Duck breakfast sandwich

Few things are better than a breakfast sandwich—especially when that breakfast sandwich includes wild game. Judging by the @FieldAndStream Instagram feed, more than a few of you agree, because our photos of wild game breakfast sandwiches are among the most popular images we’ve shared. Seriously, more of you have liked and commented on the sandwich shots than you have on photos of guns, bird limits, trophy fish, wild country, or even the endlessly likeable social-media star: dogs. This gave me an idea: These early-bird meals deserve something more than the occasional Instagram post. So, I present the first-ever Wild Game Breakfast Sandwich Awards. Here’s how our awards ceremony will go: In addition to some smaller honors (best cheese, hot sauce, etc.), there are five “major” awards categorized by types of game meat (waterfowl, deer, wild turkey, etc). The winners of these major awards then battled for the grand prize: Breakfast Sandwich of the Year. All nominees were chosen and judged, and the awards decided, by a committee of one: Me. As you can probably tell, more thought (and calories) went into this than I’d care to admit. Then again, breakfast sandwiches deserve to be taken seriously. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to hit the treadmill.

Turkey breakfast sandwich

Major Award: Best Gobbler Breakfast Sandwich
Our first winner includes a supporting-role ingredient you won’t find in many of the other sandwiches: vegetables. Despite what my wife may tell you, I don’t mind vegetables, but it’s rare that I’ll have something green in the fridge that would work in a breakfast sandwich. On the morning of this meal, however, I sautéed a handful of spinach to add some color and flavor to an amazing mess of an over-easy egg, shredded cheese, hot sauce, and thinly sliced wild turkey breast. The turkey meat came from a hunt in South Dakota this spring, on which I called in (and shot) my first gobbler entirely on my own. I could’ve described every detail of that hunt as I ate this sandwich—and that, I think, cuts right to the best part of cooking and eating wild game: It gives you a chance to relive the hunt.

american cheese

Best Cheese
I suspect I’ll anger some with this next award, because cheese—particularly when it’s melted—is an ingredient people take seriously and personally. The breakfast sandwiches I’ve cooked over the last several months included cheddar (sliced and shredded), Swiss, pepper Jack, and others.* In the end, though, none came close to American. The flavor is perfect—not too strong, but enough to add something extra—and its “meltability” is unparalleled. The sight alone of an American single drooping until it smothers the meat and eggs in an orange, gooey blanket of processed goodness will never not make me hungry. (No joke: My stomach growled as I finished that sentence.) *If you are in the camp that prefers smoked cheese, please stop reading now. Your opinions on breakfast sandwiches don’t deserve to be taken seriously.


Best Hot Sauce **
Tastes buds were burned. Sinuses were cleared. In the end **Sriracha
stood out among the rest. To be honest, I kinda hoped “rooster sauce” wouldn’t win because seemed too easy or trendy of a pick, but I can’t help myself. The garlicky, fiery stuff is just too good and it pairs spectacularly with game meat.

snow goose breakfast sandwich

Major Award: Best Waterfowl Breakfast Sandwich
If this award were really a real award, my speech would go something like this: Oh, my God. This is so unexpected. I don’t know what to say. [Here’s where I nonchalantly pull a typed speech from my jacket pocket.] First, I’d like to thank all of the other waterfowl breakfast sandwiches that were cooked and consumed. I mean, like, this is such a strong category, you know, especially when you consider that it includes both ducks and geese. To the mallard, black duck, and teal breakfast sandwiches that were up for this award, you’re all an inspiration to me. [Here’s where I pause so you can applaud those losers.] Most of all, I’d like to thank David Draper, without whom I never could have made this snow goose sausage, fried egg, and American cheese sandwich on grilled sourdough bread. [Here’s where I step back from the podium, so y’all can applaud David.] David is a colleague, a talented writer, and a hell of a wild game cook, but he’s also a good friend and the wild game care packages he has sent me over the years are among the most generous gifts I’ve ever received. The very least I can do is try and cook them with the same respect and care that he would. [Here’s where you applaud me. I did just win a major award, after all.]
Best Surprise Ingredient
I got this idea from Bon Appétit magazine. They included a breakfast sandwich recipe in an issue earlier this year, so naturally I took note. The sandwich was your standard sausage, egg, and cheese—except for one extra ingredient: honey. Any breakfast lover who’s ever dipped a sausage link or bacon strip in some maple syrup knows what a dynamite match that salty-sweet combo is. Well, this is even better. Next time you make a breakfast sandwich at home or at camp, put a bottle of honey on the table right next to the hot sauce. You won’t be disappointed.

venison sausage sandwich

Major Award: Best Whitetail Breakfast Sandwich
If there’s an icon in the group, here it is: Venison sausage, scrambled eggs, and American, drizzled with hot sauce and honey (see “Best Surprise Ingredient”). I cooked more venison breakfast sandwiches than any other, and this one was my favorite if for no other reason than because it was the most comforting. The venison came from a whitetail I shot in Saskatchewan a couple years ago. That buck scored just south of 150, and as excited as I was about hanging the rack in my office, meals like this one are why I was even more thrilled to be coming home with a duffle bag heavy with frozen meat.

Hot Thunder Chicken

Best Rip Off of a Fast-Food-Chain Breakfast Sandwich
I call this one the Hot Thunder Chicken Biscuit. For better or (most certainly) worse, I’m an aficionado of fast-food breakfast sandwiches, and, without question, my favorite is the Cajun Filet Biscuit from Bojangles. Tragically, there are no Bojangles in New York, which may explain why I’ve been known to book flights that connect in Charlotte Douglass International Airport just so I can get Bojangles (Gate B9, in case you’re curious). Since I’m lucky if I fly through that airport once a year, I tried to mimic the recipe with wild game. I fried some South Dakota gobbler breast Nashville style, then placed a hunk between a flaky biscuit. My creation wasn’t quite good as Bojangles—but certainly more convenient.

Duck prosciutto bun

Best Rip Off of a Fine-Dining (Breakfast) Sandwich
New York has a restaurant empire that goes by the name Momofuku—Momofuku Ssam Bar, Momofuku Noodle Bar, Momofuku Milk Bar, etc. All of them are excellent, and one of their best-known menu items is the pork bun, which consists of a slab of pork belly, hoisin sauce, cucumbers, and scallions between a steamed bun. It is one of the most delicious things you’ll ever eat. Momofuku used to offer a breakfast-sandwich version of the pork bun, which included a fried poached egg. It’s long been off the menu, but I’ve never forgotten that sandwich, and it served as the inspiration for this steamed-bun award winner—duck prosciutto, a fried egg, hoisin sauce, kimchi-style radish and cucumbers, and Sriracha. I cured the duck prosciutto, following this recipe from The Wild Chef cookbook, from the breast of a mallard I shot in New York last November. Honestly, this sandwich was a pain in the ass to make—and a colossal mess to eat—but it was delicious.
Best Egg Style **
This was a close one. I love scrambled eggs on a breakfast sandwich. They feel, and taste, substantial (and let’s face it, when you cook a breakfast sandwich, you’re craving a big meal), and scrambled eggs hold up well in a sandwich. That said, the award still goes to the **fried egg
for one simple reason: the runny yolk. More so than hot sauce, or honey, egg yolk is the official sauce of breakfast sandwiches. When cooked right,* the yolk should spill from the sandwich as soon as you push down on the top layer of bread. Then, after you’ve slice the sandwich in half, you can run it through the oozing gold, bite after bite. *If you are in the camp that prefers to fry eggs past the point where the yolks run—to where they’re the consistency of yellow chalk— please stop reading now. You’re almost bad as those in the smoked-cheese camp.

pheasant breakfast sandwich

Major Award: Best Upland Breakfast Sandwich
Once again, I have Mr. Draper to thank for this winner—pheasant sausage, fried egg, and cheese. He kindly donated the sausage, which was rich, flavorful, and moist—just outstanding overall. I’ll take this moment to briefly talk about frying eggs: Over the course of cooking these sandwiches, I experimented with frying eggs in different fats. I used bacon grease, duck fat, butter, and olive oil. Without question, olive oil was the best. It produces deliciously crisp edges and keeps the egg whites clean and, well, white. Olive oil also allows you to tell yourself that at least something about the sandwich is healthy.

catfish sandwich

Breakthrough Performance in Breakfast Sandwich Consumption
These are the Wild Game Breakfast Sandwich Awards, but one of the most surprisingly flavorful sandwiches I cooked was this one here: fried catfish and a fried egg on an English muffin. I caught the fish in Tennessee with F&S hunting editor, Will Brantley. Fried catfish is one of my all-time favorite foods, so it’s surprising I had leftovers in the first place. But after this sandwich, anytime I fry some for dinner you can bet I’ll save at least one filet, because fried catfish, as it turns out, rivals venison sausage for breakfast.
Best Bread **
Considering all but a few of the sandwiches here were stacked between the same kind of bread, you probably saw this winner coming. The award for Best Bread goes to the **English Muffin
—specifically, Thomas’ brand. The English muffin keeps a breakfast sandwich to the ideal size, and it has the perfect crunch once it’s toasted (and buttered). Grilled sourdough and toasted wheat bread were a close second and third, respectively. To those of you in the South, my apologies, but Bojangles aside, your beloved biscuit is best suited to being spread with butter and jam or smothered with sausage gravy. When used in a breakfast sandwich, a biscuit is a crumbly, dense disaster. Bless your hearts for trying, though.

Elk breakfast sandwich

Major Award: Best Big-Game Breakfast Sandwich
It would be criminal to call this a breakfast sandwich. This… This is a breakfast hero: elk backstrap, two fried eggs, three slices of American cheese, and pickled onions on toasted focaccia. The elk was a gift from—you guessed it—David Draper, and I cooked it to medium-rare perfection using the F&S “Redneck Sous Vide” method. (If you haven’t tried that recipe yet, you are missing out big time.) Of all the sandwiches I cooked, this one was definitely the biggest—and yet I’m fairly certain it took me the least amount of time to eat.

Venison sausage

Lifetime Achievement in Breakfast Sandwich Consumption
Before we get to the final and most prestigious award, I wanted to pay tribute to the perennial breakfast sandwich MVP—that is, Most Valuable Protein. I am, of course, talking about venison sausage. It hardly matters if your sausage isn’t a “breakfast sausage” blend. The venison sausage mentioned earlier, for example, was kielbasa—and it was awesome for breakfast. I’ve also made a great breakfast sandwich with venison boudin, and I have no doubt the same would be true for venison merguez, chorizo, or bratwurst. My point is: If your freezer contains a stash of whitetail in link or patty form, don’t save it just for dinners or barbecues. Set some in the fridge to thaw before you go to bed, and come morning you’ll be on your way to a day-making breakfast sandwich. Now, onto the big award…

venison sausage sandwich

Breakfast Sandwich of the Year
Honestly, was there ever any doubt venison sausage, egg, and cheese would win? Just look at this beauty. Ten years from now, when the Wild Game Breakfast Sandwich Awards are televised nationally—complete with a red-carpet special before the ceremony—I expect a gold-dipped replica of this sandwich to be the trophy. We’ll call them The Sammies. Just don’t forget to use the #TheSammies hashtag when you follow along on Instagram.

The Wild Game Breakfast Sandwich Awards are something of a passion project of Colin Kearns, F&S senior deputy editor. If you have a sandwich recipe for him (or if you’d like to argue about his picks for the awards), shoot him an email at: He’ll do his best to get back to you in a reasonable time—or as soon as he’s finished with the wild game sandwich he’s probably eating.