Paella On The Grill

In my humble opinion, the very best thing about summer is getting to cook outside.  Food cooked over fire tastes eminently more scrumptious, all smoky and delicious. We also love how grilling incites parties where they might not otherwise be happening, and how everyone sort of participates in the cooking, even if just as a spectator.

So when I planned to make paella on this particular evening, it seemed an awfully good idea to take it outside and not only light the grill, but get the brick oven going too.  You can never have too much fire where paella is concerned.

We’ve been making paella for quite a few years here at the Circle B Kitchen, but it wasn’t until we took it out to the grill that I figured it was time to let you in on the action.  If you've made paella before, you know how fun and not at all complicated it is to throw together.  

The prep work might take a bit of planning, but that’s pretty cinchy too.  We think it's the perfect party meal and will not only feed the friends you invited over, but all of your cousins as well.  And there will still be leftovers.  

So paella is Spanish in origin, as you probably already know, and is basically a rice dish, but I’m pretty sure they had a hard time deciding what kind of meat should be featured, and so they just threw it all in.  Or maybe that’s just us.  This time we used chicken thighs, chorizo, shrimp, calamari and mussels.  You could also use just about any kind of sausage, scallops, clams, lobster or whatever else sounds good in the moment.

Once you have your ingredients all prepped and at the ready, it’s just a matter of stirring them into the pan, one at a time, layering flavors and then letting it simmer away while the party kicks into gear, all the while munching a few apps and sipping something cold until your paella is done and great spoonfuls of golden rice, smoky sausage and grilled seafood are piled onto plates with shards of crusty bread to soak it all up.  That right there is why we love summertime cooking.  Here’s the recipe… 

Paella On The Grill

Click here for a printable recipe

This paella can be made on the stove, on the grill or in a brick oven.  We've made it every which way and it's all good.  (This time we started it on the grill and finished it in the brick oven).  We love the deep, smoky flavors that develop as it cooks on the grill, but it's also delicious cooked on the stovetop. Although it is sacrilege to cover paella as it cooks, we really like to put the lid on the grill for that last five or ten minutes, which gives it time to absorb even more of those smoky flavors as the rice finishes cooking.   We use a 15" paella pan, but you could use a large flat-bottomed skillet of about that same size.

Serves at least 6

¼ cup (or more) olive oil

6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into large chunks

1 lb. Spanish chorizo, cut into chunks

1 yellow onion, diced

½ green pepper, ½ red pepper, ½ yellow pepper, sliced or diced

3 large cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 teaspoons pimenton (Spanish smoked paprika)

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (more or less depending on your heat preferences)

½ cup white wine

1 14-oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes with juice

1 bottle clam juice

4 cups chicken stock

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 tsp saffron threads, crushed between  your fingers

2 cups arborio or Calasparra rice

16-20 uncooked large shrimp, peeled and deveined (you can leave the tails on if you like)

About 20 Mussels

¼ to ½ lb calamari

Lemon wedges for serving 

Other optional additions include sliced green olives and peas.  You can substitute just about any kind of sausage for the chorizo and other seafood including clams, scallops and lobster


Prepare the grill to about medium high heat.

Place a large skillet or paella pan on the grill and add the olive oil.  Brown the chicken thighs on both sides and cook for about 5-10 minutes.

Add the onions and peppers to the pan and cook for about 5 minutes or so or until they start to soften.  Then add the chorizo and cook until brown and crispy.  Sprinkle in the smoked paprika, crushed red pepper flakes and minced garlic and stir until well distributed and fragrant.

Deglaze the pan with the wine for about 2 -3 minutes and then add the tomatoes, broth, saffron, clam juice and salt and bring to a simmer. Stir in the rice and then add the shrimp, mussels and calamari, nestling the seafood partially into the rice and broth.

Simmer, uncovered, without stirring for about 20 minutes. (We like to put the lid over the grill for the last 5 or 10 minutes to allow the smoke to permeate the paella).

Remove from the heat and let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with lemon wedges and a fresh, crusty loaf of bread.

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