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How to Give New Life to Leftover Fried Rice

The world’s foremost fried rice expert weighs in

Eager to break in your new wok, you fried enough rice to feed Nik Avocado, and now you have a fridge full of leftovers. There’s just one problem: You’re not sure how to reheat fried rice. Fortunately, Danielle Centoni, author of Fried Rice: 50 Ways to Stir Up the World’s Favorite Grain, agreed to lend some advice.

As she explains, the major hurdle when it comes to heating up leftover fried rice is dryness. When already-cooked rice goes cold in the fridge, it goes through a process called retrogradation. That’s when the starches and water molecules rearrange themselves in a way that causes the rice to become hard and just generally less pleasant to eat.

To help reverse retrogradation, simply add a small amount of water while reheating your fried rice. If you’re in a hurry, this can be done in the microwave for about three minutes. “Microwaving it in a bowl with a cover — and just a sprinkle of water — helps it steam back to life,” Centoni says. “Be sure to stop and stir a few times so the rice reheats evenly.”

Or, if you want crispier fried rice, you can do the same thing in a frying pan (or your new wok). “I saute it in a pan with a little oil, and I use a lid to cover the pan for a few minutes in between stirring,” Centoni explains. “If it seems really dry, a sprinkle of water, broth or soy sauce helps too.”

Keep in mind, however, that leftover fried rice is one of the more common causes of food poisoning. “That’s because rice grains often have a bacteria called Bacillus cereus, and its spores can survive the cooking process,” says Centoni. “Every time the rice gets reheated, the spores and toxins can multiply.”

That said, Centoni says she’s never had food poisoning from reheated fried rice, despite eating it almost every day while working on her book. “But I cooled my cooked rice quickly by spreading it on a cookie sheet, then refrigerating it within an hour,” she adds. “If you have any misgivings about how long the fried rice has been lingering outside the fridge, or even if it’s been in the fridge more than a couple days, it’s probably safest to toss it.”

Alternatively, you could just give Avocado a call.