Paella has become famous largely due to its unique texture. The dry, individual grains of rice, cooked slightly al dente, stand out from other creamy, sticky rice dishes like risotto. While the type of rice, broth-to-rice ratio, and cooking methods all play a part in creating the delicious texture of paella, there is another hard and fast rule that must be followed to achieve the perfect paella. This rule is never, under any circumstances, stir the paella.
There is a very simple explanation behind this counter-intuitive advice; the stirring action damages the surface of the rice, causing it to release starch (for fine dining). This starch thickens any liquid it comes in contact with and can cause the rice and liquid to coagulate. While a rich, creamy sauce might be what you’re looking for when making risotto, it’s the absolute opposite of what you want when making paella.
The never stir mandate can cause practical problems. For example, you might be wondering how to spread the rice around the pan. Puerto Rican chef Daniel Lugo, addressing the Michelin Guide, advised to sprinkle the rice like salt in the paella pan before shaking it to evenly distribute the grains. Other methods involve pouring the rice into the broth in the cross shapebefore gently diffusion with a spatula.