How to keep fried rice from sticking to pan

By | September 27, 2022

Fried rice is a dish which is popular in east Asian, southeast Asean, and south Asian.

It is prepared by stir fry the rice with other ingredients like egg, meat, vegetable, corn, and garlic, in the pan.

When preparing fried rice, there is a common problem that is always faced by a lot of people.
The fried rice sticks to the pan when cooking.

Here I am going to discuss how to keep fried rice from sticking to the pan.

Hope this can help you if you are looking for a solution.


How to keep fried rice from sticking to pan

Basically to overcome the fried rice sticking problem, you have to season the pan(for cast iron, carbon steel, and stainless steel pan), and regularly re-season it again. Each time before frying rice, preheat the pan to eliminate all moisture, then add in oil with a high heat setting until lightly smoke, after that put the heat setting to lowest again, then start frying rice. Keep stirring the fried rice non-stop, make sure the oil in the pan does not dry up, and control the heat accordingly. Make sure you are using fluffy leftover rice.


Season the pan.

How to keep fried rice from sticking to pan_Season the pan

For cast iron, carbon steel, and stainless steel pan, to prevent the fried rice from sticking to the pan, a barrier needs to be created between the fried rice (any food) and the pan material.

To prevent the fried rice from sticking to the pan, you have to season it before using it.

Because of the porous surface and rusty nature of the cast iron, a seasoning process is necessary.

Seasoning is a process which adds a protective layer on the top surface of the pan.

The protective layer is a carbonized oil that is baked into the pan.

When the oil is heated at high temperature on a pan, it will go through a process called polymerization and become a layer of hardened surface.

The carbonized oil is molecular bonded to the iron of the pan.

The carbonized oil also fills into the uneven surface (pores, caves, cracks……) of the pan surface, making a smooth and a nonstick coating layer to the pan.

But the seasoning layer could be washed away by water and soap.

Cast iron and carbon steel pan have bigger and deeper microscopic pores compared to stainless steel.

During seasoning, the oil is able to penetrate deeper in the cast iron and carbon steel pan surface compared to stainless steel.

Due to the difference of pan surface, the seasoning layer for cast iron and carbon steel pan are more resistant to be washed away by water compared to stainless steel, but easily washed away by soap.

So when washing cast iron & carbon steel pan, suggest using a little soap and water to wash them. Some people even choose to wash with water without the soap to preserve the seasoning layer.

But for stainless pan, its seasoning layer will be easily washed away even with water.

To overcome the problem of the seasoning layer weakening during the washing process, I am suggesting a “spot seasoning” each time before using the pan for frying. I will further explain this below.

Another way to maintain the seasoning is each time when you cook with a pan and put in the oil, this actually helps to enhance the nonstick carbonized oil layer, so regularly using the pan for cooking is actually helping you to season the pan again and carbonized oil layer is accumulated, this is more applicable for cast iron and carbon steel pan.


Preheat the pan

How to keep fried rice from sticking to pan_Preheat the pan

Before frying rice, preheat the pan.

On the pan surface there are a lot of grooves and pores, those will trap moisture in it when you washing pan, there are invisible with nake eye.

Preheat the pan to eliminate all the trapped moisture, heat the pan until smoke comes out.

Or you may drop a few water droplets into the pan, if the pan is hot enough, the water will dance on the pan surface.

Or put your hand palm near the pan surface to feel the heat radiation, you will feel the heat if the pan is hot enough.

Moisture in the pan will cause the food to stick to the pan and avoid oil splattering when you put in the oil.

Warning, don’t do this with a Teflon non-stick pan, preheating it will damage the non-stick Teflon coating.


Heat the oil until lightly smoke.

How to keep fried rice from sticking to pan_heat the oil until lightly smoke

This is an important step for making the pan non-stick called “spot seasoning”, applicable for carbon steel, cast iron, and stainless steel pan.

This “spot seasoning” is a simple method as it will season the pan again each time before cooking, doing this will reduce the chance of fried rice sticking or other food to the pan .

First, add sufficient oil into the pan, make it cover the whole bottom surface of the pan.

Turn on the stove with the highest setting of heat.

Watch the pan, it takes about 2 to 3 minutes to smoke lightly, depending on the types of pan you use.

Immediately turn the heat to the lowest setting once a little smoke appears.

Let the oil smoke for about 30 seconds and it will stop.

After that, the pan is ready for frying rice.

Heating the oil near to the smoking point can make the oil undergo a polymerization process and forming a non-stick layer coated on the pan surface.

When the oil is heated, its viscosity will become lower and easily fill up the tiny grooves on the pan surface.


Using low moisture foods (leftover rice and dry ingredients)

How to keep fried rice from sticking to pan_leftover rice

Food with high moisture content will absorb oil easily, stick to the pan and get burned quickly.

Especially for rice that would be used for frying.

Cook the raw rice with the correct rice to water ratio, the ratio not the same according to the rice type, you may adjust accordingly.

For white long grain rice like Jasmine, use 1 part rice with 1 ½ part water for cooking.

Mussy cooked rice is not suitable for frying rice, make sure you cook a fluffy rice.

After the rice is done cooking, put it into the refrigerator for one day, and tomorrow take it out for frying rice.

Normally we call this leftover rice.

Make sure other fried rice ingredients are low moisture as well.

If you are preparing egg fried rice, after the oil starts to smoke lightly, turn the heat to lowest setting, scramble the egg first.

Scramble the egg until it becomes well cooked (in solid state) and a bit crispy, come with egg fragrant.

Then add other ingredients (make sure they are not wet) to fry together with the scrambled egg.

Finally put in the leftover rice to fry it but make sure the leftover rice is at room temperature.


Increase the rate of stir frying

How to keep fried rice from sticking to pan_Increase the rate of stir frying

When the food is not moving on a heated pan for some time, there is a high chance it will stick to the pan and get burnt.

While frying rice, keep stirring the rice and ingredients non stop to avoid them sticking to the pan.

Especially when you are frying rice on high heat.

Increasing the rate of stir frying also will make sure the fried rice is cooked evenly and make sure all rice & ingredients undergo maillard reaction (better taste).

This is as when you enter a cantonese restaurant, you will see the chef using a ladle and high speed flipping the wok to make the fried rice keep stirring.

That’s why Cantonese restaurant fried rice tastes better than home cooked fried rice.


Add more oil

How to keep fried rice from sticking to pan_add more oil

Frying food needs oil, the food will absorb oil during the frying process.

When you notice your fried rice in the pan starting to become dry, it is time to add some oil to avoid the fried rice sticking to the pan and burning.

Suggest preparing oil in a squeeze bottle, each time when you want to add oil, add by small amounts until enough of oil to fry rice.


Monitor the food and adjust heat accordingly.

How to keep fried rice from sticking to pan_Monitor the food and adjust heat accordingly.

When you notice the fried rice start showing some sign of burning and a little bit of food sticking, it is time to adjust the stove’s heat to a lower setting.

Adjust the heat to a higher setting if you think the fried rice needs a higher temperature for maillard reaction.


Clean with spatula

How to keep fried rice from sticking to pan_clean with spatula

Use a spatula to scrape fried rice that just started sticking on the pan bottom.

If you are using a cast iron, carbon steel, or stainless steel pan, please use a stainless steel spatula to do so.

Don’t use a stainless steel or any metal spatula to scrape sticked food on a Teflon non-stick pan, as this will damage the Teflon layer coating. Use a plastic (make sure it is able to withstand high heat) or wooden spatula for this kind of pan.


For fried rice stick to a Teflon non-stick pan.

If fried rice sticks to a Teflon non-stick pan, most probably the non-stick coating layer is already damaged.

Basically you can’t repair a damaged Teflon coating layer, so it is time to change to a new Teflon pan.
Probably the Teflon non-stick coating layer is damaged by high heat or scratched by abrasive objects and that layer is peeling,

Anyway, it is still considered safe to use a damaged Teflon pan, just a matter of food sticking to the pan.


Final Thought

In summary:

a) Season your pan to add a non-stick layer and regularly re-season the pan.

b) Preheat the pan to eliminate all the moisture on the pan.

c) Put in the oil and heat it until lightly smoke.

d) Add in food ingredients (example: egg), then add leftover rice. Make sure the rice and the ingredients are not wet.

e) Keep stirring the rice & ingredients, at the same time add some oil if pan drying of it.

f) Use the spatula to scrape sticked fried rice.

g) If you are using a Teflon pan and facing the fried rice sticking problem, it is time to change the pan.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *