Bangers are the quintessential British breakfast sausage, forever immortalised by being half of the classic 'Bangers & Mash" and they have become famous internationally as 'bangers'. Bangers are not just one kind of sausage, the term bangers can refer to any British sausage and you will a variety of British sausages in the English breakfast depending on what part of the country you are in.
British sausages being called bangers seems to be a historical legacy, a colloquial term left over from war time when sausages sometimes exploded in the pan when you cooked them. We started calling sausages bangers sometime during the first World War, it was a slang name for a sausage at the time.
British sausages are sometimes called bangers because back then, sausages had a habit of bursting open while cooking. This was partly due to the shrinkage of the tight skin (this is still quite a common occurrence depending on the sausage if you do not prick them before cooking) and partly because of the cheap sausage fillers that they were using at the time.
During both world wars there was less meat available, they filled their sausages more fat and cheap fillers that expanded rapidly under heat, causing the sausages to burst open violently in the pan. This is the reason why people called them bangers, it was a slang term that they used to refer to sausages, because bang is exactly what they would when you cooked them.
Historically the term 'bangers' was in use as far back as 1919, but British sausages started to be more widely called bangers during World War Two, another time in British history when meat rations were scarce and sausages had to be made with cheaper fillers added to the sausage mix, making them more likely to explode when cooked, unless of course you pricked their skin beforehand. Even now, if you use enough fat in your sausage filler, your sausages may very well go bang when you cook them.
Strangely, nobody in Britain really calls them bangers unless they are being served with mash as part of the very popular bangers & mash dish and these days the term bangers appears to be confined to that dish, you simply would not ask for three bangers on your breakfast or a banger sandwich and British people do not really call them bangers. Nonetheless, the term bangers remains incredibly popular as a way to refer to a British sausage by foreigners.
If you want to learn how to make your own bangers, head on over to our recipes section and check out our bangers sausage recipe and try and make your own homemade version of British bangers.
If you are interested in history, heritage and recipes of the traditional English breakfast, check out our official English Breakfast Handbook, lovingly produced by the English Breakfast Society.
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