In honor of Top Chef Duels, airing tonight on Bravo at 10 ET, we’re taking on some food duels of our own. Tonight masters David Burke and Takashi Yagihashi take on eggs, a battle that inspired us to consider some of the finer points of breakfast.
Imagine yourself at a truck stop diner somewhere in the middle of Arkansas. There are full ashtrays on the counter and a laminated menu on every table claiming to serve “the last pancakes for 200 miles.” You’ve been driving all night and you need to fill up both your car’s tank and your own. As your blue-haired waitress jots down your order for two eggs over easy she says, “Will you have bacon or sausage, hon?” You pause for a moment. Your hands shake. You drop the menu, shake your fist at the sky and shout out, “I don’t know!”
The choice of breakfast meat is a challenging one. How can someone be forced to choose just one? FWx’s Justine Sterling and Noah Kaufman are here to help get to the bottom of this scenario.
JS: Breakfast sausage is a sausage you can eat for breakfast. It can be a link or it can be a patty. It can be on the side or it can be on a sandwich and it will do both of those things better than bacon. As a link on the side, it’s the filling, meaty, juicy part of a complete breakfast. As a patty on a sandwich, it covers every part of the roll or, better yet, biscuit and—this is very important—it won’t fall out! Bacon will fall out. Hey, bacon, maybe get good at one thing before half-assing 80 other things.
NK: Unlike breakfast sausage, whose very name suggests its limits, bacon can be eaten during any meal of the day and for any course. Bacon in your breakfast burrito or just on the side with your eggs. How about a BLT for lunch or maybe a nice bacon salad? And then, of course, there is the bacon cheeseburger for dinner not to mention the countless bacon dessert options. Oh, yeah, and you can drink it, too.
JS: Bacon has survived jumping the shark so many times, it seems like it will never leave the limelight. Sausage, on the other hand, is quietly farmhouse chic. The difference between bacon and breakfast sausage in terms of trendiness is like the difference between Nicolas Cage and Woody Harrelson. While Cage’s kitsch over-the-top bravado will never go out of style, he has become a hacky tool—a go-to for filmmakers and comedians who don’t want to think anymore. Harrelson, on the other hand, uses his countrified charm with discretion. He may not be in five movies every year, but when he is, you love it, and when he isn’t, he’s off getting high on a porch in Kentucky, eating breakfast sausage.
NK: Let’s not pretend that bacon isn’t overexposed. It has been put into perfumes, candy bars and those As-Seen-on-TV stores at the sad end of every strip mall. But bacon isn’t Nic Cage to sausage’s Woody Harrelson, it’s Matthew McConaughey. Sure, a few years ago he was getting plugged into movies just because he was sexy. But he used that sex appeal as a springboard to becoming a permanent part of the American zeitgeist. Also, bacon would never cheat on its wife in True Detective.
JS: As I said earlier, you can have a sausage link or a sausage patty. It can be done or it can be burnt. This isn’t a fancy burger: This is a sausage—and believe me, you don’t want it rare.
NK: In addition to the almost infinite number of foods to which you can add bacon, there are also numerous ways to prepare it. It can run the gamut from the less cooked and more meaty tasting to the super crispy and practically burnt. With a sausage you’ve basically got a binary cooking system. Done or not. I’m bored just thinking about it.
JS: Bacon will hurt you. It will splatter and it will burn. Sausage will roll around in a pan like a happy hippopotamus. No danger there. That said, once you take a bite, beware of meat squirts, they’ll get your tennis whites every time.
NK: For reasons I still don’t understand I often cook breakfast on Saturday mornings with my shirt off and yes, I do get splashed by some hot bacon grease from time to time. But danger is part of the game. Without risk you can’t get real reward. That little splatter and sting on my chest, that’s how I know I’m still alive. It’s like running from the bulls in Spain and getting to eat them afterward.
JS: Jimmy Dean wasn’t just a sausage king—he was a certified celebrity. He was a country music singer, an actor in Diamonds Are Forever and the host of The Jimmy Dean Show, which helped Jim Henson rise to stardom (Rowlf, the Muppet, was a regular). James Bond and the Muppets and Jimmy Dean sang a song called “Shark in the Bathtub.” The only thing that can overshadow all of that fame is his sausage empire.
NK: Case closed.