What You Need To Know About Eggs Benedict

Eggs Benedict is such a classic, one could even say a game-changing, brunch dish, that it almost seems to have brought the whole concept of brunch into being. Its origins, as with so many iconic food items, are somewhat mysterious, yet most food historians agree that it dates back to the mid-19th century and is most likely as native to New York.

Atlas Obscura gives two possible origin stories for eggs Benedict, neither of which involve Benedict Arnold, Benedict Cumberbatch, or Popes Benedict I through XVI. In one version, they were created for a couple named Benedict at the New York City restaurant, Delmonico's, while another says that they were created for a bon vivant, also named Benedict, who was at the NYC's Waldorf Hotel attempting to cure a hangover. The Canadian bacon that features so prominently in today's Benedict recipe was said to be a later addition by a Waldorf maître d' named Oscar Tschirky, a man who'd also worked at Delmonico's and may have also invented both Waldorf salad and Thousand Island dressing.

Chefs have created countless versions of eggs Benedict

The classic eggs Benedict recipe consists of a poached egg atop a slice of Canadian bacon, which is perched on an English muffin, with the whole delightful creation then smothered in Hollandaise sauce. Many restaurant chefs, however, like to put their own spin on the dish. Some of these are regional – USA Today notes a Hawaiian restaurant where the bacon is swapped out for kalua pork, while Forbes describes a New Orleans restaurant spicing up its version with a crawfish-andouille hash, and a Baltimore Benedict that uses crab meat.

Not only the meat but the base is also subject to change — the English muffin may be swapped out for a waffle, a biscuit, or even a polenta patty. New York Times Cooking notes that some Benedict variants even have their own names. Eggs Benedict made with smoked salmon is more properly referred to as eggs Hemingway, while wilted greens, such as spinach. may transform a Benedict into eggs Florentine.

There could have been an Eggs McBenedict

In the 1970s, a man named Jack Benedict decided upon his life's mission: proving that his ancestor, Lemuel Benedict (the bon vivant of the Waldorf eggs Benedict origin story) was the real creator of the popular dish, as opposed to Mr. and Mrs. LeGrand Benedict (the couple from Delmonico's). As the New York Times tells it, Jack also took it upon himself to do everything he could to promote his family's contribution to culinary history. This included opening the L. C. Benedict Restaurant and Tavern in Winter Park, Colorado, an eatery that served several different versions of the dish.

Perhaps the biggest move Jack made to popularize eggs Benedict, however, came when he contacted McDonald's to propose they add it to their breakfast menu. He even designed a placemat for them to use which included a detailed history of Lemuel and his creation. Sadly for Jack, Eggs McBenedict were never to be, since the Golden Arches were already offering a little something called the Egg McMuffin.

Eggs Benedict may pose a health risk

Eggs Benedict are delicious, and yes, countless people enjoy them at numerous restaurants nationwide, but that still doesn't mean they are entirely safe to eat. Spoon University reveals that Hollandaise sauce, one of the five classic "mother sauces" of French cuisine, poses a low risk of salmonella infection. While the risk may be fairly slight — only one in 20,000 eggs is contaminated with the salmonella bacteria — if you should be so unlucky as to get one of those bad eggs, the preparation process for Hollandaise will not cook it sufficiently to kill the bacteria.

Nor are the poached eggs themselves necessarily safe. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the only way to make sure your eggs are contamination-free is to cook them until both yolks and whites are firm. They do note, though, that if you'll be consuming any foods made with raw or lightly cooked eggs, using pasteurized eggs can reduce the risk.

You should never order eggs Benedict to go

Eggs Benedict is a dish many prefer to order in a restaurant since preparing it at home can be kind of complicated. Still, you should only order eggs Benedict if you're going to be eating it right away. Not only does the CDC say that it's unsafe to keep cooked eggs at room temperature for too long (too long being an hour or two), but the way eggs Benedict is constructed means that it doesn't hold up well if left to sit for any length of time. The English muffins are bound to get soggy, while both the egg yolks and the Hollandaise will likely congeal. If you're getting breakfast to go, or even ordering room service, you're better off passing on the eggs Benedict. It's best to wait until you can consume it right away.

You can make simple eggs Benedict at home

If you do want to try making your own eggs Benedict, but you'd prefer that the process be as easy as possible, Add a Pinch suggests using your oven to simplify the process. Not only can you bake the Canadian bacon and toast the muffins in the oven, but you can also use it to poach the eggs: put two tablespoons of water in each cup of a muffin pan, then crack one egg into each indentation and bake at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes. As far as making Hollandaise goes, there really isn't any super-easy way to do it, but Add a Pinch does provide a recipe that calls for using your blender to mix the egg yolks, lemon juice, and melted butter so you won't need to whisk till your arm drops off!

And should you be wondering if eggs Benedict has its own national day of celebration, of course it does! Honestly, what type of food doesn't have its own day by now? Eggs Benedict's, according to National Day Calendar, is April 16th, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't eat it any other day of the year.