The Science Behind Why Bacon And Eggs Taste So Good Together

Eggs and bacon are perfect partners. Whether it's as a BEC sandwich, a classic Canadian eggs benedict, or simply scrambled or fried with bacon on the side, there's something about the duo that instinctively makes us think of them as a natural pairing. And the science behind our favorite breakfast combo backs up our instincts.

For a start, it helps that the two foods are packed with flavor even when served individually. Made from slices of cured, smoked pork belly, a large part of bacon's appeal is down to its fat content. Fatty acids in the muscle tissue membranes of the meat break down once cooked and are responsible for that signature hunger-inducing aroma and rich savory taste we associate with the meat. And the curing and smoking the bacon goes through means even more delicious flavor compounds come into play.

Eggs, meanwhile, are loaded with nutrients, both in the fatty, omega 3-rich yolks and the protein-packed whites; however, the yolks are also naturally rich in the amino acid glutamate, which is responsible for the tasty savory deliciousness we call umami. 

When you put bacon and eggs together, something wonderful happens, and it's all about how the two ingredients work in harmony together to amplify the flavors. Essentially, it comes down to what creates the chemistry between bacon and eggs: umami synergy.

Umami synergy makes bacon and eggs the perfect match

The reason bacon and eggs are so utterly delicious together is thanks to a concept known as umami synergy. While we might think of umami as all about glutamate, it's also present in nucleotides, which are compounds found in foods such as mushrooms, and cured meats like bacon. And when glutamate and nucleotides are combined in equal measure, the umami flavor is ramped up to the max; in fact, it's believed the result can be up to eight times more impactful than glutamate umami alone.

Tomatoes and nori seaweed are the only two foods that naturally contain glutamate umami and nucleotide umami together; to get the flavor bomb with other dishes, you need to combine a food that contains one with one that is rich in the other. Step forward eggs and bacon, with eggs offering glutamate and bacon delivering nucleotide umami. In short, the umami synergy between the two ingredients when they're paired delivers a richly savory taste that's much greater than when they're served separately.

The scientific umami synergy principle is what makes so many of our favorite culinary pairings work so well, beyond bacon and eggs. Think of the ham and cheese in a classic croque monsieur sandwich, asparagus dressed with Parmesan cheese, or oysters washed down with champagne – they all feature a balance of glutamate and nucleotide umami.

PR helped bacon and eggs become the ultimate hearty breakfast

One of the reasons we think of bacon and eggs as a good breakfast to set you up for the day is due to how good they taste together, of course; another is down to a clever marketing strategy by Sigmund Freud's nephew, PR consultant Edward Bernays, back in the 1920s. Bernays was tasked with increasing sales of bacon for the Beechnut Packing Company. And his strategy was to get Americans to rethink their standard everyday light breakfasts, which then consisted of coffee, juice, and perhaps a bit of bread.

Beechnut's company physician declared that a heavier, heartier breakfast would be better than a light one to help replenish the energy lost as people slept. Prompted by Bernays, the doctor then wrote to 5,000 physicians to ask whether they agreed with his sentiment; around 4,500 letters back showed they did, with many recommending that bacon and eggs be included. The results were publicized via newspapers, sales of bacon increased, and bacon and eggs became the embodiment of a hearty American breakfast.

But however you enjoy your bacon and eggs in the morning, from a homemade breakfast pie to a breakfast mac and cheese dotted with crispy bacon, the combo's tasty synergy is backed by science. Even if it has had a little help from clever marketing, the duo's deliciousness is undeniable.