Fried rice is one of those dishes you can make with pretty much anything you have in your pantry. As long as you have the titular rice, you can toss in whatever veggies, proteins, and sauces you prefer for a meal in a pinch or on a budget. If it’s your first time, or you’ve been trying and failing for ages, there are a few things you should know before you start cooking. Here’s all the information you need to make the best damn fried rice of your life.

Never Use Freshly Cooked Rice.

If you want that crispy, takeout-style fried rice you’re probably craving, you need to use day-old rice. No matter how much oil you cook with, freshly cooked rice will never achieve that desired slightly crunchy texture (and in some cases, it may even get kind of soggy). To avoid this outcome, you’ll have to plan ahead a little bit. Consider cooking a batch of rice while you meal prep over the weekend. Or, if you’re lucky, you’ll have leftover rice from an earlier meal when that fried rice craving strikes. Another trick: Stick freshly cooked rice in the freezer for 15 to 30 minutes to replicate the day-old dry texture.

Don’t Fry The Rice in Sesame Oil.

In fact, don’t fry your rice in any kind of aromatic oil (so no extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil either). Since you need to cook the rice in a decent amount of oil to get the right texture, you might overwhelm the dish if you use an oil that’s too flavorful. Additionally, those oils generally have a lower smoke point (AKA the temperature at which oil starts to burn), which isn’t ideal for something that needs to be cooked at a high temp until crispy, like fried rice. Instead, opt for a neutral oil like canola or refined peanut, both of which also have a higher smoke point. Once you’ve cooked the rice, you can drizzle it with a little toasted sesame oil for flavor.

If you’re Using Fresh Veggies, sauté Them First.

The last thing you want to take a bite of when you dig into a bowl of fried rice is a chunk of raw veggies. So if you’re using fresh veggies, give them a quick sauté in the wok before you add the rice.

Always add Eggs.

Even if you’re using another protein source, like chicken or shrimp, eggs are a must in every fried rice recipe. They’re the glue that keeps the whole shebang together. How should you cook the eggs? Scrambled, though feel free to garnish your finished masterpiece with a fried egg too. In terms of technique, there are a couple of options to consider.

Start by clearing a circle in the skillet you’re frying your rice in — this is where the eggs will cook. From there, you can either whisk the eggs before you add them to the pan, or throw them in and scramble as you work. If you don’t want to do a lot of cleanup, we recommend the latter method. Then, let the eggs cook fully before combining with the rice, otherwise the raw egg will transform the rice into a risotto-like texture.

Use Less Soy Sauce Than You Think.

Too much soy sauce is the Achilles heel of fried rice. It can take something that was perfectly cooked and turn it into a soggy, sad mess. Use way, way less soy sauce than you think the dish needs (because remember, you can always add more while you’re eating). In some cases, you may just want to skip it altogether — usually if you were impatient and decided to use fresh rice instead of the day-old stuff.

Add a Little Sugar and Acid.

As Bon Appétit recently pointed out, one of the best parts of takeout fried rice is its subtle sweetness. That sweetness doesn’t come from nowhere — you have to add it yourself and throw in a little sugar. Don’t get carried away and use a ton though. A tablespoon or less is usually enough to get the message across. You should also always add some element of acid to break up the saltiness from the soy sauce, the richness from the eggs, and the sweetness from the sugar. A splash of rice wine vinegar or a spritz of lime juice will do the trick.

Finally, Don’t Forget to Garnish.

You’re almost there; it’s practically time to dig in, but before you do, garnish your fried rice with fresh herbs. It may seem like an unnecessary extra step, but it will add a freshness that’ll take the dish to new heights.

Show us your fried rice masterpiece by tagging @BritandCo in your photos.

(Photo via Anniespratt / Unsplash)