I want to make a proper English breakfast.
November 14, 2011 11:40 AM   Subscribe

Please explain to this American how to make a proper full English breakfast.

I've seen this thread, but it seems to be more about variations than how to prepare the breakfast at home for oneself.

What do I need to buy or have on hand? What food items are essential, and are there certain traditional ways of preparing them?

I don't think there are any restaurants around here (southeastern U.S.) that serve a full English, so I'd like to make the most authentic (in your opinion) version possible at home. Assume adequate cooking skills and grocery options, no dietary restrictions, etc.
posted by cp311 to Food & Drink (54 answers total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
Your biggest problems are going to be the bacon and the sausage. The total lack of decent bacon and sausage in the US is why the GBFU (Great British Fry Up) doesn't work here and tastes nasty if you just tick the same named items on the plate. Cheap Bacon and even cheaper sausages are what has tarnished the reputation back home and made tourists wonder what the fuss is, too.

American bacon (to almost all British people) is horrible. It is thin, fatty and like cardboard. English bacon isn't straight like US stuff is. It has that kind of comma/apostrophe shape to it (I don't know the butcher term for the cut). I think there is some different cut that we have in the UK and it is cut quite thickly. Canadian Bacon is similar but often not cured the same way. Canadian Bacon (as I have seen it called in Canada and in the US) seems to be too far toward Gammon/Ham (ie too thick or not fatty enough) and not smoked the same way. The Bacon Uncanny Valley.

I have had a very hard time finding decent bacon. Your best bet is very thick sliced, smoked, bacon and don't try and cook it super hot. Cook it slower so that it doesn't disappear into a curled up crispy ribbon. It will not look like US bacon when cooked, even if you cook it until it is crispy.

Also: US sausages are incredibly bland, as are (increasingly) a lot of the mainstream supermarket sausages in the UK (which is why it is hard to get a decent fry up back home unless you know the right places). Little skinny (hot dog diameter) sausages are no good. Try the 'banger' style - preferably from a small volume producer/farmers market. That's where I have had the best luck (albeit falling short). Pork sausages with sage and onion are good - anything that has a bit of texture to it when you look inside (rather than getting toward the processed 'indeterminate sausage meat' look).

Eggs? Fried, sunny side up, as you call it. Don't cook these too hot or the edges get all crackly.

Baked Beans - Heinz standard variety hits the spot. None of the fancy maple crap.

Thick sliced white or wholegrain bread. Buttered with/without toasting by preference. Excellent for soaking up egg yolk.

There always used to be a single half tomato (fried briefly) on plates back home, but it's not all it's cracked up to be.

Fried mushrooms are (for me) a must have. Sliced mushrooms cooked in the bacon fat. Basically, you do all this in one pan anyway. At most, you'd do the eggs separately.

You can do black sausage - up to you, but I am no big fan.

I was looking for the Jamie Oliver breakfast he cooked on one of his shows (all in one pan for 4 people) but this guy here has pretty much the right idea.
posted by Brockles at 12:00 PM on November 14, 2011 [15 favorites]

And yes, I have been obsessing the crap out of the whole bacon/sausage issue. A friend of my dad's here made sausages that won awards in farmer's market kind of competitions and I damn well miss them, I can tell you. Gastro pubs have decent versions at times.
posted by Brockles at 12:02 PM on November 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

A full English breakfast usually comprises of all or most of the following:

Bacon, NOT 'streaky bacon' - it has to be the more meaty kind. It should still be pink when fried, not all crispy and brown. I don't know how hard this will be to find, but you can substitute it with 'Americna style' bacon if you want.

Sausages, grilled or (more traditionally) fried. If you're feeling extra-fancy and you can find them, try something like Lincolnshire sausages: pork sausages with some sort of herb in the mixture. This is what a slightly more upmarket place in London or the like would serve for breakfast.

Black pudding, again almost always fried or sometimes grilled. I have no idea what this is called in the USA, so here's the Wikipedia article. Look halfway down the page for a picture of it in breakfast context. Note that you'll sometimes come across 'white pudding' - this is generally served as part of a full Irish breakfast (which is otherwise almost identical), but not nearly as often in England. But feel free to experiment with both.

Eggs, usually fried or poached.

Tomato, cut in half and grilled.

Baked beans in tomato sauce. Heinz are a popular brand, but I'm not sure if they have them in the USA. Any equivalent will do, though.


Peeled tomatoes, lightly simmered. Buy a can of them, stick them in a pot for five minutes on a low heat, and you're done. I personally prefer this to beans, for what it's worth.

Mushrooms, usually cut into quarters and either fried in butter or, if you're feeling health-conscious, grilled. (Protip: do the former rather than the latter and ignore the added calories. They'll taste MUCH better.)

Toast, or sometimes fried bread (exactly what it sounds like).

And that's about it for the basic 'Full English' breakfast. Not everybody likes everything on there, and people often swap out some items for slightly less common stuff. As you can see, the actual 'cooking' part is ridiculously easy: don't burn anything and try to time it so everything is ready at once (start with the sausages, then bacon, then do things like eggs and beans/mushrooms only a few minutes before you eat). Serve with tea or coffee, and you're done!

I should also point out that a 'proper' English breakfast is exactly as filling as it sounds; you can have a LOT of food on your plate, so be prepared to skip lunch. Many people would have this type of thing on a Sunday morning, then not eat again until mid-afternoon or so when they'd have a traditional Sunday roast (assuming they actually do that, of course).

The hardest item to find is probably going to be the baked beans, from what I've read, but they're not essential. Neither is the black pudding, if you try it and find you don't like it (it's too strong for a lot of people who didn't grow up eating it).
posted by anaximander at 12:04 PM on November 14, 2011

The traditional way to cook it is to fry everything.

The essential ingredients:
Eggs: fried (sunny-side up), or scrambled.
Bacon: fried. Do not under any circumstances use that streaky American stuff. Canadian bacon is probably your best bet, but it's not that close. Can you get cured or smoked back bacon in the US? If so, use that.
Sausage: fried. Plain pork link-sausages (the fat ones you get from a butcher) are the best.
Mushrooms: fried.
Tomato: fried.
Baked beans: Heinz, if you can get it, but any canned is probably fine, but avoid anything with added spices - just something that's plain haricot beans in a watery tomato sauce.
Black pudding: if you can get it, fry it. If you can't find it, it's perfectly acceptable to skip it.
Fried bread: quite simply, sliced white bread, fried in leftover bacon fat. It's also perfectly okay to just toast the bread instead of frying and eat it spread with butter to mop up the leftovers.
posted by Joey Joe Joe Junior Shabadoo at 12:04 PM on November 14, 2011

Brockles has told you pretty much all you need to know. I have found banger-style sausages at Whole Foods in Austin, TX that got pretty close. I think the trick is that there's a bit of nutmeg in bangers that makes them delicious. I vote for the fried tomato, and there are sometimes fried mushrooms included as well. There is also the so-called "fried slice." I have no idea what a fried slice is, but I usually eat it when it shows up on my plate and choose to not ask questions. I personally love black sausage, so if you can get your hands on some, go for it. Required along with English breakfast is of course large amounts of strong English Breakfast tea. I am drooling right now.
posted by Polyhymnia at 12:05 PM on November 14, 2011

Bear in mind that there's no single way and other people will argue for different items and how to cook them, but this is how I do it, which is how my Mum does it.

You'll need:

Smoked bacon (back or streaky, doesn't matter)
Sausages (good pork ones, and don't go for any fancy nonsense with extra flavours in them)
Baked beans (I'm talking here of the sort you get in the UK)
Sliced white bread
Oh so tasty black pudding (a little whole one, which you should slice up, or slices off a big one)
Marmalade (Tiptree Orange is the best)
Proper English tea.
Brown sauce is optional.

Frying pan
Pan for the beans
Grill and grill pan (the sort on an electric or gas cooker, not the thing in your garden that you put charcoal in) Do you call them the griddle?
Sunflower oil, or lard if you're feeling manly
Fish slice

And then:

Put the grill on a medium heat
Line the grill pan with foil, under the metal frame thingy that goes in it
Put some oil in the frying pan and get it on medium heat as well (1/8 inch is about enough, not more)

Put your sausages, bacon and oh so tasty black pudding slices on the grill pan and get them under the grill. Keep an eye on them. You don't want anything to overcook.

Add beans to the other pan. Simmer gently until thickened a bit. Stir gently and often.

Once the oil is hot enough, crack your eggs into the pan and get them frying. Don't add too many at once. Spoon hot oil over the tops so they cook as well. Turn the heat down so they cook gently, you don't want too many crispy edges to the eggs, just a little.

Keep an eye under the grill. Turn the sausages, bacon and black pudding over and cook the other side. Put bread in toaster. Toast.

Get the eggs out the pan, using the fish slice. Keep an eye on what's going on under the grill. Put the kettle on.

You're stirring the beans, aren't you? Remember, gentle.

Put triangles of bread into the oil in the pan to make fried bread. Turn the heat up a bit under the pan.

Get the sausages etc out from the grill and onto the plates with the eggs. Start making tea.

Butter toast. Flip the fried bread over to finish the other side.

Finish making tea.

Add fried bread to plate with sausages, eggs, bacon and oh so tasty black pudding. Put some salt on the fried bread.

Enjoy all the fried and grilled stuff.

Enjoy tea.

Enjoy toast and marmalade.

Enjoy more tea.

Enjoy more tea.

Make more toast and marmalade.

Enjoy more tea.

Best enjoyed with your choice of newspaper spread out on the table before you, with a minimum of chatter.
posted by dowcrag at 12:05 PM on November 14, 2011 [9 favorites]

Oh yes, I second the warning about hash browns. Those things are terrible.
posted by anaximander at 12:06 PM on November 14, 2011

So, we're all a bit obsessed about this, eh? Good good!
posted by dowcrag at 12:07 PM on November 14, 2011

No doubt various British Mefites will be piling in here to provide their take, but here's mine:

Back bacon, as Brockles mentions above. Streaky bacon like you usually get in North America won't cut it at all.
Button mushrooms
Baked beans in the plainest tomato sauce you can find (Heinz is the go-to UK brand)
White bread for toast (not wonderbread)

If you can get UK style sausage, great, but it's hard to find in NA.

Do things in this order.

Put the beans in a small pot on the stove on low heat to warm.

Heat a frying pan on the stove, add some oil, and fry the bacon in the frypan till cooked and maybe a little brown, but not too much. Alternatively, lay the bacon on a rack and bake in a 350 degree oven till cooked but not crispy. UK bacon is never, ever crispy.

Get the oven warm, at any rate, to keep the various cooked ingredients warm till serving.

Now, fry your mushrooms in the oil, cut a tomato in half and fry it, cut side down. Set these in the oven to keep warm.

Toast your bread, if you like toast. Or do it in the frypan too! Fried bread is more a northern Ireland thing, though.

Now turn the heat down and do the eggs sunnyside up - crack the eggs into the cooling pan, then cover with a pot lid for about 2-3 minutes. Perfect eggs with still runny yolks.

Now assemble your dish. A scoop of beans, a few pieces of bacon, mushrooms and a half a tomato, plus an egg. Toast on the side.

Pot of hot tea to go with, if you want to be super traditional about it.

Enjoy! Don't plan on eating again until supper!
posted by LN at 12:08 PM on November 14, 2011

Yes, basically what Brockles says. Bread may be served with butter and marmalade on side. Strictly it should be white ready-sliced bread, not fancy wholemeal etc, but Brockles is giving you the gourmet version. Also, tea with milk. Something strong and bland, either from an urn or just a teabag of Typhoo or Yorkshire or similar in a cup. Also, these days, fries (aka chips) are sometimes served as part of the FEB.
posted by londongeezer at 12:09 PM on November 14, 2011

Seconding that it's back bacon you want. I find this at my farmers' market, but you should be able to locate a butcher that has it as well.
posted by Specklet at 12:11 PM on November 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hi, just trying to fill in one small part since OP mentioned they are in the SE: Larger Publixes have a solid British section on the international aisle, to include brown sauce, mushy peas, salad cream, wine gums, and namely, Heinz beans.
posted by ftm at 12:11 PM on November 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hi, sorry, I'm a Canadian, so I assume you are working with a North American stove/oven combo. The whole range/grill/oven thing is a UK thing.
posted by LN at 12:12 PM on November 14, 2011

Fried slice is a piece of bread fried on the bacon fat. I think its more of an Irish thing though.

You can sometimes find proper bacon at import English/ Irish shops in the US. The black and white pudding they sell here is an abomination and should be avoided. Some small stores will have the real stuff, although I'm pretty sure its illegal in the US.
posted by fshgrl at 12:12 PM on November 14, 2011

Fellow American advice here:

1. The Bacon. You really can't get the bacon right. Even if you could find the right cut, you would probably cook it too long. I would just substitute in whatever your favorite bacon is and that will allow the FEB to hit all the "bacon notes" in your palate that it needs to hit. I wouldn't plan on serving it to the Queen like that, but for personal exploration it will suffice.

2. Avoid Black Pudding.

3. If your supermarket has a "ethnic foods" section, they will likely have a "British" section where you can get Heinz baked beans and some real British tea.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:14 PM on November 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, these days, fries (aka chips) are sometimes served as part of the FEB.


It's funny - I've always found cooking the full (for me "Scottish") breakfast one of the most stressful meals to prepare. I think its trying to get everything together at the same time, and I fret over a good fried egg.

Anyway, Brockles has it nailed. For Scottish, add square (or "lorne") sausage, sliced haggis, potato scone if your deli stretches to them. Is haggis still banned across there?? Oh, and fried slice - you stick the white bread in the pan to soak up any fat that's left. Wouldn't want to waste any...!
posted by khites at 12:18 PM on November 14, 2011

fshgrl, that makes sense. The majority of my English breakfasts have actually been Irish breakfasts, which I meant to include as a caveat in my comment.
posted by Polyhymnia at 12:18 PM on November 14, 2011

Black pudding is like marmite, you either detest it, or love it. If you've never tried it, Amazon to the rescue!
posted by LN at 12:20 PM on November 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Christ, don't get me started on tea. Anyone that suggests Liptons should be stabbed in the face. Liptons makes iced tea (Although god knows why) but it sucks as 'Tea'.

PG Tips, Tetley, Yorkshire, Typhoo. Even that Orange Pekoe stuff is decent. Liptons... ISTABYOUINYOURFACE.
posted by Brockles at 12:20 PM on November 14, 2011 [5 favorites]

American baked beans (even the Heinz variety) are NOT the same. Not even close. Don't even try. Find an importer or a Cost Plus World Market and get UK Heinz beans in the turquoise can.

I've never found proper bacon in the US.

Don't use American sausage. Find "bangers".

Black pudding is AWESOME. White pudding is EVEN BETTER.

Put Marmite on your toast.

You also need a large mug of builders tea. Strong assam, whole milk, a million sugars.
posted by elsietheeel at 12:21 PM on November 14, 2011

Here is how to mimic a roadside caf Full English with what you can actually get in the US.

Bacon: You can use Canadian bacon to more closely approximate accurate bacon.

Pudding: I actually think the black pudding is going to be the hardest item to find.

Sausage: some kind of spicy american link breakfast sausage (not patty sausage) would do.

Eggs: Your egg choices are scrambled or sunny side up. Sunny would be more traditional.

Mushrooms: Plain and pan sautéed to death. There isn't really an option here unless you're going gourmet.

Tomato: Cut in half, grilled, may have a smattering of oregano or pepper.

Hasbrowns: These are nothing like IS hashbrowns. You can make your own. (They must look like this.)
posted by DarlingBri at 12:22 PM on November 14, 2011

Note on Marmite: For the love of god, it's not peanut butter. You don't slather it on. It's more like you put some on the tip of your knife and wave it around your toast your first couple of times. Apply more and more each time you eat it. Eventually you will find your lethal dose of marmite.
posted by elsietheeel at 12:24 PM on November 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've always found cooking the full (for me "Scottish") breakfast one of the most stressful meals to prepare. I think its trying to get everything together at the same time

Yes, exactly. I do a mighty fine breakfast, by all accounts, and it a real art to get everything to finish up at the same time, especially if you are serving a number of people. Breakfast foods typically go from "Inedible" to "Perfect" to "Inedible Again" in a matter of moments, and once done, they are foods that cannot typically sit around for more than a few minutes (cold eggs... guh).

American baked beans (even the Heinz variety) are NOT the same. Not even close. Don't even try. Find an importer or a Cost Plus World Market and get UK Heinz beans in the turquoise can.

You can get UK Heinz baked beans (these) at many supermarkets I frequent. I've never tried them, but unless they make a special "Export" variety, they are not hard to get in the US.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:25 PM on November 14, 2011

I am an American who's had Irish breakfasts and may be able to help translate; despite the difference in nationalities, the two share similar elements, which can help you track things down over here (it's strangely easier in some markets to find what you're looking for if you say you want an IRISH breakfast; this Hiberniophile thinks that's as it should be, but I digress).

What everyone says about bacon and sausage is true. However -- for bacon, at least, if you want to stick to what's in your supermarket, try using Canadian bacon instead (it's closer to what everyone's talking about than the Hillshire Farms we get is).

But it's still a far cry from the real thing. Fortunately, you can order the genuine article from a few places online -- Amazon has what you're looking for in its IRISH breakfast pack (I just searched for "English breakfast" and it only gave me teas).

And do not fear the puddings. I know it's going to say "blood pudding" on the package. Don't worry; the white pudding tasted like Stove-Top Stuffing, and the black pudding tasted like Stove-Top with tapenade mixed in. It is not at all oogy.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:30 PM on November 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

American bacon (to almost all British people) is horrible. It is thin, fatty and like cardboard. English bacon isn't straight like US stuff is. It has that kind of comma/apostrophe shape to it (I don't know the butcher term for the cut).

To make green-cure bacon, bury fresh belly pork for 8-12 hours in a mixture of 70% salt and 30% sugar, rinse, thinly slice and fry. It's a better bacon than you'll find on any British supermarket shelf.

I vote for skipping the black pudding, but I'm a soft southern pansy. The half a tomato is de rigueur, but nobody knows why.
posted by Leon at 12:36 PM on November 14, 2011 [4 favorites]

Americans actually have better cookware at hand for the FEB: the cast iron skillet or griddle, relatively rare in the UK, is your friend here.

The Scottish and Irish varieties (the latter a superset of the Irish breakfast and the Ulster Fry) will take you into the domain of soda bread and/or potato farl, which I think are a useful substitution in the absence of appropriately stodgy white bread, and the latter is a better potato-based inclusion than chips. Heinz Vegetarian Beans in the green can are a passable and cheaper alternative to the turquoise-canned imports.

Even if you can get back bacon, forget everything you have learned about cooking it to the point of carbonised rigidity.
posted by holgate at 12:38 PM on November 14, 2011

I totally disagree that (nasty, gummy round the edges and generally way undercooked) back bacon is a required part of a real English breakfast. My (working class Londoner) grandmother always served streaky and really, it's so much better. I do agree that most US bacon is not substantial enough. I like a bacon you can get at Whole Foods that's thick and substantial, I think it's Wellshire Farms, and I don't know if it's available anywhere else.

My family also never did black pudding, feel free to skip that. Beans are optional, they're a more working class thing, and yes, they have to be the right kind. Don't do hash browns, but feel free to do what Americans usually call home fries - chunks of pre-cooked potato (often from left overs) that are fried to crisp them up and add the bacon flavor. You can also fry a slice of bread in the remaining bacon grease in the pan, it's delicious.

For condiments I suggest ketchup, brown sauce (HP Sauce) and Worcester sauce. You can put jam or marmalade on your toast, but you don't have to, you can just butter it and use it to help you eat the savory elements. Toast should be served cold, ideally with the aid of a toast cooler.

The real difference between an English breakfast and a typical US cooked breakfast is the total absence of anything sweet unless it's a spread on toast. Don't ever use a sweet sausage, and maple syrup is totally out. The British don't routinely combine salt and sweet flavors in the way the Americans do.
posted by crabintheocean at 12:39 PM on November 14, 2011

We don't have a Publix in my area, but I can check Whole Foods soon for some of these things. I imagine the black pudding, beans, bacon, and sausage will be the hardest to find.

Would this sausage do? It's hickory smoked and a little spicy, and commonly available here. They have spicier and thicker kinds too.

I have an electric stove, regular pots/pans and some cast iron pans.
posted by cp311 at 12:49 PM on November 14, 2011

Please don't believe anyone who tells you that any form of US canned baked beans is a substitute or the same. They are not. Heinz beans from the UK in a turquoise can are a different foodstuff entirely.
posted by merocet at 12:57 PM on November 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

We don't have a Publix in my area

I know that both Harris Teeter and Kroger have a British food section, and I think Food Lion does as well. Not sure what you have near you, but if your supermarket has an aisle for Latino and/or Asian foods, check there for a small British section. You could easily miss it if you are not looking for it, so even if you think your supermarket doesn't have one, check again next time you go.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:10 PM on November 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

I agree entirely with Brockles. Proper back bacon is like looking for unicorn meat in the US, so don't stress over it massively. I have found proper bacon at my local "British Shop", but it was frozen, so it still wasn't quite right when cooked. I don't think canadian bacon is at all appropriate to switch out, its a disc of ham for goodness sake. Check around and see if there is a "british shop" in your area, they will have the proper Heinz baked beans too. Though honestly if you've never had British baked beans the difference probably isn't important, just don't get the sugary maple ones, or the ones with pork sausage in them. The sausages you linked (hah!) don't really look right, they are too thin and it says"mild flavor", but maybe that just means they aren't spicy. Proper breakfast sausages should be quite plump. I'm pro-fried bread, partly because its awesome, but also because as an American you've likely never eaten it, and eaten toast many times before, so give it a try. Note that the fried eggs should have runny yolks, so you can dip your bacon, sausage and fried bread in them. Enjoy your breakfast!
posted by Joh at 1:50 PM on November 14, 2011

<sotto voce>You know, you don't have to include the baked beans....</sotto voce>

I mean, my family always skipped them, so I regard beans in a full English breakfast as suspicious interlopers, probably on the run from some other meal, one step ahead of the law.

The key components are the bacon, which can be streaky or back as you prefer, the sausages, which must be pork and delicious, and the egg, which must be fried. Essential component 4 is toasted or fried bread, which can be white or wholemeal, but shouldn't be sweet.

I can't get your sausage link (ha!) to load, but I wouldn't expect the sausages to be spicy... Lincolnshire sausages are the kind of thing I'd be hoping for with breakfast.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 2:03 PM on November 14, 2011

The real difference between an English breakfast and a typical US cooked breakfast is the total absence of anything sweet unless it's a spread on toast.

This cannot be stressed enough - The US prevalence of of sweet things onto a meal that should remain savoury is utterly baffling to me. From cereal (although dried fruit is ok) to fried foods, there's always a sugary slap waiting to hit you on a US-sourced breakfast. Bewildering and entirely unwelcome.

Also agreed on the Lincolnshire sausages - however, claims to that style are oft... ambitious. Do not scrimp on the sausages.

You can leave out the baked beans. I mean, you only need one kidney and maybe one lung too, so why not chop those out while you are at it.

Sheesh. Some people.
posted by Brockles at 2:31 PM on November 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

American baked beans (even the Heinz variety) are NOT the same.

If you can taste a difference between the turquoise-label Heinz Baked Beans you get in the UK and the turquoise-label ones I get in the British aisle at Fairway (or in many other supermarkets around NYC, where I realise the poster isn't) then you must be some freakish baked beans connoisseur with a hyper-trained palate. They taste exactly the same to me.
posted by oliverburkeman at 2:46 PM on November 14, 2011

The US prevalence of of sweet things onto a meal that should remain savoury is utterly baffling to me

Though of course what gives real Heinz Baked Beans their special British taste is basically bucketloads of sugar.
posted by oliverburkeman at 2:49 PM on November 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've been trying to recreate a good British Fry up since moving to the US and have had many failed attempts the nearest substitues for items I considered vital for a good fry up are.

Using thinly sliced Canadian bacon instead of US, The trick is to slice it thin and adding some bacon fat from a really nice smoked bacon for flavour (and for the compulsory frying of bread in the bacon grease to pop on top of the whole breakfast as a fat laden crowning glory (Fry on one side only until golden brown).

I use portobello, mushrooms real and fresh garlic for the mushroom fry.

Plain Brats from the supermarket are the nearest I have been able to find to British sausages though I have a lead on a local butcher that sometimes make them, but a good simple pork sausage is the way to go.

Heinz baked beans can be bought in most supermarkets in he british food section so I've been lucky there.

Real Butter on the toast and lashings of it.

The main problem I've had is finding a good brown sauce to go on top. I'm compromising with HP (it's not my favourite though others swear by it) so the search still continues.

Basically you want to avoid sweet foods, a good British Breaky fry up should be a heart attack on a plate. Fat, meat and carbs with veggies thrown in only to soak up more delicious bacon fat or butter. There is nothing like it on a cold winters morning before heading out to do something outdoorsy or just to help you get over a hangover.
posted by wwax at 2:50 PM on November 14, 2011

Oh and strong black tea, in a big pot on the table to wash it all down with.
posted by wwax at 2:52 PM on November 14, 2011

When I say the American Heinz variety I mean these. They are a poor subsitute for the real thing.

So I don't give a good gosh darn where you buy the Heinz beans from, so long as they come in a can that looks like this.
posted by elsietheeel at 2:53 PM on November 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

To be really clear about the tea:

There must be tea. It must not be Lipton's but some kind of proper tea. PG Tips, Tetley's, anything marked English Breakfast or Assam will also work, although be careful not to get loose leaf tea if you don't have a tea strainer.

This tea must be made with boiling water. Not water that was once boiled but water which is bubbling vigorously right now this minute. The tea must have milk in it, and optionally one or (at most) two spoons of sugar if you don't like the taste of it without. It must be drunk in a mug if you are having it with an English Breakfast.

For the really premium option, get a teapot, loose leaf tea, a tea cosy and a tea strainer, and see if you can get two rounds of tea out of a pot. Make sure to warm the pot before you start.

Also, a small amount of salt on fried mushrooms helps make them taste much more mushroom-y, and it's essential to combine eating this breakfast with reading the paper - preferably spending all morning reading the paper.
posted by emilyw at 3:18 PM on November 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

Though of course what gives real Heinz Baked Beans their special British taste is basically bucketloads of sugar.

Well, Heinz is an American company.

(How it nonetheless got allowed to end up being a key part of a proper English breakfast is beyond me.)
posted by trevyn at 3:31 PM on November 14, 2011

They are a poor subsitute for the real thing.

I disagree on this, and I've done a like-for-like test. They're different, but they're still basically a red, tomato-first sauce and not a brown molasses-first one, which is the truly important thing. Most English greasy spoon caffs will be using Tesco Value beans or a watery off-brand equivalent in catering-size cans anyway. If you can get the British import, that's great, but there's no reason to pay through the nose for them if you can't find them cheaply. (I found overstocked Bachelor's beans from Ireland at 49¢ a can the other week. Bargain.)

Then again, I always preferred Crosse & Blackwell back in the day, and in spite of the Pepsi Challenge-ish marketing from Branston Beans, I think they're a worthy competitor to Heinz.
posted by holgate at 3:47 PM on November 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

I was worried that no-one was going to mention 'brown sauce' as a condiment but wwax saved the day. For a little extra flavour, the baked beans (and tinned tomato) should have a health splash of Worcester sauce added whilst cooking.
posted by dirm at 5:05 PM on November 14, 2011

Speaking of butter.. buy some real butter. I have no idea how you manage it, because its butter for pete's sake, but US butter is tasteless and awful. Costco has Kerrygold $8 for a pound, you can also get it at grocery stores for about 4x that. It is totally worth it.
posted by fshgrl at 5:15 PM on November 14, 2011

You can indeed get the proper British style bacon that includes the loin. There are online sources include these folks. But if you are hardcore here is reasonable guide to making your own. Depending on locality you may find people making product locally such as, the farmers' markets or local co-op (where I get my product). It seems a lot of stores are making English style bangers so just search around.

The beans. Oh yes, must be Heinz and come in a BLUE can. I have actually found these in the local super mega-mart under the international aisle. It was also my source for Vimto.

Marmite was available at the super mega-mart and also Whole Foods (bake aisle).

Good eggs, what my country friend would call, "high sitting", where the quality is fresh and the yolk does not look flat.

The tea has to be decent black tea. You can find PG Tips, Yorkshire and the others at either Whole Foods, Asian markets or the usual high end grocery stores that carry Harney and Sons.

I never had fabulous tomatoes with the full English but the grilling and frying do make even mediocre tomatoes serviceable. I personally feel roasting the half tomato concentrates flavor.

Make the mushrooms fresh; none of the canned crap. Again, make sure you fry it proper.

A good pullman style loaf would be a nice source for the toast. I am a fan of Tiptree's marmalade but do find preserves that are good no matter what flavor. Better a great gooseberry jam than a rubbery orange marmalade.
posted by jadepearl at 6:21 PM on November 14, 2011

fshgrl, as far as I know, what makes Kerrygold and the like so much better than American butter is that European butters require a higher butterfat content than American butters do. I believe the comparison is something like 85% to 80%.
posted by Polyhymnia at 8:18 PM on November 14, 2011

!Politically Correct Food Police Alert!

Things may have changed in the last 30 (!) years, but the correct term for the type of bacon commonly consumed in Canada is "back bacon"---some Canadians may find the phrase "Canadian bacon" a bit offensive.

That is all.
posted by Napoleonic Terrier at 9:12 PM on November 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

I had British bacon this morning! I got it at my local old school butcher.
posted by vespabelle at 9:15 PM on November 14, 2011

1. Toast or fried bread (my 100% English husband uses a margarine called clover for his fried bread and doesn't add salt). With toast you can use marmalade or jam. Fried bread is serious business. Don't talk bad about fried bread.

2. Soft cooked eggs (just put oil over the top of the eggs to make sure they're done)

3. Bacon and sausage (I've seen vegetarian versions too!)

4. Tomatoes (half cut and grilled or stewed -- optional in some cases)

5. Hashbrowns (is this a recent thing?)

6. Tea (PG Tips is all my FIL can stand but my husband likes twinnings). With milk is good but how much milk and or if you add sugar is up to you.

7. Blue canned heinz (although some people here like other brands)

8. Mushrooms (MIL does them in margarine, FIL in oil, Husband in oil, myself in half and half but I'm not English either)
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 12:17 AM on November 15, 2011

Good answers here (although hash browns have nothing to do with an English breakfast and the addition of them is WRONG).

The real essentials are runny-yolk fried eggs, great sausage and great bacon. As others have mentioned, you really need back bacon if you can get it, and this is how it looks. Note that it should not be cooked to the sort of crispy state that Americans seem to favour. It's a slice of proper meat, not a fatty crisp/chip. A little crisp around the fatty edge is fine, but the main pink bit should be yielding and toothsome.

Try to find good quality sausages at a decent butcher rather than buying dubious supermarket packages. They should look something like this or this raw, and like this cooked.

I've certainly managed to find good sausages in NYC - not sure where you are - but proper bacon is a much tougher problem.

Also, black pudding is one of those things you really should try. It's not for everyone but some of us think it's delicious, and a fine and traditional element of the full English.
posted by Decani at 1:08 AM on November 15, 2011

some Canadians may find the phrase "Canadian bacon" offensive

Some people can find anything offensive. It is referred to as Canadian bacon extensively here in Canada (US style bacon is prevalent too) so I don't think you need to worry about that.

The tea has to be decent black tea.

To clarify, the tea must be black as in not green tea. Tea should be taken with milk and perhaps sugar. The idea of not having milk in tea is pretty bizarre/niche/fancy teas only* in the UK.

*I include Earl Grey in that. Horrible stuff.
posted by Brockles at 9:25 AM on November 15, 2011

And the secret ingredients to making your fry up work? SALT and BUTTER!

- The mushrooms won't get juicy unless you salt them before or right in the pan (and you can put the top on the pan - this helps too) or be as rich without the butter to fry them in.

- The tomatoes won't get squishy unless you salt the flesh again before or right in the pan.

- The eggs won't get fried up as crispy without the butter or some oil (and a higher heat then Americans tend to cook their eggs at)

- I recommend getting the bacon at a butcher just ask for a very thick cut or ask for English bacon (and I always thought that Canadian bacon was ham)

And as someone who has spent years combing the supermarkets for these very staples - I find that the British section of stores (esp. World Market and Kroger or if you have a Malaysian or Sub-Continent Indian store) are good for brand goods like Blue Can Heinz Baked Beans, builders tea (PGTips, Tetley's, Twinnings) where as Whole Foods will have your free range eggs (seems to have better more colourful yolks) and thicker, gourmet bacon.
Happy Eating!
posted by mutt.cyberspace at 6:03 AM on November 16, 2011

As an Englishman abroad for 16 years (though not in the US) I have found that:

a. Bacon - get what you can and cook it how you like. Back is probably best but it's not going to ruin it for me if we get brittle shards of overcooked streaky. Do not add maple syrup/sugar. It's not right.
b. Mushrooms - fried in butter, salt and pepper until just the right side of 'slimey' - thin cut is your way there. Adding Garlic - well not for me - garlic and egg yolk just don't do it. Same for herbs - we're English and we like our food plain.
c. Toast - doughy white sliced is always better but whatever mops up your egg juices is fine. Just make more of it than you think you need - having leftover egg yolk on the plate is a fail. Plate should go back cleaner than it started the day.
d. Black pudding - takes it to a whole new level. Find and invest. Do not look at the ingredients label if you are squeamish.
e. The Tomato - most tomatoes either aren't cooked enough - still cold on the inside, or too much - like what Bill Bryson called 'a bloodclot' on a plate. Slice into 4, lightly cover in oil, salt and pepper and fry. An acquired taste but well worth it, especially if you are a man.
f. Chips/fries/hash-browns - I would say a huge no if this was a home-cooked event. However if I were in my favourite Greek cafe in London and they served it up with chips I wouldn't send them back. But I wouldn't knowingly order them.
g. Tea - get a tea pot and PG/Yorkshire/Typhoo/Tetley are the safest bets. Second the Liptons comments and whatever it was I had in Starbucks the other day (ordering tea in a coffee shop...I know...). Brew the tea until it looks like you could melt coins in it., Then Add a little bit of milk to a mug and pour tea over - should be the same colour as a Snooki tan. Also known as 'Builder's tea'.
h. Eggs - 'Sunny Side up' is traditional. But cooked properly with an excellent runny yolk - no white left uncooked.
i. Beans - take them or leave them but Heinz are good (and so are the Crosse and Blackwell)
j. Sauces. Heinz Tommy K or HP brown sauce for me.
k. That is all.
l. Except the best breakfast I had recently was in Australia and called 'The Aussie Trucker'. It was immense and really hit the spot. It actually made me like the country more once I'd eaten that.
posted by fatmouse at 3:49 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Bugger. I forgot the sausages. About them - frankly I prefer my breakfast sans sausage unless I know it's going to be a cracker. Unlike bacon, any old banger will just not do. Lincolnshire sausages have always been a favourite.
posted by fatmouse at 3:58 PM on November 16, 2011

I was pondering this same thing, as I'm expecting guests from the UK next summer. FWIW, I was shopping at one of my local Latino supermarkets recently and found that they did have a blood pudding at the butchers counter. So that's worth a look if the import shops prove to be a little eye-watering in price.
posted by arishaun at 2:22 AM on November 17, 2011

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