How to make egg-fried rice

3 incredible fried rice recipes

How to make egg-fried rice

by Great British Chefs25 April 2024
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Fried rice is a beloved dish in the UK. It’s a Chinese takeaway and restaurant staple, but can be made at home even without a wok and high-heat burner. This frying-pan friendly recipe will help you make a dish that's a little bit closer to your fried-rice dreams.

How to make egg-fried rice

Not yet rated

Fried rice is a beloved dish in the UK. It’s a Chinese takeaway and restaurant staple, but can be made at home even without a wok and high-heat burner. This frying-pan friendly recipe will help you make a dish that's a little bit closer to your fried-rice dreams.

Egg-fried rice is a much-loved and oft-ordered Chinese takeaway classic. It seems simple enough to make, but it's easy to end up with a sticky mess in the bottom of your wok if you don't know what you're doing! These tips will help you avoid some common pitfalls.

How is egg-fried rice cooked in restaurants?

Many – although not all – Chinese restaurants making fried rice use carbon steel (not non-stick) woks over a hob specially designed for woks, which reach a very high heat. This helps give the food ‘wok hei’ (鍋氣). Wok hei, sometimes translated as 'breath of the wok', refers to the subtle but unmistakeable extra dimension that cooking food in a wok over high heat provides. Just as a sausage or burger cooked on a barbecue is always better than one cooked under a grill, food cooked with a high-heat wok set up has an extra edge over food cooked at home.

However, although wok cooking makes fried rice extra delicious, you can absolutely make great fried rice using just a frying pan and an electric hob. In home kitchens in China, especially in urban areas, portable induction hobs are very popular and restaurant-style burners are uncommon. As Kenji Lopez-Alt discusses in his article on wok hei for the New York Times, wok hei is delicious but not the be all and end all of fried rice.

How to make egg-fried rice






If using day-old rice, break the clumps up into individual grains of rice. If cooking rice from scratch, follow the instructions on our ‘how to cook rice’ article but with 200ml water rather than 230ml


Once the rice is cooked, spread it out on a large plate in a thin layer, and let cool to room temperature


Beat the eggs together with 1/4 tsp salt and measure out the peas and remaining seasonings


Once the rice is cool, heat up the vegetable oil in a wok or frying pan until very hot and shimmering. Once you think it’s hot enough, add a drop of egg to the saucepan. It should bubble up and set immediately – if it doesn’t the oil isn’t hot enough


Add the beaten egg to the saucepan and use a wok spatula or wooden spoon to push the cooked egg into the centre, and tip the wok or pan so that uncooked egg fills its place. Repeat until the egg is 90% cooked, then add the cooled rice and the spring onions


With the heat still on high, use the wok spatula or wooden spoon to break up the rice and pieces of egg, and then press the rice against the bottom of the pan. This will help break up any clumps of rice, and also fry off the rice. If using a weaker heat, let the rice toast on the bottom of the pan for a few seconds in between scooping it up and pressing it down again. If using a higher heat and a wok, in between breaking up the clumps of rice, toss it gently as it toasts


Continue cooking and breaking up the rice until it is toasted and the grains are mostly separate


Finally, add the peas and remaining seasonings. Pour the soy sauces around the edge of the wok rather than directly on top of the rice, which makes it easier to incorporate evenly. The dark soy sauce is here mostly for colour, so you don’t need to use it if you prefer a lighter coloured fried rice


Continue to stir-fry the rice until the seasonings are incorporated evenly, and then serve

What type of rice should you use for egg-fried rice?

This is a matter of some debate. In short, all sorts of rice can be used to make fried rice. Generally cooks use what’s available to them. In Japan, short grain rice will be used since that’s what’s most widely available. Within China, rice traditionally grown in the north (dongbei dami) is shorter than rice from the south (nanfang dami), but both are used for fried rice. In restaurants outside of China, it’s common to mix standard long grain rice with Thai jasmine rice. This saves some money – Thai jasmine rice is expensive – but it also gives the rice a slightly looser texture. We recommend using all Thai jasmine rice above, which gives the fried rice some chew and stickiness, not not as much as Japanese-style short grain rice.

Do you have to use leftover rice for fried rice?

Many recipes will say that using leftover rice is mandatory for making fried rice. And although it’s definitely useful, it’s not mandatory. If you watch videos of famous restaurants making fried rice in Japan, you can see that they make the fried rice from scratch each day, and the Cantonese cooking website Made with Lau also recommends using freshly cooked rice. But if you’ve ever tried using fresh rice to make fried rice, you might have run into problems. The rice can become mushy, soggy and impossible to fry. So what’s the secret?

One part of the puzzle is that using freshly cooked rice doesn't mean using hot rice. Allowing the rice to cool after you cook it makes it easier to fry. Using fresh rice also works better when the rice is cooked with slightly less water. This produces rice that is sticker than day-old rice, but still easy to stir-fry without it falling apart. If you like your fried rice to have very distinct and separate grains, we recommend using day-old rice. If you like it slightly stickier and chewier, fresh rice works great.

Isn’t it dangerous to reheat leftover rice for egg-fried rice? Could I get ‘fried-rice syndrome’?

Although many people think that reheating cooked rice is dangerous, that’s actually a misconception. What’s important is not to leave cooked rice at room temperature for hours before refrigerating it, and to instead chill it as soon as possible.

If left at room temperature for too long, a type of bacteria called bacillus cereus can grow to dangerous levels in cooked rice. This produces a toxin that isn’t destroyed even if heated up to 120°C for 90 minutes. So although reheating rice doesn’t make it dangerous to eat, it doesn’t make it safe either.

‘Fried rice syndrome’ is the nickname for food poisoning from bacillus cereus. To prevent food poisoning, make sure to refrigerate the rice as soon as possible, ideally within an hour, and to only reheat the rice once.

Despite the nickname, this type of food poisoning isn’t unique to rice either. Other starchy foods like pasta are also susceptible, and so it’s similarly important to refrigerate leftover pasta quickly.

How do you cook the egg for egg-fried rice?

If you’ve ever attempted to freestyle an egg-fried rice, you might have made this classic mistake: you’ve got the rice in the pan, all your seasonings in, and then you add some beaten egg. But instead of ending up with beautiful big fluffy curds of egg, the egg seems to disappear into the rice, discolouring it slightly with grainy yellow specks. 

The best way to avoid this is to cook the egg separately. You can do this at any stage of the cooking, but we found it easiest to do this first, before adding the rice.

How do you stop egg-fried rice going soggy?

In general with egg-fried rice, moisture is the enemy. Liquids will stop the rice from frying or, worse, will make the rice steam and go mushy. To avoid this, egg-fried rice is seasoned with dry ingredients – sugar, salt, MSG, white pepper etc. Just a little bit of soy sauce added at the end will give your rice colour and flavour, but we wouldn’t recommend adding too much.

Similarly, adding lots of extra ingredients will make it hard to properly fry the rice. In the recipe above we’ve used just 50g peas for two portions. You could add a little more than this, but it's best to stick to drier add-ins, like chicken breast or lap cheong, rather than add-ins that will release a lot of water, like large amounts of vegetables.

Finally, adding too much rice to a normal-size pan can cause the rice to steam rather than fry and turn mushy. You'll have the best results frying two portions at a time, and no more than four portions. If you're making fried rice for a crowd, although it's a bit of a faff we'd recommend frying the rice in batches for the best results.

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