How to Make the Best Fried Rice of Your Life
Sure, takeout is always an option, but what if I told you that you could live your best fried rice life all from the comfort of your own kitchen? The best part about taking matters into your own hands in the world of fried rice is that the combinations are endlessly customizable–and who can say no to that kind of power? From techniques to ingredients to timing, there are plenty of moving parts to a basic fried rice situation that can make or break your meal. Here’s what you need to know to make the best homemade fried rice.
Always Use Leftover Rice
You heard me–sometimes freshest isn’t the best. Rice that is at least a day old is drier, meaning that when it’s thrown into a hot, oily situation, it’s much more likely to absorb flavor and crisp up. If you use fresh rice straight out of the pot, the rice may be too fluffy and because of this, it might not get crackly and crunchy in the pan. A travesty, indeed. Either make a big pot of rice in the beginning of the week or save an extra container from your last takeout order and keep it stashed away in the fridge.
Prep Your Ingredients Before You Start Cooking
I’m going to be honest and say that I really struggle with this tip. I’m the kind of home cook who likes to figure it out as I go, so it’s very rare that I’ll have a majority of my ingredients prepped and chopped before I turn the stove on and start cooking. In the case of fried rice, it’s in your best interest to have a good amount of the prep work done before you start chugging away over high heat. Stir-fries are quick, and the last thing you want to do is burn your food or forget something because you didn’t have the next component ready.
Start with MEAT
Think of making fried rice like getting dressed for a snowy day–it’s all about layers. Start with your meat of choice (if including) and oil in a wok or large skillet on medium high heat and let it cook until the meat is crispy and has released some fat/juices into the pan. Whether you’re using leftovers or starting with a raw cut of meat cut into pieces, make sure everything is fully cooked through and that the exterior of your protein is ultra-crisp. Remove the meat with a slotted spoon in order to leave all those flavorful drippings in the pan for your next layer. You’ll add this meat back to the wok right before you’re about to serve the dish.
Everything should be added in descending order of how long it takes to cook. Anything that will take longer than a couple minutes should be added first, so go ahead and toss in chopped cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, or other veggies with similar cook times. Mushrooms, scallions, onions, and garlic don’t need as much time, so those can come in next. If you’re using frozen veggies, that’s A-okay. No need to thaw those–just dump them straight in and make sure you get them heated all the way through. Leave these in the pan before you add the rice.
Keep Adding Oil
What makes fried rice so delicious is that it’s...fried. In order to ensure that all the components receive the love that they deserve, you’ll likely need to continue to add oil as you add more components. When it’s time to add your rice to the wok or skillet, go ahead and add some more oil too so that there’s more fat in the pan to help the grains crisp up. Get in there with a wooden spoon or spatula to make sure all the components are evenly dispersed and that the oil is coming into contact with all the parts.
Flavor it Up
Of course, the most common addition to fried rice is soy sauce, but there’s plenty of other sauces that you can add to liven up the concoction (although there’s nothing wrong with sticking to good ol’ S&P). Tamari, fish sauce, hoisin, or mirin can all be added for an added punch of salty, umami flavor. A quick drizzle of sesame oil can also add a rich, nutty pop to the dish.
Be Quick With Your Egg
Remember, by the time you’ve reached the point where you’re ready to add your egg, that pan is going to be extremely hot, so you’ll need to move quickly. Whisk your eggs (1-2, depending how egg-y you want it) before you pour them into the pan with the rice and veggies, and once they’re in there, keep them moving until they’ve just barely cooked through. If you let them go for too long, they’re going to be a hard scramble rather than lacy and threaded throughout the entire concoction.
Don’t Forget the Finishing Touches
Just because you’ve brought your meat back to the wok and your fried rice is finished cooking does not mean that your work here is done. You better go ahead and give the dish a final sprinkling of your favorite garnishes. From fresh herbs (cilantro or chives) to something crunchy (toasted cashews or crispy onions) or an added hit of spiciness (red pepper flakes or a couple glugs of hot sauce), you simply cannot serve your fried rice until it’s buried under a heavy handful of toppings. Now tell me, how can you possibly be tempted by takeout with a creation like this?