SG | There is something undeniably satisfying about a sausage biscuit.
For one, it unifies two distinct but delicious components of a well-rounded breakfast plate, saving both time and effort.
I like to think the sausage biscuit as we know it today was born of this convenience one pre-dawn morning in a warm, Southern farm kitchen. Let’s say sometime in the 1850s. A doting wife prepared her husband a hearty breakfast of a biscuit and a cut of sausage before he struck out into the fields for the day. Though he would have loved to sit a spell and enjoy that plate with a tall glass of goat’s milk, duty called. He ran out the door, deftly working the sausage INTO the biscuit for ease of handling. His wife scoffed. The rooster crowed. And angels sang on high.
Second, the pairing of a fluffy *absorbent* biscuit with a greasy sausage patty is a culinary masterstroke in its balance of two extremes. Biscuits can be too dry, patty sausage too greasy; the union rectifies both issues.
That said, not all sausage biscuits are created equal. Most fast food chains smother their true quality under melted American cheese and a disc of warmed-over egg. Sadly, the pure form of the sausage biscuit is often relegated to the value portion of the menu and given little thought or fanfare, the limelight resting on more glamorous options. (Double-Ham Breakfast Sourdough King, anyone?)
A month or so ago, I set out to bring sausage biscuits center stage, embarking on a journey to find the best among the fast food options typically available to us Southerners.
Before I get to the heart of it, a few truths I discovered along the way:
- The industry standard biscuit size is 3.5” wide by 1.5” tall. Trust me. I measured them all.
- Sausage size and quality vary dramatically.
- My body cannot tolerate more than one sausage biscuit in a sitting. This surprised me.
- Come to think of it, maybe I don’t even like sausage biscuits … or maybe that’s just a spike in cholesterol talking. I should take a walk…
McDonald’s | $1
My journey began down the street, where I often find myself when in the mood for a fast food breakfast. McDonald’s is satisfying in the moment, but rapidly leaves one wallowing in regret. I suppose this squares with what should be expected of food hawked by a clown. Sadly, this reality carries over to its sausage biscuit. The biscuit is flaky but dry. The sausage is relatively large, which is a bonus, but how is it so bland? There was one pocket of flavor, which made for a nice though unsettling bite. Why was there flavor … right there? In that one bite? The whole thing is fairly unsatisfying — not worth the inevitable heartburn.
Bojangles | $2
I’ve never really felt the pull to Bojangles like so many of my fellow North Carolinians seem to. Far too often our local Bojangles has a line of cars around the building, Bo-devotees waiting it out for mediocre chicken. When it’s Bo-Time, I suppose there’s only one way to scratch that itch. Just don’t expect to do so with their sausage biscuit. The biscuit is good, don’t get me wrong. But that’s what you’d expect from a chicken place. Where they fail is the sausage patty, small, dry and tough, leading me to wonder if they should even try. Maybe a chicken biscuit? But that’s for another blog post.
Hardees | $1.50
When I was growing up, Hardees was THE place to get a good breakfast. The cinnamon raisin biscuits were unmatched. So I rolled into our local Hardees, nestled near downtown Wake Forest, with high hopes. The sausage patty is nice and large, almost filling to the edges of the biscuit. It’s not spicy, but tasty enough. The biscuit, though — what’s going on here? The flavor is spot on, lightly buttery with a light flakiness to the outside, but it’s doughy to the point of almost seeming wet on the inside. If you were to indulge in one of these without a drink handy, best keep a buddy at the ready. Remember, two hands at the throat is the universal sign for choking.
Chick-Fil-A | $2
I looked to Chick-fil-A as a savior on this journey, having heard great things about their fresh buttermilk biscuits. Following the as-expected pleasant drive-through experience, I was delivered an expertly-wrapped sausage biscuit, the paper’s contents announced in clear text above a crisp fold. One of the high school kids back there has some origami skills, and they’re not afraid to show them off. The biscuit does not disappoint. It’s springy and a bit crisp around the edges in a satisfying way, with a flaky top and a light buttery taste. The sausage patty is large, hanging over the edge of the biscuit, but damnit if they didn’t drop the ball from here. The sausage isn’t greasy, I’ll give them that, but it is chewy and largely flavorless. The grill marks aren’t fooling me — this thing was not cooked fresh. I get it. I’m supposed to order chicken here. But if the sausage was a little fresher, this thing would be unstoppable.
Burger King |$1
Burger King has gone long on breakfast. About 15 years ago I remember they began marketing hard to my demographic at the time (20-something males) with extravagant, triple-meat breakfast options. They’re still at it, but stay smart and cut through the hype. At the bottom of the menu, for a dollar — sometimes less (they do have sales) — you will find a sausage biscuit with a large, tasty patty with a little spiciness to it, and a thick and slightly chewy biscuit with a crispy edge. Not too buttery. Not too dense. It can be crumbly, so eat it over the wrapper, but there’s not much else wrong with this one.
Popeyes | $2
This felt like a low point on my journey. I came across a Popeyes one morning at the Raleigh airport. I certainly didn’t need that sausage biscuit, but then there was this blog post I was working on. I hurriedly bought the biscuit ahead of boarding and crammed the crumpled bag under my arm as I strode over the jet bridge. I felt eyes burning on me as I, from the center seat in the middle of the plane, filled the cabin with the heavy smell of greasy bread and meat. But, bound to my mission, I folded down my little tray table during the pre-flight safety briefing and, elbows tucked in, texted myself the following between bites: “Flat, dense biscuit, à la a chicken place. Slightly flaky, slightly crumbly. Tasty but thin sausage. Fine, though, and not as greasy as expected.” So there you have it. Many a flight experience was ruined to bring us this information.
Biscuitville | $2
Biscuitvilles are elusive. I had never heard of one before moving to Raleigh (they’re only in North Carolina and Virginia), and every time I hear the name I have to sing a little Justin Timberlake tune under my breath. Seriously. Every time. But if you spot one of these gems during breakfast hours, pull over and order anything. It’s all good. The pure sausage biscuit is not on the menu, but they’ll give you one without hesitating. And it is the essence of what my memory tells me a sausage biscuit should be. The biscuit is not fluffy, almost flat, but not hard. It’s crispy with a chewiness to it. The sausage is flavorful and not greasy. I may be able to eat two of these without feeling my cholesterol spike.
The Winners …
- Best value: Burger King
- Best for feeling nostalgic: Biscuitville
- Best overall: Probably a Chik-fil-A biscuit with a Burger King sausage patty. But I lack the stamina to field test this theory.
I think I’m going to take that walk now.