The Rich History Of Steak And Eggs Begins In Australia

Breakfast comes in many tastes and textures, from a simple crispy toast, to an aromatic fire-roasted shakshuka, to a creamy bowl of porridge. Yet diners who like a bit of meatier fare will love starting the day with steak and eggs.

This old-school pairing lies on the heftier side, with an essence that may allude more to dinner than a morning meal. Yet there is magic in the combination, especially when you select the best cut of steak to serve with eggs for breakfast. The duo has a surprisingly far-reaching history, with it first enjoyed in Australia during the 19th century.

The country's large beef industry meant steaks came in ample supply, hence making them a morning option, too. The decadent morning treat later caught on with Americans, and the dish became a diner classic stateside. Other iterations exist abroad — the Vietnamese take on steak and eggs, Bò Né is a great example — but the dish's delicious essence lies Down Under.

Early European settlers to Australia introduced steak and eggs

Beef emerged in Australia alongside the arrival of the first European settlers. The small cattle stock carried by the penal colony in 1788 blossomed over the course of the next century, with the population reaching 8.6 million cattle by 1900. Parts of the country proved to be an excellent site for grazing, establishing a prominent beef industry that explains why Australia has some of the best steak in the world.

With such abundance it's no surprise that colonists started integrating the meat into their everyday meals. It didn't take long for meaty fare to enter breakfast routines, and steak and eggs emerged as an Australian breakfast by the 1880s. Its prominence kept growing, and it started to commonly appear on restaurant menus during the early 20th century. By the 1920s, it was established as a national dish, even going on to inspire poetry.

Such prominence continued until World War II, when the dish lost popularity as rationing slashed the availability of both central ingredients. Australians switched to eating lamb, and steak and eggs never regained the same footing. However, it did inspire American interpretations, leaving behind a tasty legacy.

Steak and eggs became a ritual for American astronauts

It's possible steak and eggs had already existed stateside previously, but evidence suggests the dish was picked up by Americans concurrently with its downfall in Australia. During World War II, American troops stationed alongside Australians noted the dish's preparation, and added it to their repertoire. Post-war, the food started appearing on diner menus and became a favorite of Americans from different backgrounds.

Not long after, the dish took on galactic associations, becoming a part of the pre-flight routine for astronauts. First American in space Alan Shepard enjoyed the meal alongside tea and orange juice, the dietary move an intentional decision. NASA nutritionists considered the meal's protein density as well as its ease of digestion, subsequently establishing it as a preflight ritual for much of the 20th century.

Today, the dish has expanded to a range of creative interpretations, incorporating more global influences into its framework. While steak and eggs may not have the iconic brunch status of a traditional eggs Benedict, it's nevertheless a delicious, and storied start to the day.