When McDonald's Egg McMuffin breakfast sandwich debuted in 1972, it perfected breakfast on the go with a sandwich that took everything that usually ended up on a plate — fried egg, toasted bread, and a side of bacon — and put it into a portable package. (The melted American cheese is a nice touch, of course.)
At that point, a few McDonald's stores were offering breakfast, but none of the items on the menu were things you couldn't get anywhere else. Franchisee Jim Delligatti, who had helped create the Big Mac sandwich not long before, offered coffee, donuts, rolls, pancakes, and sausages at his store, for example. But franchisees who weren't offering breakfast didn't consider the potential gain worthwhile in light of the fact that they would have to open four hours earlier — Delligatti, for example, opened at 7 a.m. instead of 11 a.m., and at his store, breakfast only comprised 5 percent of sales. But before long, franchisees were yearning for a breakfast item that was more substantial than baked goods and a cup of joe, but didn't require customers to sit down in the restaurant with a fork and knife.
That's when Herb Peterson stepped in. Peterson, a franchisee like Delligatti, also saw the potential of increased sales by opening his stores earlier to sell breakfast items. Inspired by a novel yet clumsy eggs Benedict sandwich from Jack-in-the-Box, Peterson set out to create something similar but with better execution. Peterson rejected runny sauces in favor of placing a perfectly cooked egg on top of a slice of cheese, resulting in that rich, almost creamy consistency. Poaching eggs would have been ideal, but would have taken too long, so instead, he improvised a cooking apparatus that involved placing six rings on a grill. Eggs would be cracked into each one, which is how they end up perfectly round (check out the slideshow to see how we adapt this for home cooking).
Peterson asked Ray Kroc, McDonald's founder, to come to his store to try the sandwich. Kroc was absolutely impressed, and added the sandwich to the menu. Breakfast now represents 15 percent of McDonald's sales, no doubt driven by the popularity of the Egg McMuffin.
If you'd like to give it a shot, you can make your own McDonald's Egg McMuffin at home using store-bought ingredients, and the only special equipment you'll need is a ring mold about the size of an English muffin. Check out our step-by-step slideshow, or if you prefer to print it out and follow along, click here to see the McDonald's Egg McMuffin Recipe.
Will Budiaman is the Recipe Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow him on Twitter @WillBudiaman.