The Asian way of re-heating rice - by stir-frying it - is one of the easiest, most versatile techniques. It’s not just re-heated steamed rice, as it would be if you were using a steamer or microwave - it’s an entirely new dish, and one that can be enjoyed on its own.
To make the best fried rice, try these easy tips.
Use leftover rice.Fried rice almost certainly started as an efficient way to use up leftover rice, and that’s what you should use. Freshly cooked rice is too damp - the grains will stick together if you try to stir-fry them, resulting in a dish that’s heavy and wet. Rice that’s been refrigerated turns into hard grains that, when stir-fried (or heated in another way), become tender and moist again. The next time you make rice, cook an extra cupful or so of the grains; leftover rice keeps for several days in the fridge, and it also freezes well. It can be any kind of long- or short-grain rice. You can even make it with glutinous rice, although the results are entirely different.
Break up the clumps of rice before cooking it.If you were to just dump leftover rice straight from the fridge into the wok or skillet, you’d find that it’s taken on the shape of the container it was stored in, and the grains will be stuck together into clumps. It’s best to break up these clumps before putting the rice into the wok. Press the rice between the palms of your hands that have been dampened with cool water, so the grains don’t stick to them.
Use a wok (if you have one).A wok is the traditional implement, and it’s still the best at dispersing heat. Ideally, the wok will be well-seasoned cast iron or carbon steel. If you don’t have a wok, use your largest skillet so there’s more surface area.
Use high heat.Heating the wok (or skillet) before cooking the rice is important. While there are very few home kitchens that can replicate the powerful flame that you can find at a Chinese restaurant, you can make perfectly delicious fried rice on a regular stove. Just heat the wok well over the highest flame on your stove, before starting to cook.
Don’t use too many ingredients.Rice should be the main focus.
Don’t use too many wet ingredients.Good fried rice should be moist, but not wet - it’s not a risotto. If you do add a marinated ingredient, as in the dish of fried rice with salted fish and chicken, it’s stir-fried first, before adding the rice, so the excess liquid can evaporate. Some fried rice dishes are topped with saucy ingredients, but they’re not cooked together.
Use ingredients that are cut into fairly small pieces.Rice grains are small, so if you were to use large chunks of meat, seafood or vegetables, they would be out of proportion. Fried rice is a humble dish, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be refined.
Add the ingredients to the wok (or skillet) according to the time they take to cook - hard ingredients first, then moving onto the softer ones. Often, the rice is the last ingredient to be put in the wok.