The Best Breakfast Meats: A Carnivore’s Wake-up Call
Yes, there are types of breakfast meat other than bacon…even pork-free breakfast meats. Here’s a savory guide to the meatiest ways to rise and dine.
Breakfast. It’s the most important meal of the day, or so they say. When you wake up, your brain has (hopefully) recharged itself through a good night’s sleep…but your body hasn’t eaten anything since dinner—or possibly a late-night snack—and wants fuel after fasting for eight hours or so. Now it’s time to break that fast…hence the word breakfast.
There are many different approaches to breakfast, of course, depending on your lifestyle, desired outcome, etc. If you’re going to exercise right away, for instance, it’s best to eat after you’re done working out. If you simply must eat beforehand, give your body a small dose of carbs to burn off. After the workout is when you want the protein for recovery and replenishment. On the other hand, people who have overindulged the night before typically crave richness and comfort in the form of fat. (Medical science says this is not really a good thing—those rich foods are better eaten as a preventative before indulging—but preferences are preferences, and it’s better to eat than not to eat.)
Let’s just say you’re looking first and foremost for flavor, and calories aren’t your concern. The sweet tooth will crave that French toast or stack of pancakes drowned in maple syrup, while others are all about the eggs, potatoes, cheese and hot sauce. Either way, that breakfast is going to be a lot better with a side of breakfast meat.
Types of Breakfast Meat
Breakfast meats tend to be different from meats consumed at other meals. At dinner, the meat is typically the focal point of the dinner plate. It’s the star of the show, and everything else is just a side dish. Accordingly, the meat portion tends to be bigger. (A lot of people say it shouldn’t, but hey—this is a website for meat lovers.) And lunch…well, there’s a whole category called luncheon meat. It’s basically cold cuts, because we generally eat on the fly during the work day.
Breakfast is somewhat unique. We tend to go for smaller cuts of meat that make up for their size by being bigger in flavor. Smoke and spice are amplified, and so is the fat content—to give you that added burst of energy your body craves after the long fast. Breakfast meats, in a word, are intense: the perfect companion to that wake-up cup of joe.
So what are the best types of breakfast meat?
Any discussion of breakfast meat must begin (and, for some, end) with bacon. It’s so popular, it’s practically become a cult. Smoky, fatty, salty and addictively delicious, it’s everything nutritionists hate…and those with a zest for life love. Bacon is simply amazing with eggs, and adds a savory counterpoint to a sweet stack of pancakes. All bacon is not created equal, of course; there are many types of bacon from which to choose. Get the best bacon you can afford, and your breakfast satisfaction will rise to new heights.
This (usually) cured, (usually) smoked pork product is basically bacon’s big brother. Because it comes from the leg of the pig, ham is much leaner than the belly; most of the fat is on the outside. It’s very common to see diced ham in omelets or breakfast casseroles (“egg bakes”), and in the South a big ham steak is often accompanied by eggs and/or grits and smothered in red-eye gravy made with coffee. Ham is one of the most popular breakfast meats.
There are many types of sausage all over the planet, but a rather small category specifically for breakfast. In the British Isles, “bangers and mash” (sausage links and mashed potatoes) are a popular breakfast. Here in the States, smaller links or patties are popular, and they all start with a blend of ground pork flavored with black pepper, sage and other seasonings. If you want to feed a crowd and aren’t worried about calories, one favorite is sausage gravy served over buttermilk biscuits. Some companies even make sausage links from ground ham—talk about the best of two worlds!
Pork-Free Breakfast Meats
You may have noticed that all the types of breakfast meat discussed so far are pork products. Here in America, pork is king of the breakfast table. But what if you don’t eat pork? Are there breakfast meats that are not pork? Well, there aren’t many…but they do exist.
Most people aren’t going to eat fish for breakfast—not in America, anyway—but two popular dishes are made from seafood specialties. Lox, or smoked salmon, is simply amazing atop a bagel with a schmear (as they would say in New York) of cream cheese. And worlds away, in the coastal areas of the South, shrimp and grits are a fabulous way to start the day with part of yesterday’s catch. (Bonus points if you add bacon.)
Now you’re talking! Steak and eggs is a classic combination. There’s something about the creamy, runny yolks of sunny-side-up eggs moistening a premium aged beef steak…preferably with crispy hash browns to soak it all up. It’s the ideal blend of textures and flavors. Breakfast steaks are, by definition, smaller than what one would eat for dinner: 5 or 6 ounces is the norm. A 6-ounce sirloin or flat iron filet is perfect, and provides a more intense, beefy flavor than the delicate filet mignon. Then again, if you wrap that filet mignon in bacon, you might just have the perfect breakfast meat.