New Jersey’s breakfast sandwich

If you thought the Garden State would have vegetables in their state sandwich, you’d be wrong.


I was hanging out in the meat section of the grocery store, thinking about sandwiches (again) and I found a small plastic and cloth wrapped hunk of meat. I checked the label, and it was a pound of John Taylor’s Pork Roll. I had heard about Taylor ham/pork roll, but I had never seen it in real life, so I decided to buy it and see what the fuss is all about.

Some Taylor ham/pork roll history

A gentleman named, John Taylor, has been credited with the invention of pork roll back in 1856 in Trenton, New Jersey. Taylor originally called it “Taylor Prepared Ham,” but was forced to change the name since this product didn’t meet the legal definition of ham at that time.

In 1906 Taylor Prepared Ham was renamed Taylor’s Pork Roll. Around this time or a few years later, there were several competing companies that were marketing similar products using the words “pork roll,” “rolled pork” and “roll of pork” in their product names. Taylor tried to sue at least one of these companies and the court ruled that “pork roll” and “roll of pork” couldn’t be held as trademarks.

Fast forward to the current time and there are still multiple companies making a product classified as pork roll, Taylor Provisions (John Taylor’s original company) and Case’s are two of the most well-known. The phrase “Taylor ham” is still being used by Northern New Jerseyites and those living in Southern New Jersey (and Philadelphia) typically will say “pork roll.” People living in Central New Jersey are known to say one or the other.

This is a much bigger rivalry than I originally knew about when starting to research this blog post. There are several well documented investigations into this naming convention rivalry and one of those was posted last year on the New Jersey Digest: “Taylor Ham or Pork Roll? A New Jersey Civil War.”

If you want to see the Taylor ham/pork roll divide on a map, the tweet below is citing a map created from a poll that NJ.com held in 2016. More than 40,000 votes were cast in the poll that created this map, and many folks joined in the conversation, including such notable names as Chris Christie and Bill Clinton. The live google results map is no longer available, but the map in this tweet will give you a good representation of the demarcation of the Taylor ham/pork roll divide.

What is Taylor ham/pork roll?

One pound of John Taylor’s Pork Roll

John Taylor’s pork roll is not just a big hunk of meat like an actual ham. It’s finely ground pork shoulder with added spices merged in a way similar to other processed pork like bologna or mortadella. It’s fully cooked, so you could just grab a big hunk and start taking bites out of it like an animal. But we’re not animals, we’re sandwich enthusiasts. I did take a bite of one of my first slices, but no one needs to know about that.

The flavor of this brand of pork roll actually reminds me a little bit of country ham that I grew up eating in the Southeastern part of the United States. John Taylor’s pork roll isn’t quite as salty as country ham, but it does taste saltier to me than most regular ham. I would say it reminded me of a combination of country ham and bologna and some of the bologna flavors are coming from the similar way that the two meats are traditionally seared for sandwiching.

The way that pork roll seems to be cooked most often is on a flat griddle or flat top. Almost every video or photo of pork roll being prepared for sandwiching has three or four slits cut into the edge of the meat. This is not done for looks. The slits are cut so that the pork roll slice doesn’t curl up or cup on the flat, hot surface.

  • Four slits in the Taylor ham/pork roll = fireman’s badge style
  • One slit in the Taylor ham/pork roll = Pac-Man style

One thing to note is that the one-pound version of John Taylor’s pork roll (like the pound I bought) has a smaller diameter than the larger versions. I would assume that New Jersey restaurants are buying the six-pound version and they’re slicing theirs with a deli slicer. I was able to use a sharp knife and sliced mine into about 1/8th of an inch slices.

What is a Taylor ham/pork roll, egg and cheese?

A Taylor ham/pork roll, egg and cheese sandwich contains: seared Taylor ham/pork roll, a fried or scrambled egg and American cheese. The typical condiment options at that point are: “salt, pepper, ketchup.” The sandwich is served between a sliced Kaiser or “hard” roll.

Some griddling action shots

This is just to keep your interest and excitement levels high. We get into the process of making these a bit further down the page.

With a sharp knife, cut slits into your Taylor ham/pork roll a few times around the outside to allow it to sear evenly. Four slits in the slice = Fireman’s badge style.
A fried egg before the flip. I move the seared pork roll with melting cheese and the toasted Kaiser roll to the back, cooler spot on the griddle while the egg cooks.

The egg

From all the videos I’ve watched it appears if you order a Taylor ham/pork roll, egg and cheese you will likely get a fried (over easy) egg with a broken yolk. Wikipedia claims that occasionally it’s a scrambled egg, but I didn’t see any confirmations of that in the few videos I’ve watched or articles I’ve read.

From my non-New-Jersey perspective, the egg could be cooked to your favorite cooking style. Over easy with a breaking of the yolk before flipping is just the most common way.

The Kaiser roll or hard roll

A fresh baked Kaiser stamped Kaiser roll.

For this sandwich we need Kaiser rolls. In the process of researching this sandwich I learned that people from New Jersey (as well as some Mid-Atlantic US states like New York and Connecticut) call a Kaiser roll a “hard roll.” I get why they might call a Kaiser roll a hard roll, but it still bothers me because I don’t pride myself on making hard bread.

The use of bread flour in this recipe is crucial. Often you can substitute all-purpose flour for bread flour or vice versa, but in this case, you need the chewiness that bread flour contributes to a recipe. This texture is what leads to the roll being “harder” while still not being a heavy or dense bread.

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2 hours and 47 minutes
Kaiser rolls

Some areas call a Kaiser roll a "hard roll," but this roll is anything but hard. The outside is a tiny bit crusty, and the interior is firm, but still squishy where it counts. This is a great roll for sandwiches or burgers.

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A Kaiser roll doesn’t really need to have the design on top, but it’s what people expect when they hear the name. There are two techniques that I know of for making that design:

  1. Using a Kaiser roll stamp
  2. Making a fancy dough knot

I’ve done both techniques and they both taste the same, so it’s all up to personal visual preference. The Kaiser stamp takes a bit of technique to learn. You must make sure to keep flouring your stamp in between each dough stamping. The flour keeps the splits in the dough from sealing back up during the final rise. You also have to let the dough rise upside down after stamping. This can lead to some problems deflating the dough when you flip it back over.

Homemade Kaiser roll made with a Kaiser stamp
A Kaiser roll that I knotted instead of stamped. Some look better than others…

Sandwich assembly

Let’s build some New Jersey hangover breakfast sandwiches!

All the ingredients for a tasty breakfast sandwich. Look at that fancy ketchup (it’s a local version we like – my house was currently out of Heinz…).

Slideshow of the cooking process

Brought to you in 4K slideshow Dolby max stereo. Or maybe just photos.

The recipe

At this point, I’ve basically described in photos and words how to make this sandwich. It’s quick and easy, but if you are the type of person that prefers a step-by-step recipe, here you go:

Taylor ham/pork roll egg and cheese sandwich view printable page for this recipe

If you can get your hands on Taylor ham or pork roll from New Jersey, you need to know how to make this sandwich. In theory, it's a breakfast sandwich but I'm pretty sure it would be great any time of the day.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 Kaiser roll (hard roll)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3 or 4 slices of Taylor ham or pork roll
  • 1 large whole egg
  • 1 or 2 slices of American cheese
  • salt, black pepper, ketchup

Directions:

Slice and toast your Kaiser roll if you desire. To do this, get a medium pan or large griddle over medium heat and butter each cut side of your Kaiser roll. Cook, butter side down, for a few minutes until the roll has toasted and picked up a light brown color.

Remove the Kaiser roll to a plate and keep the pan over medium heat. If you have a large griddle, you can set one burner to be a lower heat and move your rolls to that side to keep them warm. 

Cut small slits into the edges of your slices of Taylor ham or pork roll. This helps your pork sear better. 

Place each piece of pork roll into your medium pan still over medium heat. Sear for 3 to 4 minutes per side. This meat is already fully cooked, we're just trying to brown things and get the pork warm. 

Once each slice of pork is browned to your liking, stack the meat and remove to a plate or cooler part of the griddle. If you're using multiple slices of cheese, you can add the first slice in between the pork layers to help the melting start. 

When all of your pork slices are stacked and moved off the hot part of the griddle/pan, add one tablespoon of butter to the pan. Once the butter starts bubbling (should be almost immediate), crack an egg right on top of the butter. Don't stir the egg or move it around. 

Salt and pepper the egg. 

After about 2 minutes, using a spatula or turner, flip the egg and add a slice of cheese on top of the cooked side of the egg. 

Cook the egg with cheese on top for another 2 minutes until done. If you like your egg with no runny yolk at all, you can cook it another minute. 

Assemble the sandwich: add the stack of Taylor ham/pork roll to the bottom of your Kaiser roll. Layer the egg and cheese on top of the slices of meat. If you opt for ketchup, squirt some on the Kaiser roll top and close the sandwich. 

Stand back and be proud of your creation. Take a big bite and enjoy. 

Notes:

If you can't find Taylor ham or pork roll, you can use a few slices of bologna or slices of Spam. If you do this, it WILL NOT be a Taylor ham/pork roll, egg and cheese (do not yell at me, New Jerseyites!), but it will still be a tasty sandwich. 

Some finished Taylor ham/pork roll egg and cheeses.

Gaze on these tasty beauties and let me know how you think I did down in the comments.

Pork roll/Taylor ham, fried egg and American cheese with salt/pepper/ketchup on a hard roll (please don’t call my freshly baked Kaiser roll “hard”).
Sometimes you need to add poppy seeds to your Kaiser roll just to make sure you won’t pass any of your future drug tests.
The combination of American cheese and ketchup must have some people squirming, but it really, really works in this sandwich.
All the melty cheese and all the egg combine with the juices from the seared pork roll to make some sort of fantastic sauce. The firmness of a Kaiser roll really is the perfect vessel for this sandwich. I made this one without ketchup.

A non-traditional sandwich

I made this one just for fun and I changed a couple of things up.

This is cheddar instead of American cheese, a folded egg instead of a fried egg and roasted garlic mayonnaise instead of ketchup. I honestly loved this version but if I did it again, I’d add hot sauce. Adding some hot sauce to the original sandwich would be nice too.

Is it Taylor ham or pork roll!?

I’m not going to get into this. You folks in New Jersey can work it out without me. What I can say is that this is a tasty sandwich. It might be a bit salty for some folks, but I doubt there are many people who are eating these sandwiches every day (except for the week I spent doing just that – and I seem ok?).

The main takeaway I’ll come away with from Taylor ham/pork roll week is that I think it’s fantastic to find sandwiches like this that have such a strong connection to an area. I think the North/South New Jersey naming rivalry has contributed to some of the passionate feelings that locals have to this meat product, and I think that has driven the excitement and interest for the sandwich even more.

What do you call it? Let me know in the comments or tweet it at me!


The King of breakfast sandwiches

You probably never sausage a sandwich!


I get really excited about the sausage, egg and cheese biscuit. This is definitely my favorite breakfast sandwich and would be my go to selection at a fast food breakfast joint. This week I made a bunch and if you continue reading you’ll learn about the process I use to make these at home.

The biscuits

The base biscuit recipe I use is from Southern Living magazine (youtube link). It requires three ingredients and is fairly easy to get right. If the idea of keeping buttermilk around in your fridge seems wasteful, you can also buy buttermilk powder at the grocery store and follow this recipe from The Kitchenista Diaries.

I’ve already written a little bit about biscuits and I have three different flavor versions (two savory and a sweet one) in my recipe archive. Go read that if you have never made biscuits before and then come back here to read the rest of my process for sausage, egg and cheese.

The tools

This set of biscuit/cookie cutters (Amazon affiliate link) is very similar to the ones that I have. I bought mine so long ago that I don’t know where we purchased them, but I like having many different sizes. I like to bake a bigger size biscuit if I’m making a sandwich, but we usually choose a smaller size if we’re having biscuits on the side of a plate of breakfast.

Another tool that I use even more often than a rolling pin when making biscuits is a bench scraper. This is a great scraper set (Amazon affiliate link) for right around 10 bucks. It has three scrapers included. The orange plastic one I almost never use, but the red curved one is great for bread baking and getting dough out of a bowl and the metal one is what I use for biscuits and scooping and folding during the folding/layer making process. Buy this or find another bench scraper if you’re planning to make biscuits a regular thing at your house.

The sausage

Forming patties with a ring mold

I don’t usually make my own sausage blend for breakfast sandwiches. Typically I just buy bulk breakfast sausage in the tube and I form my own patties.

Forming my own means that I can get the shapes and sizes that I want. Since I already know how big my biscuit is (because I know what size biscuit cutter I used) I use a similarly sized cutter (or a slightly larger one – meat will shrink once cooked) and I spread a tiny bit of canola oil on the inside of the ring and I use it to shape my patties. The oil keeps things from sticking. Sometimes I freeform shape each patty – that’s also a very easy option – but when I’m feeling fancy and precise I use the ring mold.

Cooking each patty for 4 or 5 minutes per side on a medium-high heat should get you to a fully done stage of sausage patty goodness.

Egg options

The folded egg

A folded egg is way better for a biscuit sandwich than scrambled eggs. If you’ve ever put scrambled eggs on a sandwich, you know that you’re about to have a mess on your hands with the scrambled curds falling out. With a folded egg, you have a solid but still soft piece of egg that shouldn’t make a mess. You’re pretty much making an omelet here, with nothing but salt and pepper added.

Sausage folded egg and cheese biscuit. The king of breakfast sandwiches.

Here’s a short slideshow of how I prepare a folded egg. The whole process takes about 1 minute of cooking time plus whatever time it takes you to get your surface hot. I like to do it in a flat griddle so I can flip things easier. I usually try to get the hot surface up to between 275 and 350 F (that’s around 177 C).

The round egg

A “round egg” is the egg preparation you’ll find on an Egg McMuffin at McDonald’s. A folded egg is what you’ll find on a biscuit sandwich. Many McDonald’s enthusiasts prefer the round egg more than a folded one because it requires the McD’s cook to use a fresh egg instead of a pre-cooked folded one. In our DIY make-at-home versions they’re all fresh eggs, so that part doesn’t matter very much, it’s more about the effort you want to put into it.

I don’t like to cook the round egg very much, but I still cooked one for this post. The main reason I don’t like a round egg is because you have to cook it pretty well through in order for it to retain its shape in the ring mold. I like my eggs a bit softer and less done. If you like yours more well done then this might be a fun option for you, but I much prefer the folded egg option.

If you want to cook a round egg, I would grab the same ring mold that you used to cut out your biscuit and you place that on a hot surface. Make sure if you’re doing this on a non-stick surface pay close attention so that you do not scratch the surface with the metal mold. Grease the ring mold first with some vegetable oil and pour your egg into it. I like to stir the egg a little once its in the mold and cooking to make sure that the yolk gets cracked and mixed in a bit with the white. Cook for a couple of minutes until it seems like the sides are set inside the mold. With tongs, carefully remove the ring mold and flip the egg to finish it cooking on the top side.

A round egg

The microwaved egg

Chef José Andrés shared this trick on tiktok and a friend shared it with me. It’s basically one egg mixed very thoroughly with one spoonful of mayonnaise. I was skeptical, but I tried it and it worked fairly well. I like my scrambled eggs on the softer side of things so I might play around with the timing on the microwave to get a better result. Sixty seconds for me was a bit too long, but to have an egg that is the perfect size for a biscuit sandwich in less than 2 minutes is fantastic (gotta count the cracking and scooping and stirring time too).

If the idea of mayonnaise in your scrambled eggs makes you squirm, just remember that mayo is simply oil and egg yolks mixed together with seasoning (and if store bought, preservatives).

Here’s Chef Andrés explaining his technique. A photo of my attempt at the microwaved egg is below.

The Jose Andres microwaved egg trick with a couple dribbles of hot sauce.

Sausage gravy

Gravy isn’t a typical ingredient in a sausage egg and cheese biscuit, but it’s good to know how to make a quick sausage gravy for a breakfast. Here’s my recipe but read below if you want to know my gravy ratio and methods to make gravy on the fly.

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Sausage gravy

Everyone should know how to make sausage gravy. You never know when there will be a gravy emergency and you will have to step up and save the world. You should be prepared.

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If you want to keep things really simple, the sausage gravy I usually make is made up of 2 parts oil/grease, 2 parts all-purpose flour and 16 parts of liquid. This means you can use 2 tablespoons of leftover fat/grease from cooking sausage in a pan, 2 tablespoons of flour and 1 cup of milk (16 tablespoons to a cup) to make a sausage gravy. I’ve had good success scaling the recipe up to double and halving the recipe as well. Since I was only eating one biscuit here, I used 1 tablespoon sausage grease, 1 tablespoon of flour and a half cup of milk. If you’re going to adjust anything in this gravy ratio, you can adjust the milk/liquid. If you add more, you just may need to cook it a bit longer to reduce and thicken the gravy.

If you’ve just finished cooking the sausage and your pan is still hot you can remove all but 2 tablespoons of grease from the pan (add some vegetable oil if you don’t have quite enough in the pan) and then spoon in your two tablespoons of flour. Stir this around over medium heat for a couple of minutes and this will cook off the flour taste. Add your milk and stir everything to combine. Cook over medium heat, stirring often until you get the gravy consistency that you desire. It’s that simple.

Sausage gravy and folded egg

And those are some options for how you can make the King of Breakfast Biscuits. You can choose your own adventure with the egg options, but my favorite for visual appeal is the folded egg. For ease and quickness, that microwaved egg trick is pretty special. If I’m already cooking sausage patties and my pan or griddle is hot I will keep folding eggs.

The bonus biscuit

I’ll finish out this sausage, egg and cheese post with an extra cheesy surprise. This is my super savory cheddar cheese biscuit recipe with yellow mustard, sausage, cheddar and a folded egg for you to look at and think about until you make your next biscuit sandwiches. Stay tuned for next week when I’ll be writing about even more cheese!

The cheddar attack: a savory cheddar cheese biscuit, mustard, sausage, melted cheddar and a folded egg.

Heart shaped biscuit

Let’s talk about biscuits

I love biscuits and you should too.


I’m a big fan of biscuits which is due in no small part to the fact that I’m also a big fan of butter.

When I first started making my own biscuits a few years back, I began with drop biscuits. If you’re not familiar with that sort of biscuit, it just means that instead of rolling and folding biscuit dough, you scoop or “drop” the dough onto a cast iron skillet or pan. I’m not 100% sure why I started with that variety of biscuit, but I’m guessing it seemed a little less intimidating at the time. The doughs and ingredients are similar, but a folded, layered biscuit just has a much more appealing look to me.

When I started looking for biscuit recipes that were more similar to the type that I had eaten in restaurants growing up in North Carolina, I stumbled upon the video below from Southern Living Magazine and it’s still the main recipe I fall back on when I’m not engaging in biscuit experiments.

Here’s a direct link to the written recipe for the above video, if you’re more of a reader than a watcher: Southern Living biscuits. Come back when you’re done reading and we’ll keep talking.

The simplicity of this recipe is due in part to only requiring three ingredients, but the genius of the recipe is frozen butter. By grating the butter after it’s frozen, you get consistent mixture with the flour and your butter stays really cold. The temperature of your butter is very important because you want it to survive unmelted in the oven for as long as possible. The steam that comes from the butter melting in the oven will actually help the biscuits rise taller. There’s a step in the Southern Living biscuit recipe that calls for you putting your flour/butter mixture back into the freezer. This is also very important for keeping that butter (now incorporated with flour) cold.

There are also several really helpful tips in that recipe.

  1. If you’re cutting your biscuits into circles DO NOT twist your biscuit cutter. After working hard to fold your dough multiple times, twisting the cutter will also twist the layers of your uncooked biscuit, leaving you with a biscuit that won’t rise as well.
  2. Bake your biscuits close together. When you put your cut biscuits onto your baking sheet and the biscuits are touching, they will create more steam and if touching they will help each other rise.
  3. Baste your biscuits with melted butter when they come out. I also do this with some of the sandwich rolls I bake. I like the way the finished product looks, but it also makes the top much more flavorful.

I could stop here and just let you make those Southern Living biscuits for the rest of your life because they are basically foolproof and very tasty, but instead I’m going to introduce you to three variations that I have come up with. All three of these take the base of the Southern Living recipe and expand on it.

40 minutes
Super savory cheddar cheese biscuits

These savory biscuits are great on their own and even better with chicken or pork for a breakfast sandwich.

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35 minutes
Blueberry biscuits

This is an attempt at a copycat recipe for Bojangle's Bo-berry biscuit. If you like sweet and savory combinations in your food, you might enjoy this with a fried pork sausage patty or slice of ham.

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Sour Cream and Onion Biscuits

A little bit of green onion changes a plain biscuit into something a little more fancy.

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