The perfect fried rice – what you need to know

I won’t share with you exactly how many fried rice dishes I’ve made down through the years – it’s an embarrassing number. Lets just say: I love fried rice. If it’s in my pantry, fridge or freezer, you can also count on me having tried it in fried rice too. Spam fried rice, curry fried rice, turkey fried rice, heck even pot pie fried rice.

I’ve also eaten my fair share at restaurants too; side note, in a separate life, I’m also a professional food writer, and I’ve got 1000s of restaurant visits under my (straining) belt. With all of that said, I’ve learnt a lot. Here’s what I think makes the very best fried rice.

The basics of fried rice

Lets start with the essentials. These are the only ingredients you need to make a simple egg fried rice.

  • Leftover cooked long grain rice
  • Eggs
  • Soy sauce
  • Cooking oil

That’s it. No carrots, no peas, no weird spices.

Cooking a basic fried rice

First beat a couple of eggs in a cup or bowl, then season with salt and pepper. Next add to a pan with plenty of oil. I like simple canola oil for the neutral flavor. Cook the egg over a medium heat until the egg starts to form a pancake.

From there break it into a few pieces. The idea is to cook the egg until the point it stops being runny – if you add rice while there’s liquid, it will create mush. No one wants mush in fried rice. You don’t need to break the egg into hundreds of tiny pieces either, as you cook, it will naturally start to break up.

Next, add your rice. I often add it directly from the refrigerator to the pan. You’ll now want to cook over a high heat, and quickly. Break the clumps of rice down and toss with the egg and oil.

The last crucial step is to give the rice a good splash of soy sauce toward the end of cooking; don’t drown the rice, or again, mush. Once the right is sizzling hot, you’re good to plate.

Fancier fried rice

Here are a few more items I personally add to my fried rice.

First up, onion. I like to add some chopped white onion, at roughly the same time I add my rice. I don’t like the onion to cook too long, just enough to reduce the bitterness, but also to retain a little bite. As a finishing flurry I also like to add a small amount of green onion (the dark ends are best) if I have it to hand.

My favorite fried rice is chicken fried rice. It’s best to use already cooked proteins. In the case of chicken, a grocery store rotisserie chicken makes for awesome next day fried rice. Secret tip: you see all that chicken juice and fat at the bottom of the rotisserie chicken tray, drain that off and use it to make rice.

I like to finish my fried rice with a small amount of sesame oil. The nutty flavor really helps the flavors come to life. It’s a strong taste so use sparingly; also sesame oil will cook off quickly, so I use it as a final seasoning only, not a cooking oil.

MSG. I always use MSG. I know in the United States this is anathema, but go ahead and do some reading on the silly racism attached to MSG and how everyone started freaking out about MSG. Honestly, it’s fine, it’s great, it adds the X factor. It’s in so many food stuffs you eat and don’t know.

Tips on cooking fried rice

  • Use good quality rice from the get go. A good fried rice needs sturdy long grain rice that won’t break down into a mush. This means you need to start with leftover cooked rice that was good the previous day. Garbage rice will make garbage fried rice.
  • Don’t use warm rice. Just no. This dish MUST use pre-cooked and cooled rice. If you don’t have leftover rice, you can’t make fried rice.
  • Don’t add your rice until your eggs have solidified a little. Otherwise the egg liquid will simply coat your rice grains and you will end up with a very, very weird dish.
  • Cook hot, cook quickly. If you cook too long your rice will break down. In an ideal world you’re cooking in a wok over gas.
  • Don’t go overboard on adding ingredients. Less is more here. The more you add, the more you risk adding more moisture and say it with me – mush rice.
  • Just say no to peas and carrots. Whenever I see this at a restaurant I instantly start to worry.
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