A full breakfast is a breakfast meal that typically includes bacon, sausages, eggs and a beverage such as coffee or tea. It comes in different regional variants and is referred to by different names depending on the area; however, it is colloquially known as a “fry up” in all areas. It is usually referred to as a full English breakfast in England (often shortened to "full English"), and therefore, as a "full Irish", "full Scottish", "full Welsh", “full Cornish”, and the "Ulster fry" in the Republic of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, and Northern Ireland, respectively. It is especially popular in Britain and Ireland to such an extent that many cafés and pubs offer the meal at any time of day as an "all-day breakfast". It is also popular in other English-speaking countries, particularly countries that were a part of the British Empire. On its origin, Country Life magazine states, "The idea of the English breakfast as a national dish goes right back to the 13th century and the country houses of the gentry. In the old Anglo-Saxon tradition of hospitality, households would provide hearty breakfasts for visiting friends, relatives and neighbours."
The full breakfast is among the most internationally recognised British dishes along with such staples as bangers and mash, shepherd's pie, fish and chips, roast beef, Sunday roast and the Christmas dinner. The full breakfast became popular in Britain and Ireland during the Victorian era, and appears as one among many suggested breakfasts in home economist Isabella Beeton's Book of Household Management (1861). A full breakfast is often contrasted (e.g. on hotel menus) with the lighter alternative of a continental breakfast, consisting of tea or coffee, milk and fruit juices with bread, croissants, bagels, or pastries.
The traditional full English breakfast includes bacon (traditionally back bacon), fried, poached or scrambled eggs, fried or grilled tomatoes, fried mushrooms, fried bread or buttered toast, and sausages (also called "bangers"). Black pudding and baked beans are also often included, and less often hash browns. In the North Midlands, fried or grilled oatcakes sometimes replace fried bread. The food is traditionally served with a mug of tea; more recently coffee is an alternative.
As nearly everything is fried in this meal, it is commonly called a "fry-up". As some of the items are optional, the phrase 'full English breakfast', 'full English' (or 'Full Monty') often specifically denotes a breakfast including everything on offer. The latter name became popular after World War II after British Army general Bernard Montgomery (nicknamed Monty) was said to have started every day with a full English breakfast when in the campaign in North Africa.
The traditional Cornish breakfast includes hog's pudding and Cornish potato cakes (made with mashed potatoes mixed with flour and butter and then fried), or fried potatoes alongside the usual bacon, sausage, tomato, mushrooms, egg and toast. In the past traditional Cornish breakfasts have included pilchards and herring, or gurty pudding, a Cornish dish similar to haggis, not to be confused with gurty milk, another Cornish breakfast dish made with bread and milk.
In Ireland, as elsewhere, the exact constituents of a full breakfast vary, depending on geographical area, personal taste and cultural affiliation. The breakfast became popular there whilst Ireland was a part of the United Kingdom. Traditionally, the most common ingredients in Ireland are bacon rashers, pork sausages, fried eggs (or scrambled), white pudding, black pudding, toast and fried tomato. Sauteed field mushrooms are also sometimes included, as well as baked beans, hash browns, liver, and brown soda bread. Fried potato farl, boxty or toast is sometimes served as an alternative to brown soda bread. Limerick in particular has a long-standing traditional association with pork-based meat products.
The "breakfast roll", consisting of elements of the full breakfast served in a French roll, has become popular due to the fact it can be easily eaten on the way to school or work, similar to the breakfast burrito in the United States. The breakfast roll is available from many petrol stations and convenience stores throughout Ireland. In 2006 Irish comedian Pat Shortt released a song called "Jumbo Breakfast Roll".
An Ulster fry is a dish similar to the Irish breakfast, and is popular throughout Ulster, where it is eaten not only at breakfast time but throughout the day. Typically it will include soda farl and potato bread, but omit white pudding.
Similarly to the breakfast roll seen in the south of Ireland, in Northern Ireland they serve "filled sodas", which usually consist of a soda farl shallow-fried on one side and filled with fried sausages, bacon or eggs. Fried onions or mushrooms are usually added upon request. Filled sodas are a popular choice for breakfast from roadside fast-food vendors.
In Scotland, the full breakfast, as with others, contains eggs, back bacon, link sausage, buttered toast, baked beans, and tea or coffee. Distinctively Scottish elements include Scottish style black pudding, Lorne sausage, and tattie scones. It commonly also includes fried or grilled tomato or mushrooms and occasionally haggis, white pudding, fruit pudding or oatcakes. As with other breakfasts it has become more common, especially within the home, to grill the meats, puddings and tomatoes and to only fry the eggs and tattie scones. Another more historical Scottish breakfast is porridge.
As in the rest of Britain and Ireland, the composition of a Full Welsh Breakfast (Welsh: Brecwast Cymreig llawn) can vary. However, with the new-found appreciation of Welsh food and recipes in the early 21st century, there have been attempts to establish a broad definition.
The traditional Welsh breakfast reflects the coastal aspect of Welsh cuisine. As such it will typically include Welsh cockles and laverbread (a seaweed purée often mixed with oatmeal and fried). Both delicacies are traditionally served with thick bacon, but a Welsh breakfast may also include Welsh sausages, mushrooms and eggs. Full Welsh breakfasts are accompanied by traditional breakfast drinks, with Welsh tea a ubiquitous choice. Today, as they are often served throughout the day in public houses or inns, a traditional beer or ale is not uncommon.
This style of breakfast was brought over to the United States and Canada, where it has endured. A full breakfast in these countries often consists of eggs, various meats, and commonly one type of fried potatoes – hash browns, home fries, Potatoes O'Brien, or potato pancakes – and some form of bread or toast. Typical breakfast meats in America are bacon, Canadian bacon, breakfast sausage, ham, scrapple, pork roll, Spam, steak, or country fried steak. In Canada, peameal bacon or cretons are often served. In the Southern US, grits are typically included. Breads served might include toasted bread, English muffins, bagels, or biscuits. Beverages such as coffee and orange juice may be included, and pancakes, waffles, or French toast might accompany the other items, possibly replacing the bread component. In diners the most common components are eggs, bacon and/or breakfast sausage served with one or two of either toast, hash browns, home fries, pancakes or waffles.
The full breakfast common in Australia and New Zealand is similar to British/Irish and North American variants, with some differences, having spread to Australasia when it was a part of the British Empire.
Bacon, eggs, hash browns, and sausages are the most common aspects of the Australasian full breakfast. Tomato, barbecue and Worcestershire sauces are used frequently, as is cheese. Bread is used as the base for most breakfast dishes, however it is common to use bread (or toast) to make a bacon and egg sandwich. Breakfast muffins are an increasingly popular alternative to bread in the Australasian full breakfast.
Regional variants are prevalent, with German influences particularly commonplace in South Australia.
Some of the foods that may be included in a full breakfast are:
The Irish might have soda bread, a potato pancake called boxty, white pudding (what you're used to, but with oatmeal in it) or black pudding (the same, but with blood cooked in).
The Scots like to have tattie (potato) scones, fruit pudding (actually a sausage made with very little fruit), and, of course, their curse on the earth, haggis.
Laverbread, not actually bread at all but seaweed, is rolled in oatmeal, fried into crisp patties and served with eggs, bacon and fresh cockles for a traditional Welsh breakfast.
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