Budget Cooking 101: Fried Rice

July 30th, 2008 by katie


One of the easiest budget foods you can make is fried rice. It can be a filling side dish or a complete meal, you can load it with eggs, meat, veggies, nuts, even fruit, or you can have it plain or with any combination of ingredients. The entire purpose of fried rice is to give new life to bits of leftover meats, veggies, and rice-sort of an alternative to “clean out the fridge soup night.” With that said, fried rice is more of a concept than a recipe. There are a few tips that will help make your fried rice even tastier and more economical. Here are the ten steps to great fried rice:

  1. Start with cold rice. You want to fry your rice in hot oil from the cold, dry chunky state-breaking it apart as it warms up and hydrates in the seasonings and oil. Warm or hot rice will give you rice patties or rice mush. If you are planning a fried rice meal get your rice made and into the fridge the night before.
  2. Ok, how do you make fried rice even more economical? I mean, it’s already rice, right? Well, you know those containers of white rice that come with every take-out meal even though no one eats them? Dump them in a baggie and throw them in your freezer. Keep adding to the bag and after a few visits from the delivery guy you’ll have a free dinner waiting to thaw out and fry up. Same goes for all the little bits of leftover rice you would just throw out because its not enough to bother saving.
  3. Keep the heat on the highest setting. You will need that heat to get your rice warmed all the way through. Also the oil will be more fluid over the surface of a very hot pan keeping your rice from sticking as it warms up.
  4. Use your largest surface area pan or griddle. You want lots of surface area so as many grains as possible can be in contact with the hot oil. Also there will be lots of tossing and stirring so make sure your pan is big enough to hold your rice plus ingredients.
  5. Cook your meats first then reserve or better yet use already cooked leftovers, but still warm them up in the pan and get a good color on them if you want-they won’t get this opportunity once mixed into the rice.
  6. Cook long-cooking veggies first then reserve. Minced garlic, shallots, onion, celery, carrots, broccoli and other veggies that will need time to cook and soften need to be added to the pan just before your cold rice. Once you have a pan over high heat with hot oil, add these veggies and immediately remove the pan from the heat for a few minutes so they don’t burn. Then place the pan back on the heat and add the cold rice. The vegetables will continue to soften and cook as the rice heats.
  7. Next, if you like scrambled egg in your rice add it as follows. Push the rice away from one side of the pan or griddle. Allow some oil to heat in the spot then either pour your lightly beaten eggs into that spot or if you’re feeling lucky crack your eggs into the pan then quickly scramble. Once eggs are set, break up with your spoon and stir into the rice.
  8. Add nuts, like sesame seeds or cashews, the same way as the eggs. Push your rice to the side, clearing off a hot spot on the pan and pour your nuts there. Allow them to toast in the hot pan until colored and aromatic then stir into the rest of the rice.
  9. Taste your fried rice and season with salt, ginger or garlic powder, soy sauce, rice vinegar, teriyaki sauce, fish sauce, or whatever you like. Just keep in mind that you don’t want to make the rice too wet and keep your heat high so the rice continues to fry and not steam.
  10. Add short-cook veggies and fruits last. Just before you take the pan off the heat add your ingredients that really just need time to warm up like peas, bean sprouts, or pineapple chunks. Also a good time to stir your meat back in. Mix and toss until everything is warm and well combined.
  11. One of the biggest complaints about home-made fried rice is that compared to the greasy, buttery fried rice from a restaurant it is far too dry. The final, optional step to making restaurant-quality fried rice: remove the pan from the heat and stir in several tablespoons of butter just until it melts and combines. Then serve!


Read more about Budget Cooking and other uses for chicken legs.

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Posted in Budget, Easy, Fast, Main Dish, Sides, Tips and Tricks

3 Responses

  1. Jeannie

    Thanks so much for the tips! I’ve never had it explained this way before.

  2. Lesley


  3. Karen

    I used your recipe/process tonight for dinner to make pork fried rice. My 18 year old son, who doesn’t like veggies, loved it. I think he had three bowls full. Thank you!

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About chaos

cha·os -noun 1. a condition or place of great disorder or confusion. My chaotic kitchen is the result of three kids, two adults, dog, cat, and fish, a food obsession, a wine drinking hobby, and too few hours in the day. Between trying to feed a family of five healthy, happy meals, watching my weight, saving my pennies, and staying partially sane I have picked up a few tricks along the way. So here they are: the very best tips, tricks, and recipes from my chaotic kitchen-to yours!

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