A full breakfast is a substantial cooked breakfast meal that typically includes bacon, sausages and 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. While it is colloquially known as a "fry up" in most areas of Britain and Ireland, 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 cafes 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, cottage pie, fish and chips, roast beef, Sunday roast and the Christmas dinner. The fried 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.Breakfast cereal often precedes this, and the meal concludes with buttered toast spread with marmalade, honey, or other conserves.
Alternative main dishes are kippers, kedgeree (now rare), and devilled kidneys. In grand houses and hotels in the 19th century small game birds such as snipe and woodcock might be offered, as well as a variety of cold meats.
The "traditional" full English breakfast, treated as a dish rather than a meal, includes bacon (traditionally back bacon), fried, poached or scrambled eggs, fried or grilled tomatoes, fried mushrooms, fried bread or buttered toast, and sausages (also known as "bangers"). Black pudding, baked beans, and bubble and squeak are also often included. In the North Midlands, fried or grilled oatcakes sometimes replace fried bread. The food is traditionally served with tea or coffee, as well as fruit juices.
As nearly everything is fried in this meal, it is commonly known as a "fry-up". As some of the items are optional, the phrase "full English breakfast", or "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.