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Paella in a cast iron skillet

Campfire Paella

bee's kitchen Jun 28, 2020

Looking for a new camping recipe?  Try this paella dish over the fire or single burner.

Valencia - The Birth Place of Paella

Last fall my husband, Neal, and I ended up in Valencia, Spain after missing a flight to Marrakech, Morroco.  Our flight leaving Denver, Colorado was delayed, which ultimately led to us missing our connecting flight from Paris to Marrakech.  While Spain was on our original 2-week itinerary, we didn’t plan on arriving in Spain for another 5 days.  So we hopped on our phones and quickly came up with plan B: Fly to Barcelona for 2 nights.  Then rent a car and drive to Valencia for 2 nights.  We would then drive to Seville where we continued on our planned itinerary, touring more of Spain and Portugal.

While in Valencia, we decided to take a paella cooking class with My First PaellaValencia is the birthplace of paella so it seemed like a no-brainer to learn how to make this traditional dish from the locals.  We even decided to go with the traditional recipe which uses rabbit and chicken for protein sources.  Paella is most notably known for the socarrat - the caramelization that occurs to the rice on the bottom of the pan as it cooks giving the dish a unique crunch.  (There is a fine line between socarrat and burning the rice so one must be mindful while they are cooking paella!)

There are a few other important steps regarding the process that must be followed to make this yummy dish.

  • Don’t skip the saffron! It does not only give the rice a beautiful golden color but also provides a distinctive flavor for the dish.

  • Be patient.  Making paella is not a fast process.  Pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy!

  • Don’t stir the rice!  It will be tempting but don’t do it!  The liquid needs to evaporate and be absorbed up by the rice.  This will leave your rice tender and not mushy.

  • Don’t cover your paella while it cooks.  This, again, goes back to getting that perfect socarrat on the button of your pan.

  • The paella should be cooked over an open flame or on a gas stove.  An electric stove may not yield the same results.  (I have not personally tried it).

The last key point just shows how paella is perfect to make while camping!  A grill grate will be preferred if you are cooking over an open fire.  But a single gas burner also works well.  Traditionally, paella is cooked in a paella pan.  However, any shallow large pan can be used.  A cast-iron skillet works really well.

The recipe I used is adapted from Fresh Off the GridWhile the ingredients aren’t necessarily “traditional” it’s a delicious spin on paella and perfect for a chilly camp night.  The poblano peppers add some good heat to the dish but can be substituted with another, less spicy pepper if preferred.  I also love that this recipe yields 2 generous servings making it perfect for my husband and me.  You can easily double or half to fit your camping crew’s needs.

Campfire Paella


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 2 sausages (we used chicken)

  • 2 poblano peppers

  • 3 green onions

  • 1 large shallot, diced

  • 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

  • 1/2 cup rice

  • 1/4 cup tempranillo, or other medium-bodied red wine

  • 14 oz can broth

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • Pinch of saffron

  • 14 oz can artichoke hearts, drained and halved


  1. Place the poblanos peppers, green onions, and sausage directly on the grill grate over the fire, turning occasionally, until the peppers and onions are soft and charred and the sausage is mostly cooked through. If you do not have a grill grate, you can cook them in your cast-iron pan or griddle.

  2. Remove from the grill. Slice the sausage into 1/4 inch rounds. Allow the peppers to cool, remove the seeds, and chop. Chop green onions into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.

  3. Place a cast-iron skillet on the grill directly over the fire. Pour enough oil to coat the bottom of the skillet, then add the shallots. Saute until soft, about 3-5 minutes.

  4. Add in the sliced sausage and garlic and saute until the garlic is fragrant about 30 seconds.

  5. Add the rice and cook 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it just begins to become translucent at the ends.

  6. Add 1/4 cup red wine into the pan, allow to evaporate, and then add the broth. Season with salt and a pinch of saffron. Stir well to evenly distribute all the ingredients, and then allow to simmer, undisturbed, until all of the liquid is absorbed 20-30 minutes. DO NOT STIR!

  7. Add the chopped poblanos, green onions, and artichoke hearts to the pan to reheat. At this point, the paella will begin to develop the socarrat on the bottom. After a few minutes, you will begin to hear the rice begin crackling – this is your indicator that the dish is nearly done. Cook for a few more minutes to ensure the socarrat has developed (you can use a spoon to check a small portion of the pan).

  8. Serve immediately along with a glass of the remaining red wine.

Want more recipes to cook while camping?  Check out Off the Grid Provisions - A Camping Recipe Guide for 16 fresh, new recipes for your camping adventure.


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