring in the broth: Mussels, Whole Shrimp, Clams, Octopus,
10 Minutes after adding the broth: Shelled shrimp, Scallops, Calamari
Final 5 minutes of cooking: Chorizo (Spanish style dried), precooked shrimp
After about 10 minutes of cooking, mussels and clams should begin to open. If you have any that are not opening, try to push them a little further into the liquid or move them to a hotter part of the pan. Rotate the pan 180 degrees to help cook more evenly but do not stir the rice.
As the paella cooks the rice will plump up as it absorbs the liquid.
If cooking shelled shrimp and scallops add them in using the timeline above. Arrange them evenly around the dish and cook for about 5 minutes. After 5 minutes flip the shrimp and scallops over and cook an additional 5 minutes.
Add any chorizo and precooked shrimp the final 5 minutes of cooking. Check the paella and remove when the shrimp and scallops are cooked through. A perfect paella rice should be tender yet a little firm. If all of the liquid has evaporated and the rice is dry, you can add a bit more broth and cook a little longer. Remove and clams or mussels that did not open and discard them.
Finishing the Wood-Fired Seafood Paella
If you are cooking paella with a traditional socorrat you can use a small spoon to check the doneness of the rice at the bottom of the pan, but do not stir the rice. When the socorrat is almost perfect you should smell some slight smokiness from the rice, and you may hear the rice beginning to crackle. If needed you can return the smoker to direct heat or drop the grate closer to the fire for a couple minutes to complete the Wood-Fired Seafood Paella, but watch it closely to avoid burning.
Squeeze some fresh lemon juice over the paella just before serving. Serve the Wood-Fired Seafood Paella warm with a glass of Spanish wine or a big glass of Blackberry Red Sangria.
We understand if you still did not jump into the head on shrimp but you will get there eventually, and when you do, it is so worth it! If you are looking for more great seafood recipes then check these out:
Thank you so much for visiting our blog. If you tried and enjoyed our recipe please share with others and please leave us a comment and review. We also love to see your pics so don’t forget to tag us @Carne_Diem_Culinary or #CarneDiemBlog. To be notified of future recipes please follow us on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest, or sign up for our e-mail notifications. Until next time, Carne Diem!
Wood-Fired Seafood Paella
- Paella Pan
- Grill or Smoker
- ⅓ cup Olive Oil
- 1 Yellow Onion diced
- 3 Garlic Cloves minced
- 1 Tomato diced
- 1 tea Paprika preferably Spanish
- ⅓ cup Sweet peas
- 1 tea Saffron divided
- 500 grams Bomba Rice about 2 cups
- 1 cup White Wine
- 4 cups Seafood Stock
- Juice of 1 Lemon
- 10 Large, Shell on Shrimp
- 12 Fresh Mussels
- 8-10 Scallops
- Set up a grill or smoker for direct heat and preheat to 400 degrees. For more detailed instructions on how to cook the paella on a ceramic grill like a Big Green Egg or a fire pit like a Breeo, please refer to the blog post.
- Gently heat the seafood stock, wine, paprika, and ½ tea of the saffron in a saucepan. Do not simmer or boil.
- Heat the oil in the pan over medium heat, then add the onion an cook for about 5 minutes.
- Add in the garlic, tomato, and ½ tea saffron and stir well and cook for about 3 minutes.
- Add in the rice and stir to evenly coat in the oil and cook far about 1 minute.
- At this point you may choose to move the pan to indirect heat. Leaving the pan on direct heat will result in the bottom rice becoming slightly charred and crunchy, which is more traditional. If you want all of the rice to remain soft, move to indirect heat at this point.
- Stir in the broth and peas then arrange mussels, clams, and whole shrimp evenly around the pan.
- Cook for 10 minutes. Some of the mussels and clams should begin to open at this point.
- Arrange the shelled shrimp and scallops evenly around the dish and cook for about 5 minutes, then flip the shrimp and scallops over and cook an additional 5 minutes. Check the paella and remove when the shrimp and scallops are cooked through.
- Add any dry chorizo and precooked shrimp the final 5 minutes of cooking.
- Squeeze some fresh lemon juice over the paella just before serving.