ATK Kids

5 Tips for Flawless Freestyled Fried Rice

Follow these steps to ensure an exceptional fried rice every time.

Published Apr. 18, 2022.

Vegetable fried rice is a classic empty-out-the-fridge meal: You can polish off that vat of white rice you made to go with a stir-fry and use up those weeks-old veggies you got on an overly ambitious farmers’ market trip all in one (delicious) fell swoop. It’s a back-pocket dinner I love . . . in theory.

The problem? I typically improvise it, leading to an unbalanced sauce and unevenly cooked veggies—in other words, a fried-rice fail. Well, as I was flipping through The Complete Cookbook for Teen Chefs from ATK Kids, I came across a vegetable fried rice recipe that not only looks delicious but also seems like a solid place to start when I’ve got a purge-the-fridge fried rice on the menu. Follow our tips below to ace fried rice every time—no recipe needed.

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10 ingredients. 45 minutes. Quick, easy, and fresh weeknight recipes.

Start with Cooked and Cooled Rice

If you use warm, freshly cooked rice, it will clump together and turn mushy—not the texture you’re after here. For grains that stay separate, use cooked and cooled long-grain white rice. Why? The chilled rice undergoes a process called retrogradation, which firms up the grains so that they can handle a second blast of heat. 

Prep Your Ingredients Before Cooking

Fried rice comes together quickly, and there are a lot of moving parts and prep involved. We suggest preparing all the ingredients individually before you start cooking—this concept is known as mise en place. “Mising” your ingredients ensures that you’re not chaotically chopping up veggies or whisking together the sauce as an oiled skillet starts smoking. Kitchen disaster avoided.

The Complete Cookbook for Teen Chefs

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Whip Up a Well-Balanced Sauce

Adding a dash of this and a pour of that can lead to a sauce that’s all out of whack. To keep it well-balanced (and to keep the ingredient list short), make a simple stir-together sauce with 2 tablespoons of soy sauce (for saltiness and umami), 1 tablespoon of hoisin sauce (for sweetness), 1 teaspoon of unseasoned rice vinegar (for acidity), and 1 teaspoon of grated fresh ginger (for zing).

Be Strategic About Veggie Cookery

In my opinion, the trickiest part of stir-fries is knowing how to cut the veggies and when to add them to the skillet. After you’ve scrambled and cooked your eggs, add longer-cooking vegetables such as two carrots, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, and cut into ¼-inch-thick pieces; 1 cup of sliced mushrooms; 1 cup of broccoli florets; 1 cup of diced bell peppers; or 1 cup of snow peas, cut in half on the bias. Let them cook for 2 to 4 minutes until they’re tender but still a bit crisp. Then, mix in quick-cooking thawed frozen peas and minced garlic—you don’t want the garlic to burn!

Add Delicate Ingredients Last

After adding the rice and sauce and letting them heat through, stir in your scrambled eggs, along with bean sprouts and thinly sliced scallions. Adding these delicate veggies right before serving keeps them crisp and fresh-tasting.

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