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Best Cookware for Stir-Fried Rice

Here's my dilemma. I don't own a wok and don't want to invest in single-use cookware. I also don't like nonstick cookware. (I'm worried about the chemicals getting into my family's food -- this may be irrational mother-talk, but please don't try to convince me otherwise!) I would be willing to get a new multipurpose pot/pan. I've been using my Le Creuset dutch oven because it's got more volume than my cast iron skillet, but there's lots of sticking. Do I just need more oil/more stirring? Or is there a better option? (I could also use advice on stir-frying, but I guess I need to post on the home cooking board.) Thanks.

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  1. I've not had the greatest amount of luck myself. I do think that the type of rice you're using can have an impact. The amount of moisture in the rice also seems to be a factor. I usually use cast iron but it does tend to stick some. Hopefully someone will have good advice for you!

    Maybe carbon steel?

    1. How about a Lyonnaise-style carbon steel frying pan? It's made of carbon steel like most woks, is shaped kind of like a flat-bottom wok, and is an excellent general-use frying pan.

      3 Replies
      1. re: tanuki soup

        Is there a particular brand you'd recommend?

        1. re: jessinEC

          de Buyer has been recommended by many. I've got a small crepe pan by them that I thiknk is great.

          1. re: jessinEC

            I live in Japan, and mine's a local brand from an online restaurant supply store in Tokyo. I agree with olympia that De Buyer is probably the best-known brand of carbon steel pans. I'd bet that you could get a high-quality generic one from a restaurant supply place.

        2. A carbon steel wok is the best tool for stir-fried rice. Fried rice is best when it is done at very high temperature and when the rice is tossed (for fast turnaround). Here is a video of stir-fried rice in a wok.


          If you really don't like the idea of a wok, then your best choice is a deep carbon steel frying pan, also known as a country frying pan. In all honesty, it is really a wok-like pan without the name:


          Adding more oil help, but that probably is the last choice.

          1. Do you have a cast iron pan, and familiar with seasoning it? Carbon steel, to be properly low-stick, needs to be seasoned in the same way.

            It's my experience that the seasoning on carbon steel is at its best if the pan is only used for frying. In fact the season on my carbon steel crepe pan (only used for crepes, pancakes and omelets) is far better than on the fry pan which gets deglazed.

            Carbon steel (including a wok) has potential of being low stick and usable for fried rice, but that potential is not automatic. For an 'out of the box' nonstick pan, I don't think there is an alternative to PTFE.

            1 Reply
            1. re: paulj

              "It's my experience that the seasoning on carbon steel is at its best if the pan is only used for frying. In fact the season on my carbon steel crepe pan (only used for crepes, pancakes and omelets) is far better than on the fry pan which gets deglazed."


            2. I have a large carbon steel wok and sometimes use it for fried rice, but I also find that my 12" stainless steel saute pan works very well. You could also use a high-quality stainless skillet, but I don't own one, so I can't speak from experience there. Either pan is a great multi-tasker, obviously.

              Using a stainless saute/fry pan has the advantage that a greater surface area can be used to brown the rice. But I do end up varying the technique a bit when I use stainless. In brief, I use more broth and I capitalize on the pan's larger bottom surface by browning the rice without much stirring.

              Specifically: when I make fried rice in my saute pan, I generally proceed by cooking up the seasonings (chiles, pastes, onions, ginger, peppers), then adding a protein to par-cook along with garlic and maybe ginger. Then I set all of that aside in a bowl, put some oil into the pan over highest heat, and then dump in the day-old rice after the pan is hot. I try to turn over and coat the rice a bit with oil, then I add a big splash of broth with some fish sauce, toss the rice, and then I DON'T stir at all until the broth has begun to mostly evaporate. At this stage, you can bring the rice at the bottom to a browned stage, then scrape up the mass of rice with a metal spatula and turn the rice around so you get another round or two of browning. Then I dump all the reserved stuff on top, crack an egg or two onto it, turn it all over, and let residual heat bring everything together. The technique doesn't require much oil.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Bada Bing

                This illustrates some techniques that work well with stainless steel. Hot pan with oil minimizes initial sticking. Adding the liquid and letting it sit without stirring loosens any crust that does form. I'm not sure why the subsequent browning does not stick, except that now the rice is hot. The final rest without heat will further loosen anything that is stuck.

                Potentially then, nonstick, well seasoned steel, and stainless steel will require different techniques to get the same final result.

              2. I actually use Le Creuset also, I use the 5 qt brasier though I haven't experienced sticking problems. I stir a lot while making it.

                1. If you don't want to buy single-use cookware, buy a wok and use it for other things. Look for a chef's pan, almost the same as a wok. Use your wok like a chef's pan, or buy a chef's pan and use it like a wok.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: ThreeGigs

                    +1. I have a couple of woks made of (thick) cast iron -- not the lightweight hammered stuff -- Mine have a pedestal base so they can sit flat on a burner or grate but are rounded on the inside. I use them for stir frying (including fried rice), deep frying (not just tempura) and braising.
                    The large one (which I think was made by Bodum) will be too heavy for most people to pick up and toss food in the usual manner, but it's nice and stable for use with a spatula.

                  2. I second the recommendations for carbon-steel... you could also buy a paella pan, those are made of carbon steel, made for rice dishes, and seasoned correctly could double as a wok... they are wider and shallower, but at least you get multi-purpose (and paella pans are often used to sear proteins as part of the paella process)... see, multi-purpose!

                    1. The type of rice and moisture are definitely factors. I use long grain. Drying the rice out by cooking it the day before and then putting it in the fridge overnight is a good idea. I heat the wok, then put in a moderate amount of oil (more than I'd use for stir frying vegetables), then aromatics, then egg, then the rice. Important to stir constantly once anything is added to the oil. Using chopsticks to stir helps to keep the rice from clumping. I like a 50/50 blend of peanut and dark sesame oil for the taste.

                      1. Thank you all so much. I have a lot to learn about making stir-fried rice -- I will check out the links everyone suggested. Thanks again!

                        1. America's Test Kitchen found that on an American range a cast iron skillet works better than a wok for stir-frying. I have found this to be true. Woks are designed to have flames wrap up around their sides so they don't work all that well on a standard burner. Get the smooth, vintage cast iron skillets, not the rough ones they sell today.