How to Make Even Tastier Fried Rice in a Large Skillet

We all know what it’s like to get a perfect bite of take-out style fried rice: It’s steaming hot, full of flavor, with a firm, crispy texture. There’s nothing more disappointing than mushy clumps of fried rice, and the best way to achieve the right results at home is to use the right pan. Believe it or not, an extra-large skillet outperforms even a wok when it comes to cooking fried rice at home. 

Simply put, it’s more versatile. Not only does it heat up quickly, but an extra-large skillet can accommodate all of your ingredients without overcrowding them. That means you can fit everything in the pan to ensure even cooking, whether you’re prepping fried rice for two, or feeding a dinner party. 

A spacious pan is also essential for the browning that you want for perfectly crispy fried rice. The wok’s curved, concave shape doesn’t have as much flat surface area as a skillet, as it’s made for stirring and flipping. But those moves aren’t necessary for fried rice to retain its flavor. The goal is to lightly coat the rice in oil and soy sauce and fry it, browning it as it’s stirred with the vegetables and protein. Delivering that unmistakable flavor with a little crunch is a perfect task for a large skillet.

Your apartment is not built like a Chinese restaurant

tossing fried rice in a wok

Another major reason to use a skillet for your homemade fried rice is that it’s more kitchen-friendly than a restaurant-grade wok. A wok gets smoky, and while that unmistakable smokiness is key to a lot of typical stir-fry dishes, it’s not essential for fried rice. While a wok can still work for fried rice, an extra-large skillet is the better choice because with fried rice, the depth of flavor comes not from achieving wok hei, but from evenly cooking the ingredients with high heat. You can save the haze for another culinary adventure that involves a gas range, high heat, and proper ventilation.

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Another reason to use an extra-large skillet for fried rice is adaptability in any home kitchen. It’s one less pan to fuss over, no matter the size of your space (since we’re not working with restaurant-level layouts). Sure, it’s big, but it has many uses. Fried rice is a delicious jumping-off point here, but there are so many more (We like chicken or seafood paella.) dishes to prepare in this vessel.

The right skillet for your fried rice

fried rice in stainless steel skillet

There are so many choices out there when it comes to skillets, and nearly all of them will help you make fantastic fried rice. While its design separates it from other types of similar pans, a skillet is known for its large and deep surface. That means the extra-large skillet will be one of the widest and deepest pans in your inventory. You’ll use it when you want to cook for a crowd, but don’t be shy about using it for smaller servings. Just think of all those crispy bits of rice that will brown up evenly in a pan with plenty of room, even if it’s just for two.

Skillets come in a variety of materials and sizes. Cast iron and carbon steel are known for retaining heat really well. You can develop their nonstick properties by seasoning the pan with an oil-based patina. Stainless steel is a good option to consider because it won’t corrode or react to acidic foods, which can happen with other types of nonstick cookware. Nonstick skillets and enameled cast iron use synthetic coatings so that food won’t stick to the pans, and cleanup is a breeze. When you’re shopping, think about what you want out of your skillet, and how you plan on using it, besides all that fried rice you’re going to whip up.

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