8 Best And 8 Worst Foods To Eat At A Breakfast Buffet

Breakfast buffet is the ultimate breakfast style. Location and tradition will dictate the selection, but a typical breakfast buffet will feature a variety of foods, usually including hot dishes, fried breakfast classics, and some lighter alternatives such as fruit, yogurt, and cornflakes. Besides the vast choice that can satisfy even the most demanding eaters, you are free to snack and take as much food as you want, implying that no one ever leaves the breakfast buffet hungry.

But not all is peachy in the breakfast buffet world. We often tend to go overboard, either by devouring way more food than we need or by piling too much on the plate — which will eventually end up as food waste. Moderation should be your guiding principle, but among all those temptations, the key is to identify superior breakfast buffet foods from those that can rapidly lead to a breakfast disaster. To avoid disappointment, use these suggestions as a starting point and an easy-to-follow guide on the best and worst options for your next breakfast buffet experience.

Worst: Home fries

Home fries can be a beautiful breakfast dish. In an ideal world, you get a heap of diced potatoes with a nice crispy crust and a soft, thoroughly cooked center. The potatoes are sometimes sliced in wedges, and you can often find onions and peppers in the mix. Though it is a filling and starchy dish, home fries are a classic breakfast staple in the U.S. However, it is also one of the items you should never reach for at a big breakfast buffet.

Home fries usually take a lot of time to prepare, especially if they are slowly pan-fried. As time is not a regular commodity during the early breakfast rush, there is a likely chance the chef will take them off the heat a bit too soon, which means that the center might not have enough time to cook properly. Like regular fries, this diced version can only work if eaten immediately after leaving the pan. If you leave them to sit — which is standard practice at a breakfast buffet — the fat will soften the crispy skin and create a big heap of sad, mushy, and tasteless breakfast taters. Leave this option for those slow mornings at home when you have enough time to make a fresh batch and enjoy them while they are crisp.

Worst: Fruit salads or pre-cut fruit

Fruit might be a controversial addition to the list, but there is a legit reason you should avoid all the pre-cut fruit at a breakfast buffet, especially if it comes in a fruit salad. Fresh fruit is lauded as a great source of vitamins, minerals, and fibers, and by all means, go for the whole apple and that unpeeled banana, but skip the buffet fruit salad, as it can be a great way to cover up stale fruit and it has been sitting at room temp for way too long. At best, the fruit was sliced and mixed earlier that day, but in the more likely version, some of the fruit might be a leftover from the dinner service, which means that you might get some oxidized and bruised pieces that do not have much flavor.

Often, these salads will be a strange combination of fruit you would never eat together. As the fruit is usually mixed with sugar and orange juice, the final result is often a medley of powerful flavors that do not work together. Not to mention that adding sugar to already sweet fruit does not make much sense.

Also, feel free to skip any fruit in the compote form. There is little nutritive value in these. You get soggy pieces of sugary fruit smothered in overly sweet syrup, probably accompanied by plenty of additives and preservatives.

Worst: Frittatas

Frittata is a simple and unpretentious egg dish that makes a great breakfast option. Along with eggs, it can incorporate various ingredients, though the options usually include veggies, cheese, and sliced ham. A properly prepared frittata will have a light texture with slight resistance and crunch on the bottom. It can make an excellent breakfast at classic restaurants, but egg frittata should not find room on your plate at buffet-style joints, as it will usually be prepared well ahead and left inside a heating tray.

Even if it was made correctly, as it sits, frittata immediately starts to lose that airy quality. The eggs and all additional ingredients will often release all the juices, making the center rubbery and the bottom moist and soggy. As frittata can be made with virtually any component, chefs often use it as a great option to clean the fridge, meaning that some elements might not be in their prime.

Worst: Fried bacon

Fried bacon is arguably the top contender on the list of favorite breakfast additions, but reaching for that breakfast buffet bacon might ruin you for life. Perfectly fried bacon will be thin and crisp, with some juiciness and mellowness in the meaty parts. The best way to get this ideal ratio is to separate the strips and let them dry on paper. As you may assume, this is not an option at a breakfast buffet. Bacon is cooked and stored in bulk, and you will mostly see a heap of bacon, with strips stacked on top of each other.

Even perfectly rendered bacon cannot survive in conditions where it is smothered with other pieces and leftover fat. Eventually, all those crispy strips will turn into sad, soggy bacon bits that will stick together and be a pain to separate. Buffet bacon is a lackluster version of this breakfast favorite, so feel free to skip it.

Worst: Biscuits and gravy

The combination of a hefty biscuit and meat-packed rich gravy may sound as a slightly overwhelming breakfast option, but this pairing is a classic choice in the South, and you will often see it at breakfast buffets. The biggest problem with this combination is the questionable quality of sausage meat, which is the classic choice for the gravy, as the thick and rich sauce can be a great way to cover any faults. No matter how much love you have for the classic flaky biscuit, the chances that you will eat a good biscuit at a breakfast buffet are pretty slim.

You might also want to reconsider this option due to the high-calorie count. Both elements pack plenty of carbs and fat, and when combined, they make a heavy breakfast dish that only offers little nutritional value. Also, one serving will set you for the morning, so you won't be able to squeeze in anything else, and who wants to stick to only one breakfast buffet option?

Worst: Ready-made pancakes

Pancakes are the greatest breakfast dish. They are quickly assembled, easy to fry, and can be tweaked with sweet or savory toppings. Despite their reputation, if the breakfast buffet does not have a pancake-making station where you can order them at request, we highly recommend passing up on the ones stacked inside the tray. If you ever had a cold leftover pancake, you'll know what we are talking about.

Pancakes should only be enjoyed at their prime, just as they are taken off the pan. Their structure will be ideal; warm and airy center snuggled inside a thin, crispy crust on top and the bottom. But if you leave them to sit — which is often the case at breakfast buffets, where pancakes are stacked and stored inside metal trays — those outstanding qualities quickly dissipate. As they began to chill, all those nice airy pockets deflate, and the wonderful tenderness quickly turns into a chewy and rubbery texture that no topping can fix.

Worst: Any type of casseroles

Casseroles are rarely mediocre. You will usually see them labeled as the ultimate comfort dish or a creation straight out of kitchen nightmares. This ambivalent status makes it a tricky menu option and something that is better skipped at a breakfast buffet.

Casseroles are an excellent choice for home cooks. They are something of a blank canvas that allows you to be creative and build up flavors and textures. One casserole easily feeds an entire family, making it incredibly convenient and cost-effective. However, in commercial kitchens, casseroles, especially ones served for breakfast, are ideal tools to use up leftovers or any ingredients that are not in the best condition. This often results in unappetizing ingredient combinations that clash in flavor, intensity, and texture. Essentially, casseroles are one of the most unreliable breakfast buffet options because you never know what you will get, and breakfast is not the best time to take such risks.

Worst: Hash browns

Hash browns are another potato dish you should scratch off the list at a breakfast buffet. Typical hash browns will be made with grated potatoes assembled into neat potato nests that are then pan-fried until golden and perfectly crisp. Hash browns are the ultimate breakfast potato dish, but the sub-par versions at breakfast buffets often contradict this claim.

Like any other dish involving potatoes and frying, hash browns should be eaten as fresh as possible. Leaving them to sit for too long, especially if they are not drained properly, will allow the fat to ruin all the crispiness, resulting in a sad and soggy hash. As buffet-style hash browns are made ahead, it is almost impossible to prevent them from losing their crispiness. When it comes to the breakfast buffet, try to replace this potato classic with something that can show its full potential on the breakfast plate, and leave hash browns as a great diner or homemade option.

Best: Porridge

Porridge is the MVP of the great breakfast game. It is a rare dish that has it all — it is healthy, nutritious, and generally good for you, but it still tastes fantastic. Possibly the best thing about it is the neutral flavor that goes well with everything. You can go sweet or savory and enliven your porridge with virtually any topping and ingredient you enjoy.

Porridge is also one of the most reliable breakfast buffet options. It is really difficult to mess it up, and as it is so homogenous, it is easy to keep it nice and warm during the breakfast shift. Restaurants and hotels will usually set up the whole oatmeal station, and you are then free to build upon the porridge base and customize your breakfast bowl. Porridge will fill you up, but it is not overly heavy, and you will always have room to sneak something else from the breakfast buffet.

Best: Cold cuts

The next item on the list of the best things to eat at a breakfast buffet are the various cold cuts you will always find on display. Thin slices of deli meat are one of our favorite breakfast options. They promise a fast turnaround, ensuring everything is as fresh as possible. Cold cuts are usually refrigerated, which can be an additional confirmation that they are safe to eat.

Among the varieties, the healthiest choice is to go with lean cuts such as turkey or chicken, as they usually pack the least fat. At some upscale buffets, do not skip hand-carved ham or turkey. Request a slice to get the juices and the freshest cut.

Alternatively, if you are not a carnivore or simply not up for heavier protein, this section will also include sliced cheese that can be paired with other breakfast items. If there is some artisanal cheese, you might even want to pick cheese as the delicious ending to your buffet breakfast.

Best: Smoked salmon

If you are a fan of seafood for breakfast, we highly advise you not to go for sushi or other raw seafood specialties that sometimes grace the breakfast buffet. The safest choice is to opt for delicious and reliable smoked salmon.

Smoked salmon is a nutrient-dense ingredient packed with good fat and protein, implying that a small amount will go a long way. It is also a wonderful pairing partner with bread, creamy spreads, and virtually all fresh veggies. To be safe, if there is an option, go for the hot-smoked salmon, as this version has been exposed to high heat and is thoroughly cooked, so you can enjoy it without any fear. Generally, smoked salmon will not spend much time on the buffet tray, so you can be sure everything on display is as fresh as possible.

Smoked salmon is also one of the best value items at a breakfast buffet, and if it usually does not fit your budget, this is the ideal time to indulge.

Best: Quiche

Quiche is a wonderful French invention that pairs a pastry shell with a creamy, cheesy filling. Though it is not exclusively enjoyed for breakfast, you will often see it on offer on breakfast menus, and it commonly finds its place at breakfast buffets.

Quiche is a baked product, which means it is one of the safest options at buffets. It is also a combination that works as a warm or chilled dish, so you do not have to worry about its freshness. The classic version includes cream, cheese, and bacon, which sounds like a perfect breakfast combination, but you will often see various vegetables thrown in the mix. With a crispy crust on the bottom that holds everything in place, quiche might be the perfect early-morning nibble. This open-faced pie is an excellent addition to any breakfast plate. It will work well with meat products, seafood, and most vegetables. Though filling, a slice of quiche will not give you the impression that you went overboard with food.

Best: Yogurt and granola

If you are not a fan of oatmeal, the combination of yogurt and granola is next on the list of some of the best things you should always have at a breakfast buffet. This pairing is foolproof. It packs tons of flavor and is a relatively healthy alternative to all heavy, fat-laden, and carb-loaded delicacies that usually grace traditional breakfast buffets. Granola usually contains nuts and oats, which means you will get plenty of energy, and yogurt will guarantee your gut is happy and healthy.

Ideally, yogurt at a breakfast buffet will come packed in individual containers. This is perhaps not an eco-friendly option, but it is the safest way to ensure you know what is on top of your granola. Those large, open-top bowls brimming with yogurt can sometimes seem frightening, but as yogurt is a pasteurized milk product, it is generally a safe choice at buffets.

Best: Fried eggs to order

Among all breakfast egg dishes, fried eggs will always reign supreme. Boiled eggs are difficult to cook perfectly and keep warm throughout the breakfast service, while scrambled varieties sometimes enjoy a bad rap because they are often made with powdered eggs. Fried eggs do not fall into any of these questionable categories. They are usually prepared upon request and come directly to your breakfast plate while they are nice and warm — preferably with a still-runny, bright egg yolk.

Fried eggs make a balanced and nutritious breakfast meal that will fill you up but not be too heavy on your stomach. The neutral flavor, which is not smothered with unnecessary spices or add-ins, goes well with everything. Plus, with other breakfast foods, it is easy to upgrade your eggs. If you are an egg-for-breakfast person, this is the ideal egg dish at a breakfast buffet.

Best: Seasonal fruit

Though you will find sliced fruit in the second, less desirable part of this feature, go with seasonal fruit if you crave something fresh, light, and healthy. The choice here will depend on the location, but just use logic and common sense to determine which fruit is typical for the climate and the season you are in.

Eating seasonally means that you will get the most out of the fruit. It was probably picked at the optimum time, so you can expect perfectly ripe examples still brimming with good nutrients. Most seasonal fruit is locally sourced and does not go through an extensive delivery process, which means that the flavor is still intense and super concentrated. Though eating what's in season is the guiding principle here, always choose fruit in its original form. Skip any pieces that have been pre-cut and left out in the open or those that have been processed in any way.

Bread rolls and pastries

Bread and pastries are not the most exciting breakfast buffet items, but they are always reliable and embody the ultimate breakfast standard. Most people will pair bread with other breakfast dishes, but instead of the classic pre-sliced toast, go for the superior alternative: the crusty bread roll. If not made in-house, bread rolls were probably delivered fresh, so you can be sure that you are not eating that suspicious toast that has spent too long in the bag or the stale and overly dry version left to dry out. Bread rolls avoid all these perils and give you the feeling you are tackling down your personalized mini loaf.

Pastries are a great way to finish your breakfast with something sweet. Instead of going for the last night's leftovers, you are better off with a pastry that was probably made or delivered fresh. Pastries generally have a longer shelf life than classic buffet desserts, and they make a perfect partner with your morning coffee.