How to Cook Fried Rice So It Doesn't Clump Up

by Amelia Allonsy
Fried rice should cook to a light brown color without clumping.

Fried rice should cook to a light brown color without clumping.

The wok masters make it look so easy as you watch them prepare your fried rice order in front of you. But then you try it yourself and instead of crispy fried rice, you serve up a sticky, messy clump of rice. This problem is likely the result of improper cooking technique and starting with sticky, starchy rice that naturally clumps together. While rice prepared the day before works best, some types of rice, such as jasmine and basmati rice, are less prone to developing that gelatinous texture.

Prepare rice at a ratio of 1 part rice to 2 parts water in a rice cooker or saucepan one day before or at least several hours before you plan to make fried rice. Bring the rice and water to a bowl, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Fluff the rice with a fork. Place the rice in a refrigerator to cool and dry overnight or spread it on a baking tray for faster cooling and drying if you want to use it the same day. The outside of the rice should be dry and slightly hard, not sticky.

Heat 2 to 3 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet or wok on the highest heat setting. Do not use oil with a low burn point, such as extra virgin olive oil. Peanut oil and vegetable oil work well for making fried rice. A hot skillet or wok is essential for fried rice because it cooks off the moisture from vegetables so the rice doesn't absorb the moisture and clump while cooking.

Add your choice of diced meat and vegetables to the skillet or wok and stir them frequently to prevent them from sticking to the sides of the pan. Use chicken, pork or shrimp and vegetables including onions, carrots and peas. You can customize the dish with practically any vegetable.

Add the cooked rice to the wok when the vegetables and meat are nearly cooked through. Stir the rice constantly, beginning as soon as you add it to the pan. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to keep the rice moving and scrape the sides of the pan to prevent sticking. Each rice grain should be lightly coated with the oil and cook separately, rather than clumping. Stir-fry the rice and vegetables for five to 10 minutes until the rice begins to develop a caramel color.

Scramble one or two eggs in a small bowl. Create a well in the rice and pour the egg into it. Stir immediately and constantly to incorporate the eggs throughout the fried rice. Eggs are common in fried rice, but you can skip this ingredient, if you wish.

Stir in your choice of flavoring, such as soy sauce or oyster sauce, when the eggs and rice are cooked through. Continue stirring the rice until the sauce is well incorporated. Remove the fried rice from the pan and serve immediately.

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Items you will need

  • Rice
  • Fork
  • Storage container (optional)
  • Baking tray (optional)
  • Oil
  • Diced meat and vegetables
  • 1 or 2 eggs (optional)
  • Soy sauce or oyster sauce (optional)


  • Save on preparation time by using leftover rice from one or two nights before making the fried rice. You can use leftover steamed rice takeout from your favorite restaurant.
  • Buy a rice cooker if you have trouble steaming rice or simply for the convenience. Rice cookers have time settings that turn off the machine when the rice is done.

About the Author

A former cake decorator and competitive horticulturist, Amelia Allonsy is most at home in the kitchen or with her hands in the dirt. She received her Bachelor's degree from West Virginia University. Her work has been published in the San Francisco Chronicle and on other websites.

Photo Credits

  • Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images