The Untold Truth Of Scotch Eggs

Scotch eggs have come a long way since first being introduced into the culinary sphere. The 18th-century snack ounce bound to U.K. soil is now recognized in restaurants worldwide. Of course, British food receives its fair share of criticism (per The Spruce Eats), but cask-conditioned ales, fish and chips, and steaming cups of tea all point to a country steeped in rich epicurean history, and Scotch eggs fit right in. At first, a lengthwise cut exposes the Scotch egg's worthy yolk, egg white, juicy sausage, and crackly layers of crust. After that, dynamic savory flavors and an unexpected airiness initiate an unmatched eating experience.

Scotch eggs are sweeping across our nation too, inspiring Bon Appétit recipes and a gastro-pub identity corroborated by Chicago Tribune. Whether or not the perfect Scotch egg exists is irrelevant, although the Young Scotch Egg Challenge judges may argue otherwise. Broad recognition informs an untold truth that pushes the boundaries of the snack's pocket-sized dimensions. Let's journey into the story about Scotch eggs.

The Scotch egg has competing origin stories

Both convenient and picnic-appropriate, Scotch eggs are beloved across Britain. Competing origin stories, however, paint a very inconclusive picture of the mighty sausage-wrapped, deep-fried eggs. Fortnum & Mason, a luxury department store in central London, claims to have invented the classic British Scotch egg in 1738 for travelers passing through London. According to The Culture Trip, the strategic sausage wrapping masked the pungent smell of hard-boiled eggs, resulting in a snack that was easy to eat on the go. However, food historian Annie Gray isn't convinced. Not only would messy fried breadcrumbs challenge on-the-go ease, but she doubts the traveling upper class would just grab a snack and turn down the opportunity to dine in-house and in style (via The Guardian).

Fortnum & Mason concedes early international influences. For example, India's nargisi kofta — a dish featuring hard-boiled egg, ground meat, and a crispy fried coating — feasibly traveled with East India Company employees back to Britain. Fortnum & Mason also acknowledges Polish, Indonesian, and Brazilian preparations with striking similarities to the Scotch egg. 

Another hypothesis suggests that Algerian eggs studded with North African spices could have passed through France to Britain's mainland in the early 16th century (via The Culture Trip). Nevertheless, names can be deceiving. Unlike Scotch whiskey — a decidedly proud Scottish delicacy — all Scotch egg evidence points away from Scottish soil (via The Daily Record).

Others argue a Yorkshire coastal upbringing and fish paste precursor

Back in the U.K., the Scotch egg debate continues. Some believe Yorkshire's William J. Scott & Sons eatery can claim Scotch egg ownership, The Toasty Kettle reports. The original scorch egg showcased hard-boiled eggs wrapped in a fish paste and fried over an open flame — hence the scorch reference. According to the story, scorched eggs eventually became Scotties, referencing the company name Scott (via The Culture Trip). However, when the dish became more widespread and sold in grocery stores, manufacturers swapped the fish paste for sausage as it was simpler to wrap.

The U.K. didn't ditch fish adaptations altogether. Fine dining restaurant Skylark in East Sussex is getting creative with a salmon, prawn, and caper Scotch egg, and haddock or trout Scotch eggs are served at London's Smiths of Smithfield and 77 Broadway Market. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver wholeheartedly approves. Per the chef's website, he makes a Scotch egg using white fish and trout for added moisture and flavor. In Oliver's opinion, versatility is the Scotch egg's biggest asset — fish or meat, duck egg or quail egg, herbs or spices — a Scotch egg's fate lies in the eyes of the creator.

According to surveys, Scotch eggs are one of Britain's least popular foods

Integral to British pub life, the Scotch egg's visibility suggests universal adoration. However, a 2019 YouGov survey asking 6,367 participants to rank their favorite savory British foods demonstrated otherwise. Yorkshire pudding, Sunday roasts, and fish and chips rose to the top tier while Scotch eggs, beef Wellington, and pork pie united at the lower end. Although they didn't fall to the very bottom with jellied eels and haggis, the results prompted outrage on Twitter from Scotch egg devotees.

After U.K.'s Channel 5 revealed the survey results, passionate loyalists took to their keyboards to defend the Scotch egg. Chief market analyst Neil Wilson commented, "You're all wrong" in a Twitter post, using arrows to rearrange the Scotch egg's placement. Another upset Twitter user wrote, "Scotch eggs are 'low tier'? What is wrong with people?" Despite low survey ratings, Scotch eggs are nevertheless an edible U.K. emblem.

Scotch eggs are traditionally eaten cold

In the U.S., serving cold hard-boiled eggs is not uncommon. Chilled egg salad makes for a tasty deli lunch sandwich and deviled eggs are easy to include in make-ahead party platters. Similarly, the Scotch egg is most often enjoyed cold. According to Taste Atlas, while it is feasible to eat a Scotch egg hot or cold, it is more typical to serve them cold.

It may seem sacrilegious to fry an egg to golden perfection only to deliver the crisp snack a refrigerated, and perhaps soggy, fate. But the Scotch egg serves a specific purpose from the very beginning. The unmistakable sausage casing seals in any unfortunate boiled egg smells — especially if overcooked — and the efficient, egg-sized package allows for an easy grab-and-go snack. Meanwhile, Scotch eggs in America are most often devoured straight from the fryer with dipping sauce, per The Toasty Kettle.

In the UK, scotch eggs are a gas station and grocery store staple

Scotch egg's intentions are simple, and mobility is one of the snack's most desirable qualities. Therefore, it's not surprising that the eggs are sold in U.K. gas stations and grocery stores, much like Chex Mix and Pringles are in the U.S. The Guardian corroborates this assessment, cheekily comparing the egg's luxurious Fortnum & Mason upbringing with its contemporary motorway service station posts — the pinnacle destination for travel snacking.

Gas stations aren't the only Scotch egg suppliers in the United Kingdom. Every grocery store chain seems to carry a pre-packaged version of its own, some eliciting higher marks from customers than others. Per Good Housekeeping UK, department store Marks & Spencer offers one of the best pre-made Scotch eggs. Meanwhile, Tesco, Waitrose, and Sainsbury's are among many local grocery store chains marketing Scotch egg tradition with descriptive "soft poached" and "hand-finished" declarations.

Scotch eggs were the source of widespread UK controversy

Scotch egg supplies aren't limited to U.K. stores and gas stations. They are a mainstay on menus throughout Britain's nearly 37,500 pubs (via The Washington Post). Needless to say, the Covid-19 pandemic rocked the nation when pubs were forced to shut down. After the first four weeks of intense lockdown, U.K. government officials opted to reopen them, but required all establishments to offer "substantial meals." Updated in-house dining rules started an impromptu Scotch egg debate — should it be considered a "substantial meal?"

Word quickly spread in November 2020 when the determined meal status of Scotch eggs hit mainstream media, with alcohol permits providing a huge incentive to the debate (via The Daily Mail). The Washington Post reported a series of conflicting responses. Some people defended the Scotch egg's hearty integrity as long as pubs offered table service. Others pushed back, arguing that the eggs were at most an appetizer. Either way, Scotch egg sales skyrocketed despite a nationwide hullabaloo. According to The Guardian, an uptick in sales had an immediate effect on pubs across pandemic stricken Britain.

Scotch eggs are a trendy subject for fine-dining makeovers

Recently, the storied Scotch egg has been harnessing gastronomic innovation. Once just a roadside snack and protein-packed accompaniment to a pint, The Chicago Tribune pronounced egg remakes as one of America's more fashionable menu food trends. At the same time, The Culture Trip points to increased acclaim after Scotch eggs took a hit in the 1990s. Menu evidence speaks for itself: In New York City, Jones Wood Foundry fashions a jammy yolk Scotch egg with tartar dipping sauce, and Chicago's The Gage displays a "pub Scotch egg" with fennel sausage, black pudding, and apple mostarda on its American menu.

Back in the U.K., The White Horse Restaurant is known for its famous venison Scotch egg with Welsh truffles and onion purée (via Instagram). The dish was even named the 45th must-try food in Wales by Wales Online. Likewise, Hinds Head in Bray, England, serves a Scotch egg with Michelin star treatment. Presented in a silver egg cup, it is served with a visible runny yolk center, juicy sausage layer, and crisp outer crust (via Instagram).

An amateur cook in Manchester generated nationwide buzz with a Scotch egg remake

Scotch egg innovation sees no boundaries, and amateur cook and Manchester native Ben Holden proved just that. In 2010, the Manchester Egg made headlines when Holden used his personal dining experience to mold a new Scotch egg creation (via The Guardian). Upon eating a bar-snack trio of pickled eggs, salt and vinegar chips, and Scotch eggs, Holden fabricated an original of his own, quickly coined the Manchester egg.

Holden's prototype showcased a pickled egg center, pork and black pudding meat layer, and fried Panko breadcrumb coating. Before long, The Castle — site of Holden's first pickled Scotch egg concept — demanded up to 30 freshly fried pickled Scotch eggs from Holden's home kitchen every Friday for local customers. The Manchester egg was so popular that top chef Robert Owen Brown adopted Holden's invention at The Mark Addy pub (via Manchester Evening News). Unfortunately, the restaurant is no longer open. Still, Holden's delicious creation captures Britain's affinity for innovative food fusion (via The Guardian).

Dessert Scotch eggs come in a number of variations

Hard-boiled eggs, sausage meat, and crispy fried coatings are essential to the construction of a Scotch egg. What if a nearly identical mock-up replicated the quintessential layered template in a sweet and creamy chocolate form? Well, sugar enthusiasts, rejoice: Chocolate dessert Scotch eggs are ready for the taking.

Creme Scotch eggs consist of a creme egg center that mimics a chicken egg's bright white and deeply golden yolk (via Instagram). A malleable fudge brownie confection surrounds the Easter chocolate creme egg center and crushed corn flakes grip the brownie layer, impersonating a Scotch egg's characteristic fried breading crust. Other sweet Scotch egg versions opt for white chocolate and biscuit crumb coatings (via Instagram). 

Meanwhile, Jersey bakery Dippy and Deans mixes it up with festive Easter gift boxes containing four sweet Scotch eggs, all with a unique egg center. Each egg is coated with toasted coconut and biscuit crumbs to disguise a Creme, Oreo, Lindt, or caramel center. The mysterious filling is revealed only at the first bite. Every Easter season, Fortnum & Mason sells a dessert Scotch egg original. The 2022 rendition pairs a simnel-flavored (fruitcake) milk chocolate praline with an orange ganache filling and hazelnut cocoa nib coating.

In the UK, vegans too can partake in Scotch egg enjoyment

Easily identifiable with their hard-boiled egg center, meat casing, and fried exterior, Scotch eggs represent British pub comfort food and rustic lore at its finest. However, the dish isn't geared to the collective 11% of the U.K. population following a vegan or vegetarian diet, according to Statista. However, since Tesco announced a vegan Scotch egg product in the summer of 2021, vegans can now partake in the British ritual (via Veg News).

The product by vegan brand Squeaky Bean features a plant-based egg filling and plant-based sausage meat. The egg center is similar to the texture of egg salad instead of a jammy yolk, and the plant-based alternatives total 70 ingredients. But nothing could stifle the vegan community's excitement. Enthusiastic Instagrammers doted on the vegan Scotch egg version, admitting, "I never liked real Scotch eggs, but these are delicious." Not even meat aversion will come between Brits and their beloved Scotch egg.

UK celebrity Beverley Callard sparked outrage after seen enjoying a scotch egg

Evidently, Scotch eggs are prone to Twitter debates. However, when U.K. celebrity Beverley Callard drew unique criticism in the fall of 2020 as the subject of a Scotch egg spectacle. Callard was a contestant on the British reality series "I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!" — a show that throws shielded celebrities into the wild realities of campground survival. The Sun quickly reported backlash from viewers who witnessed Callard — a self-proclaimed vegan — devouring a Scotch egg prize on television.

According to The Sun, Callard became a vegan in March of 2020 and had cited her veganism when participating in a meat-eating challenge (which featured deer testicles and cow's tongue) a few days prior. One Twitter user wrote, "I'm sorry, but was Beverley eating a scotch egg?" with #vegan and a skeptical Rachel from Friends meme. Per The Daily Mail, reality show hosts Ant and Dec attempted to settle the Twitter confusion, explaining that Callard received a special vegan Scotch egg. Who's to say whether Callard is a faithful vegan or not, but the Scotch egg certainly has a commanding grip on Britain's national commentary.

The 'Chotch' egg breaks all preconceived notions of sweet and salty pairings

In 2015, Fortnum & Mason turned convention on its head with a provocative Easter season rift on a traditional Scotch egg. The store's "Chotch egg" is a self-identified chocolate Scotch egg, yet far from a dessert (via Instagram). Lacking sweet layers of silky chocolate and cookie crumbs to pose as the original, it is quite literally a Scotch egg and chocolate merger.

Fortnum & Mason swapped standard pork sausage for ground venison in the reimagined Scotch egg. The venison, however, welcomed a very unexpected addition — a juniper berry-infused 55% Valrhona dark chocolate (via Metro). Yes, you read that right. The luxury department store's culinary team threw caution to the wind and added the chocolate directly into ground venison meat. According to chef Sydney Aldridge, "the dark chocolate and Juniper slowly complements the gamey flavor perfectly, leaving a rich taste on the palette [sic]" — a stand-out chocolate and venison pairing for the ages.

Scotch eggs can be air fried

These days, no cooking appliance can beat the fashionable air fryer, except maybe an Instant pot, which coincidentally makes for an impressive two-in-one duo. Even The New York Times vouches for a nation fixated on air fryer provisions, capturing the lure of crisp transformations, healthy fried riffs, and minimal cleanup.

Evidently, air frying has no limits; perfectly set air fryer cheesecake graces The New York Times headline, and home cooks are encouraged to incorporate creative uses to the modern appliance's rotation — naturally paving the way for air-fried Scotch egg excellence. Photo proof on Instagram authenticates unique foodie air-fried versions. With a crisp fry-like outer glow, moist sausage meat blanket, and soft-boiled egg yolk center, even these novel versions embody the true essence of a pub-approved Scotch egg. Versatile in scope and legendary in tradition, the untold truth of Scotch eggs is a journey of a lifetime.