Bluffs Advocate


Paella On the Grill

This can be done inside, but why? Embrace the smoke and flame.

By Scott Tait

Paella            Your family is tired of burgers and steaks on the grill. You find yourself surrounded by calls for chicken, sausage, or shellfish. What to do? There is a signpost ahead. You are about to enter The Paella Zone.
Paella is one of the greatest dishes to bring family and friends around a table. I'm a big fan of family-style serving. It allows everyone to have what they want, and just the right amount too. It opens up conversations, laughter, and the possibility of that random shrimp tail being tossed across the table.
It's traditionally cooked over an open fire and since BBQs—charcoal or gas—are open-flame devices, it stands to reason that paella would be an easy outdoor creation for you. And it is. The addition of a little sweet smoke from your grill scales up your meal to new heights.
Now this can be done inside, but why? Embrace the smoke and flame!
Feeds 3 to 4 people.


  • 1 chicken breast or 4 thighs (or combination of both) cut into 8 pieces of equal size
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Spanish chorizo sausage, cut to same size as chicken
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 Spanish onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 handful of flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped—reserve some for garnish
  • 1/2 can whole tomatoes, drained and hand-crushed, or 8 small cherry tomatoes, diced
  • 2 cups short-grain Spanish rice
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1 cup white wine
  • generous pinch saffron threads
  • 8 scrubbed littleneck or pasta clams
  • 8 jumbo shrimp, peeled and de-veined
  • 1 handful of sweet peas fresh or frozen and thawed
  • lemon wedges, for serving

Special equipment:

  • 12-inch cast iron fry pan or your outdoor pan. This works in this size pan; anything smaller will overflow.

Chicken rub:

  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to preference


  • Rub the spice mix all over the cut chicken, cover and place in the fridge for an hour or so to incorporate the flavours.
  • Outside, get your grill (charcoal or gas) ready with a medium heat.
  • Heat oil in your pan over medium-high heat. Add the chorizo to the oil in the pan and sauté. If you are using cooked chorizo, you're just browning it. If it is raw you are cooking till ¾ done. Remove your sausage and add the chicken, skin side down to the oil and now chorizo-seasoned pan. Brown the chicken on all sides till ¾ cooked. The chicken and chorizo will finish cooking when the paella is assembled in the hot pan. Salt and pepper to your needs. Remove from pan and reserve.
  • Now using the same pan make a sofrito (fancy word) by sautéing the onions, garlic, and parsley on medium heat for two or three minutes stirring occasionally to get the onions translucent. Then add tomatoes and cook until the mixture comes together and the flavours unite. Two or three minutes should do.
  • Add your rice and stir-fry to coat the grains. You will see them start to give up their hard pale colour.
  • Pour in wine and stir to coat all the rice—about a minute.
  • Add the water and bring to a simmer for 10 minutes, gently moving the pan around so the rice cooks evenly and absorbs the liquid.
  • Distribute the chicken and chorizo evenly throughout the pan.
  • Sprinkle the saffron over the entire contents of the pan.
  • Add the clams tucking them into the rice, hinge side down. This way you will see them open and cooked. Give the pan a good shake and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. No stirring from here on. Check the rice for al dente during the last minutes of cooking. When your rice is fluffing up and beginning to take over the pan, tuck in the shrimp as you did the clams. The shrimp will take about eight minutes to cook. When your shrimp is pink, your clams are opened and you've checked the rice by sampling it, turn up the heat on your grill for one minute. You should be able to smell the rice on the bottom toasting.
  • Now take off the heat and let it rest, covered with foil for five minutes. Add your peas and parsley and tuck your lemon wedges into your creation.
  • Pull any unopened clams from the paella and discard.

It's best and easiest to serve this family style in the pan in the middle of the table and let everyone help themselves.

Scott's notes:
In traditional paella, the rice on the bottom toasts and firms up. You can impress your friends by telling them it's called the socarrat.
Make sure the shrimp and clam count matches your family and feeders. You want everyone to have an equal portion.
If you want to serve a gathering, double the recipe and use a bigger pan.
Be well and eat well.

Scott Tait,