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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.