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What Is English Breakfast?

Hearty Helpings: An English Breakfast Handbook

British food customs can seem, well, a bit wonky to the uninitiated. Just as "afternoon tea" refers to a ritualistic midday meal rather than the consumption of the actual beverage, an English full breakfast, as it's known, has its own set of guidelines. More hearty than dainty, full breakfast is comfort food at its finest and is generally reserved for weekends — perhaps after a night of indulgence — much like the American custom of brunch.

While the exact offerings may vary from establishment to establishment, we've broken the usual suspects down:

  • Eggs: Generally fried or poached; either way, we'd argue that a runny yolk is imperative.
  • Back bacon: Thick and fried til crisp-tender, it's often referred to simply as "bacon" but is in fact a different cut from what is customary stateside. Back bacon is leaner (similar to Canadian bacon), as it's cut from the back of a pig, rather than the fattier pork belly.
  • Sausage: Plump and juicy, but sparse on seasonings. After all, this isn't the time for novel flavor combinations.
  • Black pudding: Unctuous and deeply savory, this is the British version of blood sausage. Generally composed of pork, blood, and oatmeal, it's an ideal comestible to sop up the prior night's excesses.
  • Toast: White bread, please, grilled or toasted, and lavished with salted butter.
  • Milky tea: The English love their tea, so naturally it's the beverage of choice. Skip the cream and stick to milk; it's the proper English way.
  • Mushrooms: Pan-fried and golden, their earthy umami-punch complements this often meat-centric meal.
  • Tomatoes: Generally served grilled, broiled, or roasted, tomatoes provide a bright counterpart to the heavier offerings.
  • Baked beans: A nostalgic "nursery food," Heinz is the standard-bearer, and hard to beat.

Have you ever experienced England's full breakfast? Is there anything we've left off this list?

Source: Flickr User JohnSeb
Join The Conversation
siarlas siarlas 4 years
 @Susannah Chen  It's pretty much like in the main picture. I call it barely cooked. I used to eat it raw until my mother freaked out about the dangers of eating raw bacon. (Still can't remember what they're supposed to be.) I don't mind if the edges start to get a little crispy but that's the most I'll put up with.   If it's crispy enough that poking it with a fork just breaks it into little pieces (like I got served one time), I won't eat it.
Susannah-Chen Susannah-Chen 4 years
 @siarlas What is the bacon like from your experience? Just curious, since it seems to vary from one restaurant to another!
siarlas siarlas 4 years
Minus the black pudding, that's pretty much the usual breakfast around here. I must disagree with the crispy bacon though.
bluebellknoll bluebellknoll 5 years
I experienced the English breakfast every day while on vacation in Africa.  Traditionally there are many more British tourists that go there so the food is catered towards them.  I liked it but grew tired of it since we vacationed for 2 weeks.
fuzzles fuzzles 5 years
No can do such a big breakfast.  And you really would not want to be near me after a double-double of eggs and beans!
Nancy-Einhart Nancy-Einhart 5 years
Though the black pudding isn't my thing, I adore English breakfast, especially the tomato and mushroom touches, with milky tea.
anecdote anecdote 5 years
I went to school in London and my classmates and I would always have this breakfast at least once a month.  Thank you for letting me reminisce..... 
Susannah-Chen Susannah-Chen 5 years
From the minute I laid eyes upon this, I wanted it!
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