No posh bread, no fancy cheese and certainly no mayo: the seven unwritten rules of eating baked beans | Full of Beanz

Few foods have triggered so many lengthy debates as the satisfyingly saucy baked bean.
Photograph: Yuki Sugiura/Guardian; prop stylist: Anna Wilkins

Forget whether the dress was blue or white, or if there was room for Jack on that floating debris – the most heated debates of our generation revolve around food. Does the jam or cream go on a scone first (and how do you pronounce scone)? Does pineapple belong on a pizza? And should your Heinz ketchup be kept in the fridge? (For the record: jam then cream; rhyme it with “gone”; certainly not; and yes, definitely. Glad we cleared that up.)

But few foods have triggered so many lengthy debates as the satisfyingly saucy baked bean. A British icon, the fierce loyalty these delicious legumes stir up is unparalleled. Which is the best bread to put them on? Is it OK to eat them cold? And should they really be touching other food on the plate? We’re here to solve these saucy conundrums once and for all. (Please note: the editor’s decision is final.)

1 Beans should be enjoyed cold as well
While it’s traditional to heat up your Heinz Beanz, there are purists who swear by eating them cold, usually straight out of the tin. While we suspect their argument is partially based on sheer laziness, this is an easy one: either way of eating them is fine, but the best path to take is both. The true baked bean connoisseur snaffles a few tasty forkfuls after opening the tin, before heating the rest up.

2 You have the right to feel smug
Unlike kale, baked beans manage to be both healthy and fun to eat. No one ever groaned when they found out dinner was beans on toast, but like a saucy ninja, they’re sneakily really good for you. A good source of fibre, they count as one of your five a day, can be enjoyed by vegans and veggies alike, and are low in fat. Plus, if you choose Heinz No Added Sugar Beanz, which also contain 25% less salt, you can feel even more pleased with yourself.

3 Acceptable toppings
The beauty of baked beans is their versatility, which in turn can lead to tough decisions about which toppings, if any, are the best. We’ve heard cases for cooked chorizo, crispy bacon, hot sauce, chopped parsley, dried herbs and (of course) enough cheese to fell a horse. The short answer is that all these toppings, including none at all, are acceptable (except for non-cheddar cheeses, more of which later). Although, if you stir ketchup, brown sauce or, God forbid, mayonnaise into your beans, somebody needs to stage an intervention.

4 The cheese rules
Despite their workmanlike appearance, cheesy beans are a thing of great beauty and delicate balance, and must be properly executed. The rules are as follows: cheddar is the only acceptable cheese. None of your gruyere or feta nonsense here, please. At a push, you might crumble in some Wensleydale, but cheddar offers the correct tanginess to offset the beans’ sweetness, and can be finely grated so the cheese drifts on to the beans like a soft, tasty blanket. Thickly grated cheddar is also delicious, but tends to stubbornly sit there, refusing to melt. Finally, while cheese stirred into beans is undoubtedly delicious, it’s simply not the correct way – the light dusting of cheese must melt into the beans on its own.

5 No napkins, embrace the sauce
Do you want to be that person with the napkin tucked under their chin in the work canteen? Do you? No, you do not. Beans, by their nature, love to throw themselves off your fork and bounce their saucy way down your clean shirt, like a stone skimmed by a champ. Wear your day-glo stains as a badge of honour. Your lunch was better than anyone else’s.

6 Set the beans free
Of all the baked bean debates, the one about whether it’s OK for them to touch other foodstuffs in a full English breakfast is the most controversial. While there’s no question beans are an integral part of the meal, some people prefer theirs on the side, to avoid the sauce infiltrating any of the more absorbent items (eg bread, hash browns). Let’s be clear, though: serving your baked beans in a rubbish little ramekin is entirely unacceptable. If you really must separate them, the correct protocol is to create an edible holding pen fashioned out of sausages and bacon.

7 The right type of bread
There are more ways to eat baked beans than there are beans in a tin (on average, 465 in total)! But although baked potatoes, crumpets, waffles or a bowl straight from the microwave are all acceptable vehicles for getting baked beans inside you, the classic accompaniment is toasted, buttered bread. When you pour your beans on to the toast, a corner must be left bean-free, to be saved for juice-mopping duties. And the correct bread choice is white or wholemeal and pre-sliced: no arguing. If you want to go really fancy, we’ll allow an uncut bloomer. But this isn’t the time for posh breads: none of your rye, pumpernickel or sourdough should be getting involved. We have spoken.

Find out more about Heinz No Added Sugar Beanz here

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