The Anatomy of the Great British Fry Up

A full English breakfast (or 'fry-up')

After reclaiming British foodstuffs back from the sneers and jibes of unadventurous eaters (and vegetarians), it’s time to have a good look in detail at the one British dish you are likely to come across first, should you decide to pay a visit to the U.K., or stay in a hotel in which it is offered: the English Breakfast.

At its simplest, this is not that different from the kind of meal you’d be offered in diners and restaurant all over the world, but there are little traps that can spring up and get you if you’re not careful, so it’s best to be forewarned. Here’s what you’ll need:

1: Fried eggs
It’s not that the Brits have anything against scrambled eggs (which is what we call the thing you just call eggs), and most places that offer a fry-up will offer scrambled eggs as a matter of course (see picture above), not least because it’s easier to leave a splotch of… them? It?… in a bain marie and invite people to help themselves. But a fry-up should really contain fried eggs, sunny side up, so you can dip stuff in the yolk.

2: Bacon
Not streaky bacon, not cooked until you could use it as a roof for a mouse’s beach shack, and not slathered in syrup. We prefer a couple of rashers of back bacon, fried (or more commonly grilled) until the fat is golden brown.

3: Sausages
You can vary these according to taste, but you’ll want to avoid anything which is too close to salami or baloney. A few links of Lincoln or Cumberland sausages will do you fine. Again, grill or fry, according to your health requirements.

4: Tomatoes
Grilled until soft and leaky.

5: Baked beans
Just a scoop, but make sure they come in some derivation of the Heinz sauce, which is tomato and sugar, rather than the molasses and salt pork varieties.

6: Bubble & squeak
A kind of big messy potato fritter made with cabbage, carrots, brussels sprouts, fried into shape and cut into dollops. The vegetables are supposed to come from the leftovers of Sunday’s roast dinner, although it’s common for restaurants to make it fresh.

A fry up with bubble and squeak (on the left)

7: Black pudding/white pudding
The fry-up is where black pudding belongs, being the very driest and saltiest thing on a plate largely consisting of dry and salty things. Dip it in your egg, and sprinkle with black pepper.

8: Mushrooms
Nothing fancy or hard to locate in the fungi department. The fry-up demands nothing more than a bunch of button mushrooms, sliced and fried.

9: A Fried Slice
Should you be offered this, you need to be aware it’s a piece of bread cooked in the fat from the fried egg. Because it’s not enough to have toast with a fry-up, it has to be Naughty Toast.

10: Square sausage
A Scottish variation, in which sausage meat is flattened into squares and grilled/fried. That’s if you’re feeling like the one thing your breakfast really needs is more meat.

And that’s it. Serve with toast and a mug of tea, and unless you work in construction, be prepared to forgo lunch altogether.

Fraser McAlpine is British: this explains a lot.

Fraser McAlpine

Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 15 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME, Guardian and MSN. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Radio 2.

He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.

Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic

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