Fried rice is fantastic and it's an excellent way to clean up your crisper and use up little bits of protein and vegetables. But, if you just slap it together willy-nilly, it can be mushy and flavorless.
Over the years, I've mastered the art of creating restaurant-style fried rice from leftovers. Here are my 7 tips on cooking fried rice.
7 Tips on Cooking Fried Rice
1. Use day old rice.
I rarely make rice simply to make into fried rice. I almost always have leftover veggies and cold, day old rice from another meal and use those for fried rice. But if you're tempted, make the rice the day before and refrigerate it overnight. This gives the rice time to dry out so you don't get waterlogged mushy fried rice.
If you wake up in the morning absolutely jonesing for fried rice, try this trick to speed up the drying process: Spread the cooked rice out on a cookie sheet and freeze for about 15 minutes so the kernels don't clump or stick together. Once frozen, bag up the rice and freeze it for at least a few more hours before turning it into fried rice.
2. Use medium or long grain rice.
Short grains like arborio or sweet, sticky rice just don't work well for fried rice. I prefer jasmine rice. Its thin grain dries out well and fries up perfectly. Standard long-grain rice just doesn't get the same crispy, smoky result in my experience.
3. Cook the egg first.
I spent years dropping the raw egg into the rice and stir frying them together. Unfortunately, this can make the rice soggier and keep the rice from properly crisping. Scramble the egg first until it's almost done BEFORE you add the vegetables and protein and LAST, the rice.
4. Nearly burn it.
Don't be afraid of burning the rice. Once you put it in the pan (after the egg is scrambled and the proteins and vegetables have been cooked a bit), leave it alone for a few minutes. Use plenty of cooking oil to keep the rice from sticking and let the rice sit still for several minutes. It won't burn. It will caramelize into fried rice deliciousness. Once that's achieved, flip the rice patty and do the same on the other side before stir frying the rice mixture.
5. Go crisper crazy.
While there are a ton of rules to the perfect rice consistency, the best fun of fried rice is that you can use practically any protein and vegetable ingredients you have o hand for your fried rice. You don't NEED anything. Just clean out that crisper and go nuts.
6. Go light on the sauce.
Soy sauce or vinegar and other non-oil liquids should be used sparingly. Too much will make your rice too water-logged and mushy.
7. Use the big pan.
Don't try to cram all those veggies into a tiny pan. Use a wok or a large pan and only attempt to make enough fried rice for a couple of servings at a time OR cook each food (egg, vegetables, protein) separately before adding it all back together for a quick stir right at the end.
And, when cooking fried rice, keep the pan hot. If you use the right amount of oil, your rice won't stick despite the heat.
Looking to try out a great fried recipe that incorporates these tips? Try this Vegetarian House Fried Rice recipe or the simple Vegetable Fried Rice recipe below.
Vegetable Fried Rice
Cook the rice as directed on the package, preferably the day before in order to let the rice get dry. If not, place the cooked rice in the freezer for a few hours.
Scramble eggs in wok or large saucepan.
Set aside on plate.
In wok or large saucepan, saute the vegetables if not yet cooked.
Set aside on plate. (If you add a protein, pan fry your protein and set it aside as well.)
Heat pan/wok to medium-high heat.
Add a little cooking oil and the cooked rice. Add dashes of aminos and avocado oil as you stir fry the rice. No need to douse the rice with this. Keep it light.
After fried rice is hot, add vegetables and scrambled eggs to the wok.
Season with salt and pepper to taste and stir fry until hot.
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