Why nothing beats a full English Breakfast

Full English Breakfast

It’s not unusual in an English bed and breakfast to wake up to the smell of frying bacon. Whether you’re staying away from home on business or pleasure and whatever the day holds in store for you, there are few better ways to kick off proceedings than with a no-holds barred full English breakfast.

Yet travel around the country and you’ll find there is no set format for a ‘full English’, with ingredients depending on regional variation as much as on the whim of the resident cook.

There are a few items that are considered an essential part of any self-respecting breakfast:

Eggs – can be served fried, scrambled, hard-boiled or poached. Given the other ingredients on your plate and the ability of the egg to absorb and mop up the residual juice (fat), I would argue that scrambled eggs (note the plural) work best.

Bacon – done in the British way. In other words, soft and leaving you in no doubt that if you let it go cold you’ll find it covered with a thick layer of solidifying grease: de-licious. Not for us those North American crispy strips; oh no. This bacon oozes (quite literally) intense flavour.

Sausage – can be pork or beef, but either way should be cooked until the skin is crispy yet succulent. Sausages should be juicy when cut open and should never be left for too long in the frying pan. There is no surer way to ruin a good breakfast than with a poorly prepared sausage. Oh, and with a full breakfast you should never be restricted to a solitary sausage.

Tomato – a fried tomato (cooked in the same pan as the meat) can be a delicious part of the breakfast experience. Must never come from a tin (I’ve seen it done and it’s quite frankly shocking).

Toast – no English breakfast is complete without toast. It should be brought at the same time as the main plate and an extra round should be available as required. White toast seems to do a better job of mopping up the sauce from baked beans; something to bear in mind when making your choice of bread.

Other items may or may not be included on your plate:

Baked beans – too often omitted, these are to me an essential ingredient in a good full English. Not only do the beans go well with the bacon and sausage, but the sauce provides a vehicle for the various juices and fats remaining on your plate to be gathered up onto your buttered slices of toast.

Mushrooms – I’ve never really understood why they are part of the breakfast and I don’t fret too much if they have been omitted. If mushrooms must be part of your breakfast offering they should be fried almost to a crisp and served immediately.

Fried bread – a personal favourite, this can serve the same function as the toast but tastes a whole lot better. It is advisable to seek a doctor’s opinion before eating more than one of these heart-stoppers.

Black pudding – this one sorts the men from the boys. It’s best not to think too much about the components and just enjoy the taste, which admittedly isn’t to everyone’s liking. Goes quite well with a fork full of beans.

Hash browns – an American influence that has permeated this most English of traditions, yet I have to admit to always adding one or two to my plate when they are available. Another good juice soaking candidate.


I’ve probably missed a few other local options from the fried breakfast plate – feel free to add them below. Of course such a breakfast should be eaten as the exception rather than the rule – more than a couple of these bad boys in a week and I suspect your cholesterol level will start rising as fast as your weight does. In moderation however, I have yet to find a breakfast offering anywhere in the world that says “Good Morning!” in quite the same style as a fully laden English breakfast.

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Freelance travel writer

17 Responses to “Why nothing beats a full English Breakfast”

  1. Mmm, you may be able to feel your arteries clogging up with every mouthful but it is so worth it!

    January 26, 2012 at 11:45 am
  2. Excellent and essential reading. This is what built an empire. No muesli in those days.

    Black pudding, is of course, essential. And I kind of get that American potatoey thing too. Added bonuses to make it even better (a Scottish Breakfast) is to include a potato scone and a large slice of haggis. And to embrace the square sausage, the king of the fattiest sausage.

    Condiments can also make or break a proper breakfast. Is there anything worse that going for the brown sauce squeezy bottle and discovering the cheapskates have plumetted the depths of hades for some no-name brand, or something just plain wrong like Daddys Sauce, rather than the pricier HP sauce. Unforgiveable. I *literally* froth when that happens.

    I also enjoy a good dollop of English mustard to enhance the sausage. Colmans I find is best.

    Another important issue (I’m talking to you Germany) is that any form of fruit on the plate, apart from the tomato, should be outlawed forthwith. It is wrong.

    Off couse the one thing missing is tea. This is the essential ingredient to smooth your esophagus, unforrow your brow and prepare your stomach lining for the influx of real block your arteries cholestrol. Tea is right over breakfast. Cappucino is not.

    ps. Tomato is take it or leave it for me too. Also this fashion for diet baked beans is not right.

    January 26, 2012 at 11:56 am
  3. Hey, Andy:

    OK except it breaks two of my ‘golden rules’ … not to eat potatoes or beef for breakfast!

    And, I’ve only come across one thing to beat a ‘Full English’, and that’s a ‘full Irish’. Same thing, but the bacon’s nicer.

    Keep taking the statins! ๐Ÿ˜€


    January 26, 2012 at 12:12 pm
  4. Thanks for the additions folks. Scottish or Irish breakfasts are indeed excellent. Wouldn’t like to pick a winner from the selection (what about the Welsh?)

    Fruit has its place at breakfast but it should be eaten after the main event. It’s purely there to allow you to leave the table believing that you’ve eaten a healthy meal.

    January 26, 2012 at 12:55 pm
  5. Hear hear to Keith and the Irish breakfast, but I would say that as I’m from Belfast.

    I’m a big lover of beans but have never taken to them in a Full English for some reason.

    Loved the post and hungry now despite just having had veggie chili and rice.

    January 26, 2012 at 12:55 pm
  6. Love this post and I love a good English breakfast. Hard to find well done here in the US, but luckily it’s the norm almost everywhere else in the world. The one thing I don’t like, the tomato, I just don’t think it belongs there.

    January 26, 2012 at 1:40 pm
  7. It’s funny, I think I’ve had English breakfasts everywhere in the world…except England. It’s amazing how they have taken hold in hostels and restaurants geared towards backpackers everywhere from Argentina to Vietnam.

    I’m with you on the baked beans. Without them, it’s not a real English breakfast to me. I’m also quite partial to the fried tomatoes too.

    January 26, 2012 at 4:54 pm
  8. Although I’m a patriotic Englishman, I have to say that the full Scottish is better, as you can also get haggis and porridge. A plate with haggis and black pudding is a joy to the eyes and the belly. And the full Irish has better bread. Maybe we should set up a committee to decide on the perfect Full British Isles Breakfast.

    January 26, 2012 at 6:34 pm
  9. In Norway, we hardly ever eat cooked breakfasts, so these are a treat whenever we’re in the UK. Best of all, you don’t really need another meal until evening ๐Ÿ™‚

    January 26, 2012 at 6:40 pm
  10. It’s midnight and am feeling hungry after reading this! ๐Ÿ™‚

    p.s. I never got the hang of mushrooms in breakfast either!

    January 27, 2012 at 12:18 am
  11. This makes me miss England! Yum!

    January 29, 2012 at 7:22 am
  12. What a truly delicious post!

    January 29, 2012 at 10:41 am
  13. Great tasty post indeed! So true that nothing beats a English breakfast. When I travel and as much as I like to taste new foods….somehow I come around and find myself with a plate of English breakfast ๐Ÿ™‚

    January 30, 2012 at 3:13 pm
  14. For me, Chinese Dim Sum beats an English breakfast!

    But really, they’re both the best two breakfast experiences on earth.

    February 1, 2012 at 3:07 pm
  15. That looks yummy (and I am a vegetarian so that is saying something). Going home to fry a tomato now!

    February 16, 2012 at 9:20 pm
  16. Neil #

    Just a quick note re health issues. You’ve subscribed to the same myth we’ve all been brought up to- that fried bread (or even fried anything) is a heart-stopping artery-clogger. This is nonsense. So long as the frying fat is meat fat then you’re probably doing your body a favour. The only inherently “bad” thing in a fried breakfast is carbohydrates, in the toast, bread, hash browns, etc. Fat is not an artery clogger, nor is it bad for you.

    I’ll leave it to google for citations as I’m tapping this on my iPad, but there’s a whole new movement trying to reverse the damage done to the image of Fat by US “scientists” after WWII which has influenced culture ever since.

    Fat is not bad for you. This was a falsehood borne and perpetuated in the US.

    Now you can enjoy your breakfasts more! But don’t forget, even though it’s not bad for you, fat does have a high calorific content, so please- not too much!


    April 7, 2012 at 11:07 am
  17. Neil #

    Just to follow up, this is the book which started me on the road to uncover the lies about fat I’d been told quite literally my whole life. I’ve no connection with the author and am just a grateful reader. http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1906417466

    Here is a short film which also is a great starting point! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8WA5wcaHp4

    Enjoy those fats and eschew those carbs!


    April 7, 2012 at 11:16 am