Carbon steel pans should not be put in the dishwasher or they will rust. Enameled and stainless steel pans can survive the dishwasher but will last longer if cleaned by hand. The easiest way to do this is as follows: Fill the dirty pan with about 1/2 inch of water and let it sit for a couple of hours or overnight. Then pour out the water and use a soft-scrub sponge and dishwashing soap to clean off the residue. It will come off easily.
Carbon steel is higher maintenance than enameled and stainless steel pans. Here's what you need to know about each type.
Carbon steel pans (including pata negra) require special seasoning and care to keep them in top condition and prevent rusting. Before the first use, you'll need to wash it well to remove the manufacturer's special anti-rust coating. You can do this with hot soapy water. Even better, heat some water in the pan with a dash of cider vinegar. Simmer for 10 minutes or so, and then rinse. Be sure to dry the pan thoroughly, and then lightly coat the inside with a bit of vegetable oil. This seals the surface to prevent rusting.
As for regular cleaning and maintenance, it's fine to let the pan soak with water in it for a couple of hours or overnight. This makes clean up easier. But after washing out the pan, you must immediately dry it well. Then pour a bit of vegetable oil on a wadded up paper towel and rub the oil on the surface of the pan. Before you use the pan again, just wipe the surface with a clean paper towel. You may see a tinge of orange-brown residue on the towel. This is normal.
By the way, if you forget to seal the pan and it does rust before your next use, don't worry. Just remove the rust with a bit of steel wool (it comes off easily) before using it. No harm done.
When cooking with carbon steel, don't leave an empty pan over direct heat for more than a few seconds. The metal is thin and could overheat, which will cause a dark splotch in that part of the pan.
Enameled pans don't require any special care or maintenance. Wash them before the first use and you're ready to go. Do be gentle when you're storing them. A hard bang against another pan or a hard surface could cause a bit of the enamel to chip. This is only cosmetic and won't affect performance.
Stainless pans are almost as maintenance free as enameled pans. They won't rust and don't need any seasoning. When cleaning them, avoid using steel wool to prevent scratches. Letting the pan soak in water will make cleanup easier.
Since the stainless paella pans are made from a relatively thin one-ply material, they heat up and cool down more quickly than you might be used to from other clad stainless pans. This is a good thing for making paella, but be aware that you shouldn't set an empty stainless pan over direct heat. If an empty (or nearly empty) pan is left over strong heat for too long, the pan could discolor or warp. But as long as there is broth or food in the pan to absorb the heat, it will be fine. Just remember, this is not a pan that calls for pre-heating to get a good sear.
Paella is the star, and anything else you serve will have a hard time competing for attention. Our preference is to let the paella shine on its own. If we do set out anything else, it's a simple green salad. While we're cooking the paella, however, we do offer up a variety of tapas -- good olives, Spanish cheese, fried Marcona almonds, sautéed chorizo, or if the season is right, small glasses of chilled gazpacho.