Socarrat: the secret to the perfect paella and how to achieve it
I have tried my fair share of paellas. In fact, I’ve had a rather unfair share of paellas. From the traditional Valencian original, to the crowd-pleasing favourite of shellfish, meat and the sacrilegious chorizo, I’ve enjoyed them all. Well… almost.
The success of a paella does not solely rely on the inclusion of its signature saffron and the right type of rice (yellow food colouring and risotto rice are considered an abomination in authentic paella-making). Whilst these are important, the quality of a paella is measured in its socarrat. Coming from the verb ‘to singe’, the socarrat is the caramelised, crunchy rice scraped from the bottom of the pan, with all the concentrated flavours that go into a paella. This part of the paella is so prized that in the restaurant Arros in London, run by Spanish food giant Quique Dacosta, sells it as a dish in its own right.
So what’s the secret to socarrat? The following steps will help you towards the holy grail of paellas:
PUT THE NON-STICK FRYING PAN DOWN! An ordinary frying pan, not too thick, will allow the heat to permeate and the rice to caramelise on the bottom of the pan. Ideally, a traditional paellera would be used.
When starting the paella, use a little more oil than you need for frying off the sofrito. The fat will help to colour the rice and create the socarrat.
Use only a thin layer of rice spread across the whole pan; paella dishes are broad and shallow for a reason. Once you pour in the stock, do NOT stir the rice.
Once the stock is in, bring to a rolling boil, then simmer. Once the stock has evaporated, turn the heat right down. Leave on a low heat for a few minutes.
Keep an eye out for the ultimate paella recipe, coming soon.