What is a Bacon Sarnie in England? A Complete Guide

As an American living in London, I was delighted to discover the beloved British bacon sandwich known as a “bacon sarnie” This simple yet utterly delicious sandwich is an integral part of English food culture

But what exactly is a bacon sarnie? What makes it different from a regular bacon sandwich? And why is it so popular in England?

In this complete guide, I’ll cover everything you need to know about the bacon sarnie – the history, ingredients, and tips for making the perfect version at home. Grab a cuppa and let’s dig in!

What is a Bacon Sarnie?

A bacon sarnie is a sandwich made with bacon, usually served at breakfast or brunch. It consists of fried or grilled bacon between two slices of buttered white bread.

The term “sarnie” is British slang for a sandwich. So a bacon sarnie is quite simply a bacon sandwich.

However, there are a few key elements that set the bacon sarnie apart from a standard bacon sandwich:

  • Back bacon – Most sarnies use back bacon, which comes from the pork loin, rather than American-style streaky bacon from the belly. Back bacon is leaner with a ham-like texture.

  • White bread – Soft, fluffy white bread is preferred over whole grain. White bread soaks up the bacon fat and butter better.

  • Butter – A bacon sarnie must be lavishly buttered on both slices of bread. This adds flavor and keeps the bread from getting soggy.

  • Minimal extras – While you can add ketchup, hot sauce or a fried egg, traditionally a bacon sarnie is simply bacon and butter between bread. The focus is on the bacon.

  • Eaten by hand – Unlike a knife-and-fork club sandwich, a sarnie is meant to be picked up and eaten by hand for on-the-go eating.

So in essence, a bacon sarnie is greasy, glorious, no-frills British comfort food at its finest.

Origins of the Bacon Sarnie

The bacon sandwich traces its origins back to Victorian Britain when bacon became a breakfast staple. The Industrial Revolution allowed for mass production of bacon as well as the invention of pre-sliced bread.

The term “sarnie” first emerged in the early 1900s as British slang for a sandwich. The first references to a “bacon sarnie” appeared in the 1960s.

As sandwiches rose in popularity, greasy spoons and transport cafes began selling quick, cheap bacon sarnies to busy workers who needed portable breakfasts.

Later on, younger generations embraced the nostalgic working-class connotations of the bacon sarnie. It became a favorite late-night snack after a night at the pub.

Ingredients for Making a Bacon Sarnie

Part of what makes the bacon sarnie so delicious is that it requires only a few high-quality ingredients:

  • Back bacon – Go for high-quality, thick-cut back bacon with more meat than fat. Avoid paper-thin slices.

  • Bread – Fresh white bread works best. In England, fluffy baps, barm cakes or soft white rolls are perfect.

  • Unsalted butter – Use good quality butter and spread generously on each slice.

  • Condiments (optional) – HP sauce, ketchup, hot sauce or brown sauce are popular.

  • Fried egg (optional) – A fried egg takes it to the next level. Make sure the yolk is runny.

That’s really all you need for an authentic bacon sarnie. Resist overloading it with other fillings.

How to Make a Bacon Sarnie

Making a top-notch bacon sarnie at home is easy. Just follow these steps:

  1. Butter the bread – Spread a generous amount of butter on each slice of bread or roll.

  2. Cook the bacon – Fry or grill 2-3 rashers of back bacon until lightly crisped but not burnt. Let excess grease drain off.

  3. Sandwich the bacon – Place the hot cooked bacon between the buttered bread slices.

  4. Add condiments – If desired, add a squirt of ketchup, HP sauce or a dash of hot sauce.

  5. Squish and serve – Lightly squish the sarnie down with your palm to meld the flavors. Cut in half if desired. Serve immediately.

Pro tips:

  • Grill or pan-fry, don’t microwave the bacon. You want crispy texture.

  • Make sure the bread retains some softness and doesn’t get soggy. Don’t overbutter.

  • For ultimate indulgence, add a fried egg!

  • Cut vertically for on-the-go eating or diagonally for proper presentation.

Now you have the knowledge to create this British comfort food gem at home. It’s the perfect weekend brunch or post-pub snack.

Why Are Bacon Sarnies So Popular in England?

In England, the bacon sarnie is considered a national treasure and classic comfort food. There are several factors that contribute to its popularity:

Convenience – It’s quick, portable and requires no cutlery or plates. The perfect on-the-go breakfast.

Nostalgia – Hearkens back to the days of transport cafes and greasy spoons. Warm feelings of simpler times.

Satisfying – With its salty, fatty bacon and soft bread, it hits the spot when hungry. Provides an energy boost.

Versatile – Equally enjoyable at breakfast, lunch, dinner or late night after drinks at the pub.

Easy to make – Requiring just a few ingredients, even novice cooks can master it.

Bring people together – Making and eating sarnies is a social tradition. “Sarnie making” often happens while recovering from a night out.

For all these reasons, the bacon sarnie holds a special place in English culinary tradition and culture. It’s the perfect simple pleasure.

Other Great British Sandwiches

While the bacon sarnie reigns supreme, England has other fantastic sandwiches worth trying:

  • Fish finger sandwich

  • Coronation chicken sandwich

  • Ploughman’s sandwich

  • Chip butty (fries sandwich)

  • Toastie (grilled cheese sandwich)

  • Crisp sandwich (potato chips in bread)

  • Brie and cranberry sandwich

So feel free to experiment with other traditional British sandwich fillings during your sarnie-making adventures!

Frequently Asked Questions

Still have some questions about this iconic British sandwich? Here are answers to some common bacon sarnie FAQs:

What is the difference between a bacon butty and a sarnie?

None! These terms are interchangeable. “Butty” is also British slang for a sandwich.

What bread is best for a bacon sandwich?

Soft white bread like a bap, barm cake or sandwich loaf. Wholegrain breads don’t have the right texture.

Is back bacon the same as Canadian bacon?

Very similar. Canadian bacon comes from the pork loin. Back bacon is usually cut thicker.

Should you toast the bread for a bacon sandwich?

Traditionally, no. Toasting makes the bread too stiff instead of soft. But you can lightly toast it if you prefer.

Is brown sauce the same as HP sauce?

HP sauce is the specific brand. Brown sauce is the generic term for this tangy British condiment.

The Verdict on the Bacon Sarnie

The humble bacon sarnie certainly punches above its weight class when it comes to flavor. It may look simple, but full English back bacon on soft, buttery bread is an unbeatable combination.

Next time you’re in England, start your day like a true Brit and grab a crispy, greasy bacon sarnie. Washed down with a strong English tea, it’s the perfect way to ease into your morning.

Have any tips for making the ultimate bacon sarnie? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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