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I just made fried rice earlier in a stainless steel frying pan to test the extent as to how much it will stick. I coated the pan with oil and initially placed garlic, then once the garlic was brown and aromatic, I added the rice. The rice sticked to the entire base of the pan and I already knew it was disaster then. Then adding an egg will compound this sticky mess and start to burn as they stick to the base of the pan and will taste like overcooked egg if left for long so I had to transfer the rice to a non-stick pan and just finish off.

I believe it is essential for the stainless steel pan to maintain some level of oil at all times else there will be nothing between the food and the pan which makes it stick. So what I think happened is that there was either not enough oil and/or the heat of the pan wasn't hot enough as well. It may be also possible that the rice absorbed the oil from the pan making the rest of the rice stick. But will that mean that each grain of rice should be coated will oil like in chinese/asian style fried rice? Typically each grain is shiny and the entire dish is very greasy. Another thing to consider is that the rice we used even if it was leftover from the refrigerator, it does feel a bit more starchy and less firm than those used in restaurant fried rice that I have eaten where there is a bite to it. The rice I used has great texture for eating as plain steamed rice, but probably not the best for fried rice. I do think it has a factor in why the rice sticked to the pan, but I am not sure.

Another factor is choosing the right pan. We almost always use non-stick pan (teflon I believe) since we often use minimal amounts of oil and don't prefer using lots of oil as it is not as healthy. Also, it was obviously easy and didn't end in disaster. When I think about it, I don't know of any other way I can make fried rice without a non-stick kind of pan. Traditionally chinese/asian restaurants will use a wok (I believe a carbon steel wok) that requires a seasoning to build over time to make in non-stick. But I would say, most households won't have this kind of pan to begin as well as the firepower to use them with so that means the pans of choice are often either non-stick (teflon/ceramic) pans, cast iron, or stainless steel. Cast iron is similar to carbon steel where a coating is needed to create that non-stick coating while teflon pans cannot use high temperature (which is often a must for good fried rice). I heard ceramic non-stick pans are not as non-stick compared to teflon but can withstand higher heat but I have never tried these. I doubt plenty of american households can maintain cast irons properly and the fact that it is was not built for stir frying due to its weight and shape, it is not ideal. Most likely the pans of choice of american households would then be either non-stick teflon wok/non-stick frying pans or stainless steel most of the time. So there is a huge dilemma and a trade off for every pan you use and there is a certain level of technique needed to be used to properly make proper fried rice.

What I want to know is what I did wrong why my fried rice became a total mess in my stainless steel pan. As well as the best way to create high quality fried rice at home that taste as good or close to the amazing chinese/asian restaurant fried rice.

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    You don't mention it, but fried rice is always made with day-old steamed rice that's sat in the fridge overnight. Leftover rice is harder than fresh steamed rice, and will be more resilient to being scraped and pushed around in a pan without becoming mush. It may also help it not stick somewhat too.
    – SnakeDoc
    Aug 31, 2021 at 23:09
  • I did mention using leftover rice taken from the refrigerator but my writing is so clumped up so it's quite hard to read the whole thing properly. I have checked quite a bit of videos in youtube on how to make fried rice using stainless steel pans but I don't see much references that help me get the results I need. It's often the water drop test and cooking eggs that you don't stir around
    – Pherdindy
    Aug 31, 2021 at 23:11
  • Ah, sorry, ya missed it. When I've made it at home, I've had some stick too, but most of it turned out ok. I used max heat on my stove, and let the pan get real hot for 5-10 minutes before putting the rice in. Chinese stir fry (which is what fried rice is) is always done on crazy hot woks... temperatures you can't really replicate at home unfortunately.
    – SnakeDoc
    Aug 31, 2021 at 23:23
  • Right I normally don't ask my dad since we can't seem to communicate well but he makes good fried rice (being traditionally asian hah). But he says the heat shouldn't be cranked up at max at first when making fried rice until everything is cooked/mixed then you only crank the heat to the maximum at the end and at this part you have to constantly mix the rice as fast as you can until everything is heated thoroughly. This is to try get close to "wok-hei". But he always abuses teflon pans on high heat which we always don't like seeing. It does make sense when I look at some pro chefs using woks
    – Pherdindy
    Sep 1, 2021 at 0:03
  • I guess what I really was looking for was a pan that wouldn't stick and could withstand high heat since I suppose stainless steel pans are just not meant for it. I was just curious if there was someone who could give insight on how to make fried rice properly as well using stainless steel. Going to get myself a carbon steel wok and learn to season it. Even with a home oven I think it would still be better than any other pan and teflon
    – Pherdindy
    Sep 1, 2021 at 0:05

1 Answer 1

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Three parts:

  1. Use a carbon steel wok, cast iron pan, or non-stick pan (in that order of preference)
  2. Use cooked rice that is dry with separated grains
  3. Don't use a lot of sauce

You will not be able to make good fried rice without sticking in a stainless steel pan.

Fun watch, which talks a lot about the requirements for fried rice: Alex French Guy's series on making perfect fried rice. This video talks about what to use if you don't have a good wok, and the series in general covers a lot of what you need to know about fried rice.

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  • The carbon steel wok will become seasoned and therefore more non-stick over repeated use, right? Perhaps that's part of the key too.
    – SnakeDoc
    Sep 1, 2021 at 0:23
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    Oh right I remember watching this guy's series with the chinese chef. I forgot about it. But looking at the heat control he does ramp up the heat at the end part after toasting the rice which confirms what my dad said. Thanks you really need some kind of non-stick pan for fried rice for sure now and stainless steel is just out of the question.
    – Pherdindy
    Sep 1, 2021 at 0:24
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    @SnakeDoc carbon steel wok seasoning is similar to that of a cast iron you can put thin layers of oil with high smoke point and you put it under high heat to have some kind of polymerization and make it non-stick. Repeat several times. Then I know cooking also improves this coating over time as long as you don't get it destroyed by using harmful substances like acid
    – Pherdindy
    Sep 1, 2021 at 0:26

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