Why Day-Old Rice Makes the Best Fried Rice

published Sep 11, 2014
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(Image credit: Faith Durand)

Fried rice is the ultimate easy one-pot meal: starch, veggies, and proteins all thrown together and cooked in a matter of mere minutes. It’s economical and I love to watch the transformation of a handful of seemingly random leftovers or ingredients into something very satisfying.

Making fried rice isn’t an exact science: you can throw in a lot of veggies or keep it to mostly rice instead. The most important thing that you need to keep in mind when making fried rice though? Start with cold, or even frozen, day-old rice. Here’s why.

While the first step in making fried rice certainly involves cooking rice, the timing of it is what’s important. In this case, fresh isn’t actually better. If you start with sticky, warm, just-cooked rice, your fried rice will turn out soggy, without those distinct chewy grains that a good fried rice has.

Instead, cook the rice at least a day ahead of time and refrigerate. This helps to dry the grains out enough to give your fried rice a good texture. Rather than looking at this as a nuisance, I like to think of it as a great make-ahead step. I mean, once the rice is cooked, making the actual fried rice only takes a few minutes!

(Image credit: Faith Durand)

Tips for Making Rice Ahead of Time

Here are a few tips on making rice ahead of time to make it even easier:

  • If you’re cooking rice for another meal, make double the amount for a future fried rice meal.
  • Doggy bag the steamed rice you didn’t eat at the restaurant and bring that home to use for fried rice.
  • Not sure when you’ll get around to making fried rice but have leftover rice? Freeze it! If frozen properly, you can throw the frozen rice right into the pan and it’ll thaw immediately.
(Image credit: Anjali Prasertong)

Fried Rice Recipes