Fried rice is a great base for your Chinese takeout from panda express or a great way to use leftover rice.
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Most home cooks and even professional chefs say that frying your leftover rice is a great way to reduce waste and they actually recommend pre-cooked, refrigerator-cooled rice for the best homemade fried rice.
Once rice has been cooked and then cooled any extra starch is removed from the rice. This helps to remove the stodgy/sticky feeling you get with overcooked or oversaturated rice, drying your rice out and making it perfect for frying.
Leftover rice does however come with a warning label, both the CDC and the FDA recommend only reheating rice once if necessary.
Once rice has been boiled it starts to cultivate a bacteria called Bacillus cereus. This bacteria can cause nausea and vomiting so it's best to try and avoid it.
The bacteria only really starts growing if the rice is left to cool down slowly so to avoid complications we would recommend refrigerating your rice as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, Bacillus cereus cannot be completely killed with heat so the more times the rice is heated and then left to cool the more prevalent the bacteria will be.
For this reason, we would not recommend reheating homemade fried rice if you used leftover rice to make it in the first place.
That being said, reheating rice once is perfectly safe as long as it was stored correctly and fried rice from your local takeout is normally made with fresh rice and is therefore completely safe to reheat.
Frying leftover rice gives you the best results for homemade fried rice and is honestly one of the easiest ways to make fried rice.
We’ll include a way to reheat plain rice and turn it into fried rice that would make uncle Roger proud alongside the best way to reheat your leftover P.F Chang’s.
It is also one of the most filling dishes on any menu (this is why they offer so much at the all-you-eat).
Inevitable you’ll be left with half a takeout box or half your wok filled and you don’t want to just get rid of that delicious, golden, ricey goodness.
How To Fry Leftover Plain Rice
Frying leftover rice is extremely easy and to achieve that authentic oriental taste you don’t need any special ingredients. It’s actually completely linked to the method in which you prepare your rice.
In Chinese cooking, there is a term “Wok Hei” which translated means ‘breath of the wok’. This is that intoxicating taste that most people would think is completely achievable without a wok, they’re kind of right but not completely.
There are many ways to achieve that ‘wok hei’ and it’s to do with the amount of heat you use.
‘Wok Hei’ is actually a controlled level of char that delicately cloaks each individual component that is added to the wok and in this case, each grain of rice.
To achieve this sensation we need heat and a lot of it. If you have a wok and a gas burner then whack it on but if not, can use a large cast iron skillet, a flat bottomed wok on an induction cooker, or a large steel frying pan.
The trick is to heat up your utensil to a smoking point, with a wok and gas burner this is quite simple but with a frying pan on an induction cooker, you may have to leave it to heat for a little while.
Once you’ve got a searingly hot pan you’re ready to go.
Now a quick warning this dish will cook extremely fast so make sure you have all of your ingredients ready to throw into whichever stir-fry gear you choose to use.
What you’ll need (Ingredients):
- 3 tablespoons of any neutral oil.
- 3 large eggs (beaten thoroughly).
- 1 ½ to 2 cups of cooked rice.
- 2 teaspoons light soy sauce.
- 3 scallions (sliced thinly)
- A pinch of salt or MSG to taste.
How to cook it:
- Preheat your wok/frying pan/skillet until lightly smoking: Make sure to preheat your cooking vessel as this not only helps to achieve ‘wok hei’ but it also creates a non-stick surface to properly stir-fry on.
- Add oil: Add 1 tablespoon of your oil to the pan and swirl it around to coat as much of the surface as possible.
- Add your beaten eggs to the center of the wok and cook for about 30 seconds still on high heat. Flip your eggs and brown the other side for about 20 seconds. Push your eggs up the side of the wok or away from the center of your pan.
- Add another tablespoon of oil to the center of the wok/pan and swirl once again to coat.
- Add all your rice to the center of the wok/pan and slip your eggs on top of the rice. Then using a spatula break the eggs and rice up, tossing and mixing as you break them up. Stir-fry this mixture until the rice starts to pop away from the pan around 2-3 minutes.
- Add your final tablespoon of oil around the rim of the pan (circular pattern around the rice pile in the center) and then add your soy sauce in the same style and stir fry until all your rice and eggs are coated. A common mistake people make when making fried rice is adding the soy sauce or similar liquids to the center of the rice, this makes it harder to distribute sauces throughout the rice. Adding the sauce around the hot pan first allows it to caramelize slightly, adding a layer of complexity to the flavor.
- Add your scallions and msg or salt to taste, remove from the heat and toss to combine everything.
- Serve immediately.
How To Reheat Leftover Takeout Fried Rice
Now that we’ve gone over how to reheat rice into the best fried rice you will ever eat, let's talk about reheating that leftover takeout from last night.
We’ll go through a few different methods of how to reheat your rice, some will result in much tastier results and some will work out way better for timing.
We’ll go through the pros and cons of each method and we will crown 1 as THE best method.
There are a few essentials you should know before venturing on, to leftover land. Firstly check to see if your rice is safe for consumption.
If you’ve left your rice out on the countertop overnight and forgot to refrigerate it then do not reheat it, assume it’s off and throw it in the trash.
If however, you remembered to refrigerate it, crack open the container and take a big whiff, if your eyes start to water from the pungent aroma emanating from the rice, trash it.
Unless it smells exactly like fried rice or nothing at all assume that it has turned and trash it.
For the best results sprinkle a small amount of water onto the rice before it goes into the refrigerator. That thing is a dehydrating cooler box and you should be wary of that.
Once you’ve deemed your rice to be edible you’ve just got to decide on a method. This is going to be an easier decision to make because it’s dependent on 2 things: what tools do you have and how much time do you have.
The microwave is always going to be the quickest option but it produces subpar results and the oven can turn out like a clay-pot rice (a special experience in itself) but can obviously take some extra time and energy.
The thing we’re going to try and overcome with our methods is the drying out of the rice. Like we’ve stated above refrigerating rice dries it out and removes moisture from it.
With each method, we’ll give you our tricks on making that rice fluffy and smooth once again.
Method 1 - Microwave:
Using the microwave is going to be the quickest and easiest method for reheating your fried rice.
To successfully achieve the best fried rice you’re going to have to reintroduce some of the lost moisture back into the rice. For this method we’re going to need a couple of things:
- Microwave safe dish.
- Splatter guard or microwave cover or a wet paper towel.
- 1-2 tablespoons of water depending on the amount of rice.
- 1 tablespoon of melted butter or vegetable oil.
Once you’ve gathered everything together you’re ready to go.
- Remove your rice from its container and place it in your microwave-safe dish.
- Add your water and oil/butter to the rice and use a fork to break up any larger clumps.
- Cover the rice with your splatter guard or wet paper towel (use multiple if 1 doesn’t cover the whole surface).
- Microwave on high for 2 ½ to 3 minutes, stopping and stirring in the middle.
- Check to see if the rice is piping hot all the way through, if not place it back in the microwave and blast it again for 1-minute segments until piping hot.
Method 2 - Wok/Frying Pan:
The best method to reheat fried rice is going to be refrying it. Fried rice tastes and feels the way it does because of the fact that it has been fried at high temperatures with oil.
The best thing you can do for it is to return it to the wok. As it’s going back into the wok you can at this point add eggs, pre-cooked meat or other vegetables if you’d like, make sure the vegetables aren’t frozen and that they are diced into small chunks.
Here’s a couple of things you’ll need:
- A wok/frying pan.
- A tight fitting lid.
- 1 tablespoon of neutral oil.
- 3 - 4 Tablespoons of water.
- Optional extras if wanted.
Again this cooks fast so make sure you have all the ingredients ready.
- Preheat your wok/frying pan on medium to medium-high heat and add your oil.
- Cook off any extras and place them to the side in a separate dish.
- Re-oil the cooking surface and add the rice, using a wooden spoon to break apart any large clumps.
- Pour over the water and cover with a lid.
- Wait for steam to stop and add your extra ingredients.
- Remove from heat, toss to combine and serve immediately.
Method 3 - Saucepan:
Re-steaming your rice in a saucepan is a great way to add the moisture back into your fried rice. If you haven’t got a wok we would recommend this method.
Because the heat won’t be as intense you can go about adding some butter to this method instead of oil to make the rice richer. Here’s what you’ll need:
- A large saucepan with a fitting light.
- 1-2 tablespoons of Butter.
- ¼ cup of water.
This one takes a little while so you can sit back for a minute.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
- Add the rice to the saucepan and break up and larger chunks.
- Poor over the water and affix the lid.
- Leave to steam for about 10 minutes and give it a quick stir before serving.
Method 4 - Oven:
If you have a casserole dish this method works really well and offers an opportunity to add some extra flavourful ingredients like sambol, sriracha, or gochujang.
The extra flavor really kicks this leftover into another gear and creates a brand new dish that can be enjoyed by itself.
What we’re trying to achieve here is a slightly crisped layer between the rice and dish. This extra texture packs big flavor and is reminiscent of a Chinese clay pot. Here’s what you’ll want to grab:
- A casserole dish or heavy-bottomed baking tray.
- A fitted lid or tinfoil.
- 3 tablespoons of butter.
- 1 tablespoon of water.
- Spicy mix or paste for flavor.
Here’s how you put it together.
- Preheat the oven to 300 °F.
- Mix your butter and spices together and add them to the bottom of the casserole dish.
- Place the butter and spices into the oven for 1-2 minutes to melt the butter.
- Place your rice on top of this tasty layer and again break up any larger clumps.
- Spritz the top of the rice with the water and cover it.
- Place it in the oven for 20 minutes.
- Serve immediately.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you moisten leftover fried rice?
If you have fried rice leftover, instead of wasting it, you can reheat it to enjoy as an accompaniment to a mea another day. You will likely need to moisten the rice before eating it if it has begun to stick together.
You will need to moisten it by adding water before reheating it. Add around ½ of a cup or 1-2 tablespoons of water and then return it to the heat.
Regardless of how you heat your rice whether this is by frying it, steaming it, or microwaving it ensure that you keep it covered. You can also add water to the rice before putting it into the refrigerator.
Before contemplating reheating rice, you must ensure that it is safe for consumption.
How do you reheat fried food and keep it crispy?
Fried foods are typically sold in fast food restaurants because they are intended to be consumed shortly after they have been cooked. If fried food is allowed time to cool it is more likely to become soggy.
Fried foods are particularly moist and if this steam breaks down, when it is reheated it will develop a mushy consistency. The method of reheating required will differ depending on the food.
Though fried rice can be reheated in the microwave, this doesn’t apply to all types of fried foods. Fried foods have more chance of staying crispy when they are exposed to dry heat.
Because of this, you should place your fried foods on a tray before putting them into a preheated oven. Ensure that they aren’t left to cook in a lot of excess greases because this can also affect the food's crispiness.
Also when placing your foods on the cooking tray ensure that it is evenly spread and turned frequently for the duration of time at which it is reheating. It is likely that for the majority of fried foods this will be between 10 and 20 minutes.
Regardless of which method you choose to go for, fried rice will turn out great as long as you find a way to add some of the lost moisture back.
If you found the rice to be a bit bland the night before reheating is a great time to add extra flavors like some fresh garlic.
We wouldn’t recommend adding extra spices or flavors to the microwaved rice as it doesn’t have enough time to cook down or infuse into the rice so you’ll be left with uncooked spices, etc.
The undisputed best way to reheat fried rice is in a wok. Rice is fairly difficult to reheat without making it chewy or tough but adding a wok into the mix really helps with these issues.
‘Fresh’ fried rice from leftover plain rice is a great way to use up leftover rice and is honestly one of our favorite dishes and goes well with most any dish.
To make the fried rice dish vegan just switch out the egg for an egg replacer or a teaspoon of nutritional yeast right at the end.
The main component of flavor in this dish is the slightly charred soy sauce that goes in near the end.
Remember if your rice hasn’t been refrigerated the night before then it’s safest to trash it.
The bacteria spores start growing as the rice starts to cool and thrive in room temperature rice. Make sure you refrigerate your rice and only reheat it once.
As long as you follow these easy steps you shouldn’t have any issue getting your fried rice back to the fluffy, oily goodness it was when you first got it. Happy reheating!
Make sure you check out our guide on the difference between egg rolls and spring rolls.