Why Use Day Old Rice for Fried Rice: 3 Reasons Behind It

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Day old rice in a white bowl and fried rice in wooden bowl with chopsticks with text "why use day old rice for fried rice"

Do you often wonder how to make restaurant-style fried rice? If so, you might have read several online suggestions regarding the best methods. 

When I first became obsessed with making the perfect fried rice at home, the one tip I always saw was to fry day-old rice. The questions in my head were endless. After all, why use day-old rice for fried rice when fresh rice is much better? 

What I learned is that day-old rice contains less moisture and stickiness. Its dry texture allows you to achieve the fluffiness required for fried rice. It also ensures that each grain crisps up uniformly and absorbs the flavors. Cooking fried rice using leftover rice is easier as it does not stick to the pan, unlike fresh rice.

Why Should You Use Day-old Rice for Fried Rice?

Rice in an old bowl.

The more I cooked fried rice, the more I realized why fresh rice cannot compete with day-old rice for frying! There was a massive difference between the results; read on to learn why.

1. Day-Old Rice Has Better Texture

Traditional Chinese fried rice is fluffy and dry, so you must ensure that your boiled rice remains dry even after stir-frying. 

Generally, refrigerated day-old rice becomes dry because the cooling process removes its moisture. Therefore, it won’t ruin the fluffiness of your fried rice. 

I cannot say the same about steaming-hot fresh rice as it contains excess moisture. When you stir-fry fresh rice, there is a risk that it may release water and turn your fried rice into a soggy mess. The individual grains may also clump together and ruin the consistency.

As you can see in the images below, the texture difference between making fried rice using leftover rice versus freshly boiled rice is substantial.

Day old rice used as fried rice in a bowl with a logo of Fooducopia on the upper left side of the image.

I took the above picture when I made fried rice with day-old rice. As you can see, each grain is separate, and there’s also no sogginess. 

Fresh rice used as fried rice in a bowl with a logo of Fooducopia on the upper left side of the image.

On the other hand, the texture of fried rice using fresh rice was disappointing. You can see that the extra water released from the rice caused the grains to stick together, which ruined the experience of having restaurant-style fried rice for me!  

2. Day-Old Rice Brings Out More Flavors

Water tends to tone down the flavors of everything. 

When I fried fresh rice, its moisture reduced the flavor of almost every ingredient, including the vegetables. Therefore, the overall taste was less pronounced than it was supposed to be.

However, the flavors came out strong when I used day-old fried rice! Trust me, I savored each rice grain and fried vegetable.

3. Day-Old Rice Is Easy to Cook With

Cooking with fresh rice gets tiresome. It doesn’t just ruin the texture and the flavor intensity, but it also sticks to the wok. 

The reason is that the excess moisture on the rice grains causes the outer starch layer to stick. Consequently, the rice will stick to the wok’s bottom by the time you add the sauces. 

I remember how much I had to scrub my wok after stir-frying just-cooked rice. You can see the image below.

Fresh rice fried in a pan with a logo of Fooducopia on the upper left side of the image.

However, as old or refrigerated rice is dry, you can stir-fry it easily with vegetables and sauces, and it won’t stick to the wok or pan easily.

How to Boil and Store Rice for Fried Rice?

Now, let’s look at how you can boil and store rice for fried rice. A proper method goes a long way to cook authentic fried rice! 

Step 1: Soak Rice for At Least 30 Minutes 

The first step for boiling rice is to soak it always! 

Soaking is extremely important as it removes the additional starch from the rice’s surface. The amount of time you should soak your rice depends on the type of rice that you use for fried rice. 

I always recommend basmati or jasmine rice for fried rice. These rice types are quite fluffy and give an excellent texture when frying. You can also go for medium-grain rice like arborio rice.

Remember that if you’re using basmati or jasmine rice, you should soak it in cold water for around 30 minutes

Medium-grain rice, like arborio, contains more starch. Therefore, you should soak it for at least an hour or two. 

White bowl with rice soaked in water with a logo of Fooducopia on the upper left side of the image.

Step 2: Rinse Rice Once or Twice

Once you’ve soaked the rice, transfer it to a sieve and wash it once or twice. I prefer washing my rice at least three times to remove as much starch as possible.

Step 3: Keep Rice for Boiling

In a cooking pot, pour two cups of water for one cup of rice. Then, add the soaked and rinsed grains to it.

Rice with water in cooking pot  with a logo of Fooducopia on the upper left side of the image.

Step 4: Let the Rice Boil on a High Flame 

When boiling the rice, let it cook at medium-high flame for five to seven minutes. 

Once the water starts boiling, turn the heat down to low. This step is necessary because if you continue to cook the rice on high flame, it may remain uncooked and hard in the center! There is also a chance that the grains may burn and stick to the bottom of the pot.

Cooking pot covered with lid with a logo of Fooducopia on the upper left side of the image.

Step 5: Boil the Rice Until Water is Absorbed

Continue boiling the rice at low flame until there’s no water left in the pot. 

Next, you can check the rice for doneness. Once your rice cooks properly, it should feel tender on the inside and firm on the outside. 

However, you can add two to three tablespoons of water to the cooking pot if the rice is hard to chew. Then, cook it for five minutes more. 

Focused image of cooked rice with a logo of Fooducopia on the upper left side of the image.

Step 6: Let the Rice Come to Room Temperature 

After cooking the rice perfectly, transfer it to a bowl and let it cool to room temperature. 

You can also transfer the rice to a tray or dish and keep it under a fan for faster cooling. 

Note: Do not refrigerate hot rice; it may go stale quickly and can even increase your fridge’s temperature!

Step 7: Store Rice in a Container and Refrigerate It

Once your rice reaches room temperature, store it in an airtight container with the lid on and refrigerate it overnight

Cooked rice in a clear container with a logo of Fooducopia on the upper left side of the image.

You can refrigerate a bowl or plate of rice without a lid, but I would never recommend that. If you have kept boiled rice around a stinky food item, like cheese, the rice may absorb those other smells. 

I suggest watching this video of cooking rice if you feel like you need help with any step. 

What to Do When You Don’t Have Day Old Rice?

Vintage-style bowl of rice in close-up.

On several Saturday nights, I’ve craved a delicious bowl of fried rice while binge-watching Gilmore Girls

Since I didn’t always have day-old rice, I thought of some ways to dry freshly cooked rice for similar results. 

If you’re in the same situation, below are some quick fixes!

1. Let Rice Dry at Room Temperature 

Allow the rice to dry out naturally at room temperature. 

You just need to line a baking tray with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Then, spread the cooked rice in a thin layer to separate each grain. You can also do the same using a flat dish.

Once done, wait 15 to 20 minutes for the rice to cool down and lose some of its moisture. 

2. Use an Oven 

Drying the rice in the oven is the simplest and the best alternative to day-old rice! 

First, place aluminum foil on an oven tray. Then, evenly spread the rice on the tray and bake it for 5 to 10 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Rice spread evenly in a foil  with a logo of Fooducopia on the upper left side of the image.

The best part about drying rice in the oven is how it adds a slight crunchiness to each grain! 

3. Go for an Ice Bowl

When my oven stopped working, I saw this quick hack of drying rice using an ice bowl. Here’s what you need to do:

1. Fill half the bowl with cold water. 

2. Then, add three to four large ice cubes to the water bowl. 

Ice cubes in a white bowl  with a logo of Fooducopia on the upper left side of the image.

3. Fill another bowl with the cooked rice. 

4. Place the rice bowl in the ice-filled container. 

A bowl of rice placed in a white container with ice cubes with a logo of Fooducopia on the upper left side of the image.

5. Let the rice cool for 10 to 15 minutes.

I suggest using this method only when you have a small quantity (around one to two cups) of rice. Otherwise, it may take a lot of time.

Final Thoughts

Using dry and day-old rice takes your fried rice from zero to 100. It gives you the original texture required for the dish and enhances the flavors. 

If you have no leftovers, you can also dry fresh rice by following the methods listed in this article!

Saniya Baxi Avatar


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