What is a full English breakfast?

Modern full English breakfasts rarely include every last ingredient associated with the meal. Except for a few core components – especially eggs and toast – the breakfast is usually made with a selection of each person’s favourite items. This may explain the national statistical anomaly that more than 80% of English people agree on enjoying a full English breakfast, according to a 2017 YouGov survey.

Full English breakfast on a plate with a mug in the background

What are the components of an English breakfast?

The essentials:

  • Eggs – one or two of them, fried, poached or scrambled.
  • Back bacon – this relatively thick and juicy type of bacon is generally preferred to streaky bacon. Use one or two rashers.
  • Toast with butter – the bread could be a traditional farmhouse loaf, a sourdough, or a Chorleywood loaf – one of the familiar squishy cuboids sold in supermarkets since the 1960s. The butter could be either salted or unsalted.
  • Tomatoes – grilled or fried cherry tomatoes, or field tomatoes, tend to be the most enjoyable breakfast picks. However, some Brits prefer tinned plum tomatoes.
  • Baked beans – probably made by Heinz, sometimes served in a ramekin to prevent heat loss and improper mingling with other ingredients.
  • Sausages – while sage-speckled Lincolnshire sausages, curly Cumberlands and meaty Gloucesters are favoured as traditional choices, thinner, quicker-cooking chipolatas are popular, too.

Optional additions and regional specialties:

  • Sauce – there’s much debate over which sauce, if any, goes best with a full English. Tomato ketchup and brown sauce are the most popular condiment choices, although some Brits prefer mustard or hot sauce. When cooking a full English for guests, hedge your bets by leaving a selection of sauce bottles on the table.
  • Mushrooms – grilled or fried, possibly with garlic and thyme.
  • Black pudding – a sausage made with pig’s blood, served in slices. Black pudding is especially popular in the north.
  • White pudding – variously combining pork, grains and fats, white pudding is most commonly used as a full English breakfast component in north-west England.
  • Hog’s pudding – this regional delicacy is particular to the south-western counties of Cornwall and Devon. Unlike black pudding, it is made with pork meat, mixed with grains and spices.
  • Hash browns or chips – these potato-based ingredients divide opinion, but they can certainly add a hearty crunch to a full English.
  • Vegetarian sausages – widely used in veggie full English breakfasts.
Sliced of black pudding on a chopping board

How to make a full English breakfast

A really good, traditional full English breakfast is made by carefully cooking each individual component, before bringing them together on the plate. These BBC Good Food guides will take you through how to cook the ingredients beautifully:

How to fry an egg
How to make scrambled eggs
Tom Kerridge: how to make perfect poached eggs
How to cook bacon
How to cook sausages
Recipe: garlic mushrooms

Timing all of the ingredients to finish cooking at the same time can be challenging, but it’s the key to enjoying the meal at its hottest and freshest. Give yourself a head start by doing any prep (such as slicing bread or preparing the scrambled egg mixture) before you start cooking. If necessary, the ingredients can be kept warm in a low-temperature oven after cooking.

Once everything is cooked, you can assemble your full English on the plate. Think especially about toast placement: would you like it to be under the beans, under the eggs or at the side in splendid isolation? People can have rather strong opinions on this matter, so it’s always a good idea to ask guests where they’d like their toast before serving. Consider serving beans, and perhaps mushrooms, in ramekins on the plate, to make sure they don’t turn cold before the meal has been happily devoured.

More like this

Our full English breakfast recipes – with a twist

Full English shakshuka

Full English shakshuka served in a pan with toast

Albion meets Turkey in Cassie Best’s innovative shakshuka, which mingles full English staples including sausages, bacon and eggs in a rich sauce of tomato, parsley and chilli.

Full English frittata with smoky beans

Frittata with tomatoes, sausage, bacon and chopped parsley

A lighter, healthier full English frittata, Served with a cult classic side of smoky paprika baked beans.

Healthy full English

Plate with roasted cherry tomatoes, sausages, mushrooms, baked beans and fried egg on

This healthier, toast-free full English recipe dials up the flavour with thyme, onion, chipolatas and cherry tomatoes on the vine.

Full English kebabs

sausage, bacon, tomato and mushroom on a skewer

Honey mustard-brushed, bacon-wrapped sausages nestle up to button mushrooms and cherry tomatoes on these delightful breakfast skewers. A quick, easy and eminently child-pleasing snack.

Full English tasting plate

Full English tasting plate

Michelin starred chef Jason Atherton artfully remixes the classic full English breakfast in this ambitious tasting plate. Prepare to put your presentation skills to the test!

Full English salad

Full English salad on a plate

This fresh and nourishing salad makes a fine alternative to a niçoise or a ploughman’s lunch. It turns out that sausage, bacon, egg and tomato remain a satisfying combination after breakfast time.

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