The Great Eggs Benedict Debate
What the Extra Crispy staff really thinks about the classic brunch dish
As you can imagine, we sit around and talk about food a lot at Extra Crispy. Throughout the day there are frequent discussions here about what's hot, what's not, where to eat, where to avoid, the pros and cons of kombucha, and so on. The other day, the topic of eggs Benedict came up. Why is it so popular? Do people actually like it? While some of us said we hated it, others defended the classic brunch dish. And so this article was born. Here's a little forum about what the staff truly thinks about eggs Benedict.
I Don't Want Anything to Do with It
I’m not sure how many times I’ve ordered eggs Benedict out, full of hope, and was given two hard-boiled eggs on puck-like English muffins and slabs of ham, smothered in lukewarm gloppy Hollandaise, if you could call it that. I do remember where I was when I decided I was done—a Brooklyn brunch stronghold with a line out the door every Saturday and Sunday. The only thing I polished off was the accompanying vinaigretted microgreens. I didn’t want anything to do with eggs benedict, and I barely wanted anything to do with the disparate parts of the dish. And that’s what’s so disheartening—those disparate parts suggest brunch bliss: The perfect combinations of flavors and textures. It should be yolk porn-y poached eggs, muffins that crunch and yield to a tender middle, sweet and savory ham, velvety Hollandaise. The eggs Benedict equation never adds up to any kind of satisfaction—and basic satisfaction is kind of the bare minimum I want from my brunch. I’ll stick with something—anything—else.
—Kate Welsh, Associate Editor
Benny Is the Enemy
Dr. Seuss once had a character proclaim his hatred for green eggs and ham. Reflecting on this story, I can’t help but think this character had it wrong. Green eggs and ham is not the enemy; eggs Benedict is.
The infamous brunch dish is not comprised of anything especially offensive. Poached eggs, toasted English muffin, ham, hollandaise. If made by a competent cook in the calm of their own kitchen, the sum of these parts is a perfectly fine meal. Eggs Benedict, however, is rarely made at home, so perhaps my issue with eggs Benedict has more to do with the Brunch Industrial Complex than the dish itself.
Eggs Benedict is the henchman to a brunch’s evil regime. A standard brunch service pairs impatient, hungover customers in large felt hats with overworked, underpaid kitchen staff—many of whom probably worked last night’s dinner shift and are hungover themselves. Add warm dairy-based sauce and four-minute eggs to this scenario, maybe a bloody mary garnish or 5, and you’ve basically got a starter kit to The Bad Place. Tethering itself to brunch did not help eggs Benedict’s image.
To make matters worse, the final nail in the egg Benedict coffin was when the nicknamers got a hold of it. Like fro yo and avo toast (don't even get me started on “ho cho”), when eggs Benedict was dubbed “benny,” all hope was officially lost.
—Rebecca Firkser, Culinary Editor
I feel Benedict-neutral. It’s not the thing that I always go for on a brunch menu, but sometimes, yeah, sure, what I want is poached eggs and salmon with a fancy sauce. There are lots of other things on brunch menus I feel antipathy towards, like default almond milk, or bloody marys that are essentially edible arrangements with a weak vodka sauce. Or the vague “Southern” inflection many restaurants assume because they serve one item in a tiny cast iron skillet. But Eggs Benedict, eh? I guess I don’t get fired up about a Benedict often, but no Benedict has ever hurt me, nor do I wish it any ill will. Sometimes it is good, sometimes it is mediocre, sometimes it is quite bad. Much like life. Benedict away, if you want, I’m not going to bother you about it.
—Margaret Eby, Senior Culture Editor
What's Not to Like About "Egg Covered in Egg"?
I know that as a professional breakfast journalist I'm probably supposed to be all snotty about Benedicts, but I can't because even the sort of meh ones at restaurants are wildly more ambitious and pleasurable than anything I'm going to attempt at home on a weekend. If I tried making a Benedict at home, I'd have to fully confront the ingredients of the hollandaise, which is an astonishing quantity of butter and egg yolk, and I wish instead to remain blissfully ignorant about the exact parameters of my caloric intake and simply enjoy. (Plus I seriously don't have the emotional capacity for creating an emulsion or poaching an egg that early in the day.)
And what's not to enjoy? I recently interviewed chef Matt Jennings, a self-described "Benedict whore" who expounded upon the pleasures of the dish, most notably that it's "egg covered in egg" and there is little on the planet more straightforwardly joyful than that. An English muffin is an English muffin is an English muffin, but it's one of your more reliable carbs, and the ideal vessel for sopping up all that glorious egg. Canadian bacon is no one's favorite meat, but it politely shows up when asked, and graciously cedes the spotlight to smoked salmon, crabcakes, steak, or spinach as needed.
My gut is that many people's almost performative dislike of Benedicts is based in the fear of being labeled basic. As in a basic betch who loves brunch. As if that's a terrible thing to do—to enjoy dishes, drinks, and social occasions that are specifically engineered to bring uncomplicated pleasure to the maximum amount of people. But if you need assurance that it's OK, I'm telling you as a person who does this for a living that you have my benediction. Go seize the hollandaise.
—Kat Kinsman, Senior Food and Drinks Editor
It's for Rubes
Eggs Benedict is an open-faced bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich for rubes. Most of the same components are there: two eggs, meat, and a carb. Instead of cheese you get an egg-yolk-and-lemon-juice sauce. Are you impressed by Hollandaise? Are you also impressed by people who say gazuntite instead of bless you? Sure, poached eggs and a folded fast-food scramble are not the same, and an English muffin is not a roll. But unless you’re at a high-end place, the English muffin in your Benedict is Thomas or sub-Thomas. And the ham is Boars Head or sub-Boars Head. I’m talking about eggs Benedicts in general here, not at a luxury hotel brunch, and in general they're a sham. The restaurant is preying on your status anxiety. You want a fancy brunch that you can’t make at home so you order the Benedict because it’s the default fancy-seeming dish, even though much of the time it’s goopy, ticky tacky trash. Eggs Benedict is a McMansion in Orlando, and when you order it you’re one of those characters in The Big Short who’s underwater with three adjustable-rate mortgages and three houses they don’t need.
A BEC costs a few bucks. Some Benedicts in New York cost five times that. If the privilege of using a plate and sitting in a restaurant and cutting up your food instead of walking around with it is worth an extra $15 to you, then by all means order eggs Benedict and own your rubeitude. Eggs Benedict isn’t worth more than whatever your local sandwich shop charges for a breakfast sandwich. You just think it is because of its presentation. Eggs Benedict is playing tricks on you, and the sneaky restaurateurs who peddle it are putting their kids through college with all the cash you’ve dropped on these deceptive stacks of basic ingredients. Break the cycle this weekend and order something else. Or live and die a rube in a goopy, chintzy prison of your own making and keep eating eggs Benedict.
—Ryan Grim, Editor