Fried Rice in Stainless Steel Pan: Is It Possible?

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A stainless steel pan is perfect for making stews, sauces, and so much more! However, have you wondered if you can cook fried rice in a stainless steel pan? 

Professional chefs and home cooks alike flaunt their beautiful woks while stir-frying fried rice. Yet, I remember when I didn’t own one and wanted to cook fried rice with my forever-favorite stainless steel cookware. 

After a series of failures, I found it possible to make fried rice in a stainless steel pan.

Stainless steel offers an even heat distribution for fried rice, but its surface isn’t non-stick. To remedy this, you first need to turn the surface into a non-stick one by heating oil at a high temperature and then letting the pan cool. Once done, you can follow any fried rice recipe. It’s that easy!

Why Is The Right Cookware Important for Fried Rice?

Hot wok on gas stove, black backdrop, space.

When I didn’t know much about cooking fried rice, I used to think you could use any type of cookware for it. Well, I was wrong, as the type of cookware you use affects the texture and flavor of your fried rice. 

Generally, three types of cookware are considered best for fried rice. These include carbon steel woks, cast iron pans, and non-stick pans. The reasons why we prefer these over other pans are:

Proper Heat Distribution

Fried rice and all the other vegetables in it ideally need a slight crunch, which is only possible when each rice grain or vegetable chunk gets even heat to turn crispy. 

Carbon steel woks and cast iron pans are known for their high heat distribution and retention. Therefore, they allow you to cook fried rice to perfection.

No Sticking or Mushiness

Mushiness and fried rice don’t belong together! Hence, choosing the right cookware is essential to prevent your fried rice from sticking to the pan or turning mushy. 

Non-stick pans and well-seasoned carbon steel or cast-iron pans have a smooth, frictionless hydrophobic layer. It acts as a barrier between the rice grains and the pan’s surface and prevents rice from sticking. 

Added Flavor

Some pans, like a carbon steel wok, impart their own unique flavors to the dish. This flavor is known as “Wok Hei” or “wok breath.” 

When you stir-fry rice at high heat on a carbon steel wok, you’ll get a smoky flavor and aroma. This fact is one of the primary reasons people recommend using a wok for fried rice.

Can You Use a Stainless Steel Pan for Fried Rice?

Metal pot on hot stove with timer in new kitchen. Cooking tools idea.

Carbon steel woks, non-stick pans, and cast-iron cookware are ideal for cooking fried rice. However, what if you don’t have access to any of those types of cookware? 

What about stainless steel pans? After all, they also distribute heat and cook evenly. 

I tried stir-frying rice on my stainless steel pan once, and the results were underwhelming.

Stainless steel does a decent job at adding the “crunch” to the rice and the vegetables. Sadly, most stainless steel pans don’t provide a non-stick surface, so my fried rice stuck to the surface, which was a pain to clean. 

Instead of spending 15 minutes on fried rice, I spent over 30 minutes scrubbing the rice from the pan!

There’s one good thing about stainless steel. Although it isn’t inherently non-stick, you can turn it into one by following a few easy steps. 

After many trials, I realized that using stainless steel for cooking fried rice is possible. It may take longer due to the additional processes needed to render the steel non-stick.

How to Cook Fried Rice in a Stainless Steel Pan? 

Fried rice with veggies in black bowl: peppers, green onion, peas, and broccoli!

Here is the method that has worked for me to cook fried rice in a stainless steel pan. 

Step 1: Gather the Ingredients

Before we get into the actual cooking, gather the ingredients listed below to avoid running around after you begin.  

  • Two tablespoons of vegetable or canola oil
  • Three garlic cloves (minced)
  • One diced carrot 
  • Half a cup of boiled corn
  • Any other vegetables of your choice 
  • Two tablespoons of soy sauce 
  • Half a tablespoon of sesame oil 
  • Two cups of refrigerated rice 

Step 2: Turn the Stainless Steel Pan Into Non-Stick (Important!)

If you’re using a stainless steel pan for fried rice, this is the most critical step, so don’t skip it.  

In this step, you’ll turn your pan into a non-stick one to prevent the rice from sticking to the surface. 

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. First, heat the pan on medium-high heat for two minutes.
  2. Next, add two tablespoons of vegetable oil or grapeseed oil. It should cover the entire pan’s surface, including the sides.
  3. Allow the oil to heat up for at least five to six minutes.
  4. Once the oil starts smoking, remove the pan immediately from the stove; don’t let it get too hot.
  5. Allow the pan and the oil to cool completely. 
  6. Wipe off any extra oil that you see on the pan’s surface. 

The heated oil layer will stick to the pan’s surface and become a temporary non-stick barrier between the rice and the pan.

You can also check out this video to understand this step in detail. 

Step 3: Sauté Minced Garlic and Vegetables

Once you’ve prepared the stainless steel pan for cooking, add two tablespoons of vegetable oil and let it heat for two to three minutes. 

Then, add minced garlic to the pan and sauté it. 

After the garlic has turned golden brown, add chopped vegetables like carrots, boiled corn kernels, bok choy, french beans, etc., to the pan. Keep sautéing and stir-frying the vegetables on high heat. 

Step 4: Add the Rice 

Next, add two cups of leftover cooked basmati or jasmine rice to the stir-fried vegetables. Then, mix everything well using a spatula and keep stir-frying the rice. 

Ensure that you combine all the ingredients well. You don’t want to end up with vegetables on only one side of the rice.

Optional: If you want protein, add scrambled eggs or tofu to the mix.  

Step 5: Add the Sauces 

Drizzle two tablespoons of soy sauce and half a tablespoon of sesame oil into the fried rice. I also like adding other sauces, like fish or oyster sauce, for a richer flavor.

Then, sauté for three to five minutes until everything is well combined.

Once done, transfer the fried rice to a bowl and serve it hot.

Additional Tips to Make Perfect Fried Rice in Stainless Steel

If you’re still scared of ruining your fried rice while cooking it in stainless steel, I’ve got you! 

Here are some additional tips that have helped me prevent fried rice from sticking to the pan’s surface. 

Refrigerate Rice Well

Remember that you should never use fresh rice for fried rice, as it contains too much moisture. Trust me, it is a recipe for disaster. Instead, use leftover or refrigerated rice.

After you’ve boiled the rice for fried rice, spread it on a tray and keep it in the fridge for at least 30 to 40 minutes

Tip: Since you’re using stainless steel, I recommend storing the cooked rice in the fridge overnight to remove all extra moisture. 

Cook Rice in Batches

If you’re cooking a huge quantity of fried rice in stainless steel, fry it in batches. 

When you overcrowd the pan too much, there is a high chance that your rice will burn or turn mushy. It may also lead to uneven heat distribution, which can ruin the dish.

Keep Stirring Continuously 

Don’t allow the rice and vegetables to sit on the pan’s surface. Continuously stir and sauté everything at medium-high heat to prevent the ingredients from sticking.

Don’t Add Too Many Wet Ingredients 

There are many vegetables and sauces with a high water content. For instance, lettuce, cucumber, zucchini, and cabbage contain excess moisture, which facilitates sticking. 

I suggest adding everything slowly and judiciously; don’t add all ingredients simultaneously.

Final Thoughts

Fried rice sticking to the pan causes two problems: it ruins the dish’s taste and texture. Additionally, you’ll have to scrub the stuck rice and vegetables from the pan’s surface. 

I hope that this article helps you cook fried rice in a stainless steel pan without facing any limitations.

Saniya Baxi Avatar


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