Faking day-old rice for fried rice
August 8, 2018 10:48 AM   Subscribe

Fried rice is best made with day-old leftover rice. Ok, sure. But we don't eat rice with most meals, we rarely end up with leftovers when we do, and I don't want to turn fried rice into a recipe I have to start 24 hours ahead of time. Is there a way of cooking rice that gives it (something approximating) the right dried-out texture without a 24-hour wait?
posted by nebulawindphone to Food & Drink (10 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
It won't cut your wait time to zero, but spread the cooked rice out on a cookie sheet and put it (uncovered) in the refrigerator. It's been a few years since I've done this, but IIRC it should only take a few hours to dry out properly.
posted by DrGail at 10:51 AM on August 8, 2018 [9 favorites]

I use those microwave in a bag plain rice, like Uncle Bens or Tilda. I don’t microwave it, just fry it out the bag. Leftover rice is still better but this works for me.
posted by like_neon at 10:56 AM on August 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Like DrGail, I can vouch for the spread-it-out-on-a cookie-sheet method. I do this all the time with brown rice, which tends to get less soggy anyway. I don't bother to refrigerate -- an hour on the counter works fine. Serious Eats did some research; Kenji's rules here.
posted by libraryhead at 10:57 AM on August 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'm Asian. Many of my friends are Asian. My family has been making fried rice for, well, ever. We all make absolutely delicious fried rice with freshly cooked rice that's maybe been cooled for a few minutes. So, if drying out the rice is a big deal for you, don't sweat it - your fried rice will be just as great if you don't cool it down! (This is what Kenji says also.)
posted by Everydayville at 11:16 AM on August 8, 2018 [14 favorites]

Look no further than this Food Lab article on Serious Eats for info and techniques for fried rice. According to Kenji, it's not the age of the rice (and retrograded starch) that makes for good fried rice, but rather the surface dryness of the rice. He got the best results with fresh rice that he spread onto a sheet pan and held under a fan for an hour. Second best was fresh rice spread out on a pan to steam dry for a few minutes. Third best was day-old. YMMV, of course.
posted by slkinsey at 11:45 AM on August 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

I'm with @Everydayville, fried rice works just fine with rice that's straight out of the cooker. My wife is Korean and we do it this way all the time. Never heard of using "leftover" rice.
posted by Awfki at 12:14 PM on August 8, 2018

I'll add that you do want to make sure your rice isn't overcooked. Perfectly al dente rice of a variety that doesn't tend to get soft and sticky and clumpy (short grain is typically better than long grain in that respect) will do just fine for friend rice when freshly cooked. Overcooked rice of any sort doesn't do well for fried rice. Adding a tablespoon of olive oil or butter when you cook your rice also helps the grains stay separate.
posted by Everydayville at 12:21 PM on August 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

Cook's Illustrated does a version with brown rice, without drying the rice at all. The recipe is behind a paywall, but here's a video that walks through all the steps.
posted by O9scar at 12:40 PM on August 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

My dad used to own a restaurant and when he needed to prepare rice for fried rice he'd just set it out in his big colander in front of a fan and stir in once in a while.
posted by Constance Mirabella at 2:06 PM on August 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

I spread it out on a plate and put it in the freezer for a while so it dries out. Then I cook it in a screaming hot wok so it fries and doesn’t steam and go mushy.
posted by Jubey at 5:30 PM on August 8, 2018

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