Explain to a Yank how to prepare a "Full English Breakfast"

I’ve recently been doing a bit of reading on the net about the traditional Full English Breakfast. While I can feel my arteries clogging just from reading about it, i’ve become so enthralled by the “romance” of it that i’d like to try preparing one for myself and perhaps a couple of victims / family members. Problem is, though I can find plenty on the net about what’s in an FEB, I can’t find any advice on how to prepare one. Some of it seems pretty much straightforward (fried eggs) but a few things (black pudding) are Greek to me. I know this board has its fair share of Brits, so if anyone could help me out with learning how to prepare an FEB, i’d much appreciate it.

A couple of the points I could use advice on-
-In what order should the components be cooked?
-What should one use to fry the components - Vegetable oil, shortening, lard?
-Black pudding: Do you prepare this yourself or buy it? If the latter, where can you buy it in the States?
-Sausages: What brand/type of sausage should one use - pork links a la Farmer John, or something more along the lines of a bratwurst?
Bacon: Crispy or soft? Will any kind do, or should a specific type be used?
-Tomatoes/mushrooms: What kind of each should one use for an optimal fry-up?
-Eggs: Is there a specific size egg that should be used, or will any do?
-Fried bread: What kind of bread should one use?
-The rest: Is there anything an uncultured Yank like myself needs to know about little things essential to a “real” FEB, i.e. presentation, how and with what the components are cooked, etc.?

Well, I guess you’ll get a slightly different response from each Brit, depending on where they come from and what their personal favourites are. But here goes:

  1. For the truly authentic fry-up, you’ll need a ‘dustbin lid’ for each victim; that’s what the enormous individual plates on which you serve the stuff up are called. And yes, in my book (since you appear to be into specifics), you serve it up in the kitchen yourself onto the plates. No buffet thingme. Each victim is presented with their meal as a fait accompli.

  2. I think we DO need to touch on ingredients. For me, a perfect fry-up consists of:

2 fried free-range eggs (cooked in vegetable oil over a low heat and basted thoroughly so that all the white hardens); need to be free-range not just from the health angle but also the aesthetic (nothing worse than an emaciated looking pair of eggs staring up at you).

Back bacon (not streaky) - with the little bony bits cut out.

Tomatoes (not over-ripe, but not obviously unripe); halved and then fried on both sides (but not over too fierce a heat)

Sliced mushrooms; I usually fry these in a seperate pan in butter

(Black pudding; if you want. I like it, but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. No special frying technique - check your local butcher/deli)

(Fried Bread; I always cook this last (if I include fried bread - it’s such an artery-clogger that I usually slice some wholemeal bread, upon 2 slices of which the 2 fried eggs are plonked); WARNING you need to add a lot of cooking oil to the frying pan before you fry this as it absorbs so darn much. Again moderate heat, otherwise you’’ burn it.)

For that authentic touch, steaming mugs of tea (no tea bags) would be appreciated.

Condiments: salt and pepper, HP sauce (I suggest hiding the ketchup, since someone is bound to ask for it).

For sausages, a large variety is available (even in the States, I would guess): the more expensive the better is a good rule of thumb, as these things tend to be thrown together anyway from some of the least meaty parts of the animal, and the cheap ones throw in a lot else besides. Cumberland sausages are nice and pretty safe, I think.

Let us know how it goes. Remember to keep a paramedic on hand.

That’s more or less the order in which I’d cook the items. The eggs are cooked over a low heat at the beginning of the process, but won’t get noticeably cool so long as you keep them near the range. Others might cook the eggs last, but you’ll have to wait for the pan to cool down, and even then you’d have a lot of icky bits to contend with. You could use a second frying pan, of course.

BTW, I meant to write that you should butter the bread before putting the eggs on.

There are lots of different ersions of a Full English breakfast, mine would be:

Sausages: Ordinary pork link ones.
Fried egg: Whatever size, it should not be turned because I like to dip a bit of sausage in the yolk.
Bacon: Whatever type you like but look for the smallest water content you can find; they will fry without spitting so much and there should be less nasty white stuff.
Mushrooms: Sliced button types or larger ones whole, whatever you want.
Fried bread: Must be white.
Black pudding: Bleccch, have never and will never touch the stuff.
Tomatoes: Cut in half and fry flat side down for a little while.
Tea: A proper cup of tea is a must.
Sauce: Ketchup or HP as you like.

Baked beans
Hash browns (a modern addition to be found in many greasy spoon caffs.

Sausages tend to take the longest to fry so I start them first, add bacon to the pan and go from there.
I usually do the fried bread last, so as to get the flavours of the other stuff into the oil. I use a high heat for a short period to get a crispy slice that’s not completely sodden with oil.
To stop things cooling down after they have been removed from the pan, I put the cooked stuff into the oven on a low heat, the egg is fragile so that is done second to last and goes straight onto the plate.

No doubt other Englishers will have different recipes, but the core ingredients are Bacon, Egg, Sausage and Tea.

I agree with the above, and in most greasy spoons everything is deep-fried. However, these are my alternative cooking methods. (not totally authentic, but I find they gives the tastiest results):

Fry the sausages in a very little oil on low-medium heat, for a minimum of half an hour, turning once or twice to get brown lines down the sides. This allows the juices within the sausage to cook the meat from within and permeate with flavour. No need to prick them.

Fry or grill the bacon for only a little while, until it’s cooked and any moisture has evaporated off, but not until it’s crispy like American bacon - it should still be soft and pink, with maybe a few brown bits.

I like to grill the tomatoes: cut in half, rub the open face with oil and blast face-up under a very hot grill (broiler) until brown. This leaves the bottom firm though cooked, and the top very tasty.

Black pudding should be cut into about 1/2 inch slices, and fried in a reasonable amount of oil: maybe 1/4 inch deep. High heat, and wait until the bottom is good and brown before turning (to avoid the pieces falling apart). It’s very rich, so most people don’t want more than two pieces, if any at all. (Irish alternative: add white pudding into the mix too; cook and serve in the same way.)

The eggs should be fried sunny-side up, cooked last (while the other stuff is kept warm in the oven, in my house anyway) in all the other oils, on a high spitting heat. Spoon hot oil over the top to ensure it’s totally cooked.

I don’t eat fried bread, beans, or mushrooms with my brekkie, so I’ll leave those to the experts.

Pretty much what the previous posters have said.

Bacon - not crispy
Eggs - not turned, does anyone in Britain do that? Done 'til crispy underneath just cooked on top, runny yoke.
Mushrooms - button type not the big open ones, whole or halved - not sliced. Cooked 'til just browning.
Bread - white, like GSV says. This isn’t health food.
Black pudding depends on latitude. I’m too far south to know how to cook this or indeed to want to eat it. If you are south of say, Birmingham(?) this is not a required ingredient.
Tea - not coffee

I think the ‘full’ bit requires the niceties of tomatoes, mushrooms and fried bread

However I take issue with hash browns (even if M&S put them in their ‘English Breakfast’ packs)

No hash browns, not traditional fair.
No pancakes (they’re for pancake day dammit) or maple syrup.
No chips/fries. Chips for breakfast?

It’s possible to cook everything in one (big) pan by cooking in the order GSV describes and moving sausages/bacon to warmed plates as they’re done to make room for the quicker cooking ingredients.

BTW, ‘black pudding’ is ‘blood pudding’ and you should find an approximation of the English version in secialized delis. ‘Sausages’ would be most like your sausage links, especially if they have herbs in them, though if you can find a British deli or butcher’s shop, you should find all this stuff easily enough.

Firstly; forget the health aspects - this is supposed to be a treat - either enjoy it in all its artery-slamming goodness, or have a bowl of muelsi - any compromise will ruin it.

IMHO territory, but:
Bacon: back bacon, but not too lean; fried or grilled until the fat starts to crisp up - if the meat turns dark red and the entire rasher is brittle, it is overcooked. This can be cooked and set aside for a few minutes

Sausages: Something meaty, but not too coarse and dry - Lincolnshire or Cumberland recipes are good. Sausages should be fried really slowly so that they plump up and go sticky and golden-brown on the outside.

Eggs: Two of; fried in very hot fat so that the edge of the white turns to a golden filigree. instead of basting them, I just throw in a tablespoonful of water and QUICKLY put the lid on the pan - all the hissing and spitting effectively cooks any remaining snotty white bits on the top, without hardening the yolk (liquid yolks are absolutely mandatory).

Black pudding. Yes it is made from pig’s blood. How awful. Get over it. For some reason, this item is nearly always badly overcooked; half-inch slices, fried for one minute either side (it is already fully cooked when you buy it - you are just crisping up the slices).

Tomatoes: sliced in half on the equator and fried cut side for a minute or two, then rounded side; give yourself the bottom halves and let someone else have the stalk halves :wink:

Fried bread: white sliced bread, straight into copious very hot oil (the fat left over from the bacon and sausages if at all possible) - aiming for something that is golden-brown and crispy on the outside, but still has a moist interior.

Baked beans, mushrooms, sautee potatoes, kidneys, kippers, kedgeree are optional items for me.

It may not be traditional but I like my bacon grilled and crispy. You can also include baked beans, which should be gently heated in a saucepan. You’ll find it easier to use two frying pans to accommodate all the ingredients. Tomatoes should be cut in half and either grilled or fried, mushrooms cut into quarters or so and fried. Black pudding is simply sliced and fried - nobody I know makes their own, you buy it from the butcher.

Serve with toast, or ideally fried bread - a good way of doing the bread is to cut a large circular hole in the middle of each slice and then crack an egg into the middle, so that it fries all together. Yum! Oh, and a large mug of strong tea (no sugar).

Finally, do NOT add ketchup. Ketchup ruins the fried breakfast. Strong brown sauce such as HP, or, my personal choice, Daddies Sauce, is the only way to go.

Everyone else is on the money, couple of points from a Scottish perspective :

Sausages, breakfast packs up here include square (or Lorne) sausages which are basically flat slices of sausage meat rather than the same stuffed into tubes.

Black Pudding, not everyones cup of tea but great with a dash of brown sauce. Much like haggis it’s something you should try once and ignore what it’s made of, but you can cheat. There is also fruit pudding which I can’t find a link for, and white pudding but that’s not generally a breakfast thing.

Mushrooms, get good fresh field mushrooms, something with taste.

I’d also consider frying up some potateo chunks (particularly if I’ve got some boiled potateos left over from the night before). Indeed if you’re making this sort of thing then just cook anything that looks fryable and stick it on a plate.

Like everyone said you just cook it all in a rough order and keep everything warm in the oven or whatever.

Colophon is right on the money with the Daddies Sauce accept no substitutes.

More info/options here but it’s a lot down to personal preference and the tastes of your guests. I’d try a bit of everything the first time and maybe narrow the selection for later tries.


Shame on you my fellow Brits!

You do not fry black pudding - you grill it. Otherwise it will absorb so much fat that it would make the breakfast fattening. And we wouldn’t want that now would we?

HP Sauce is a must. You can get it from specialist grocers in the States.

Incidentally the Full English is the best hangover cure in the world - bar none.

That’s your key sentence, right there. The rest of this thread is just detail. :smiley:

What, no potato scones :eek: ?

Ulster soda bread and farls anyone?

Some variations …

As** jjimm ** says, white pudding is a good substitute for / addition to black pudding … personally, I prefer it. It’s sometimes sold in the West Country as “Hogs Pudding”.

Instead of mushroom, try a slice of puffball fried in the juices at the end - delicious, though can be hard to come by (it’s a wild-growing fungus).

My inlaws used to fry slices of beetroot to go with their fry-ups … I passed on that :smiley: .

And for me, a FEB isn’t complete without crusty white rolls.

I’m hungry now. :wink:

Grill? You’ve gotta be kidding? Doesn’t that make it unbearably dry?

Not if it’s made properly - that’s what the white bits are for.

Hmmm…count me in for the fried black pudding.

Oh, and sliced sausuage (as my west-coast-of-Scotland family has always called it) in a fresh, floury bap, with a little HP or Daddies…wonderful!

My Scottish Family butcher (families butchered daily!) here in town carries all the makings of the perfect English breakfast (as well as the extra bits for a real Scottish breakfast). The 80-year old matriarch makes clootie dumpling and fruit pudding, which Mr. Orr recommends fired, with breakfast. They’ve got no website, but here’s a company which does the fruit pudding:


Good luck on getting anything like that into the States these days, however…

Ask your local butcher if they can lay hands on Ayrshire bacon (or ham!):


Fried bread is optional, these days; I was in the UK last year while losing lots of weight on the Atkins diet–breakfast was the best meal of the day (I just left out anything farinaceous and had an extra sausage…)

You may, “fire” your fruit pudding, Donald Trump-like, or you may take it “fried.”

Actually, Trump’s auntie lives here in town, a nice Scottish lady; friend of mine looked after her during a hospital stay, and met her sister, The Donald’s mother; said they were both lovely people.

I was deeply unimpressed with Lorne sausage; I bought a pack (frozen, maybe that was the problem) and cooked a couple of slices, but it just smelled rank and gamey. It tasted similarly unpleasant.