The Pork roll (Taylor ham), Egg, And Cheese is New Jersey's most iconic sandwich, but it's been a source of fierce debate among locals for years

  • Pork roll/Taylor ham, egg, and cheese is the most iconic sandwich in New Jersey.
  • It's unique from other breakfast sandwiches in that it features a processed pork product with a name New Jerseyans can't seem to agree on.
  • Whether it's called pork roll or Taylor ham, it's considered a rite of passage.
  • Slater's Deli in Leonardo, New Jersey, goes through 300 pounds of pork roll during a busy week.

Following is a full transcript of this video.

Taryn Varricchio: Six circles of pork roll sliced a half-inch thick, seared on the flattop until the edges are crisp, stacked with two fried eggs and four slices of yellow American cheese, sandwiched between a hard kaiser roll. It's this contentious cured ham that made the pork roll, egg, and cheese a legend in New Jersey.

In other parts of the country, a breakfast sandwich typically means egg, cheese, and some sort of meat. But at Slater's Deli in New Jersey, the sandwich wouldn't be complete without pork roll, or...
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Ralph Marotta Jr.: Pork roll is a smoked ham that's already precooked that people eat as a breakfast sandwich, and it's a religion in New Jersey, an absolute religion. I mean, people are nuts over it.

Customer: It's like nothing you've tasted. It's very salty, very oily, but you want the oil, right? 'Cause that's what, you know, you put it on a roll, and it's great.

Taryn: The smoky, salty processed meat is sold like this, in hefty 6-pound logs of ground pork that's been spiced, smoked, and cooked before it's shipped to delis across New Jersey.
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Ralph: The pork roll gets sliced on No. 8 all the time. This way it's the same thickness and the same texture all the time. If it's sliced too thin, it'll shrink up on the grill, and it just won't be the same.

Taryn: Even though the product is precooked, Ralph sears it on the flattop for three to four minutes. Ralph: If somebody asks for well done, I got the weight I put on it. Taryn: So it gets kind of crisp. Ralph: Yeah, this cooks it quicker. Taryn: He makes those slits along each slice. Otherwise, the meat would curl up while cooking. Meanwhile, Ralph fries two eggs and tops each with a slice of yellow American cheese.
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Ralph: This is an old trick.

Taryn: A little bit of water, a lot of steam.

Ralph: Watch. It's amazing, the way it melts the cheese.
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Taryn: All six slices of pork roll, eggs, and cheese are sandwiched between a hard kaiser roll. If you ask Ralph, the eggs go on the top or between the pork roll, but never below.

Ralph: If you put the egg on the bottom, when you go to cut it, it just falls all over the place. There's no way it's gonna stay together. So it has to be done that way.

Taryn: Ralph opts for a brand of pork roll called Taylor, which is where the debate over the true name of this meat begins. The story goes that a man named John Taylor created the first pork roll, originally calling it Taylor's prepared ham. He was forced to remove the word "ham" from the name because it didn't meet the definition of ham created by The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. So he decided to call it John Taylor's original Taylor pork roll instead. Hence the confusion.
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Customer: I call it Taylor ham.

Customer: Pork roll. I call it pork roll.

Customer: My mom's from North Jersey, so I grew up on Taylor ham and cheese.
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Customer: If you look at the package, it says Taylor, so they're kind of right.

Taryn: What's the right answer? Customer: It's pork roll to me.
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Taryn: While there's no official line separating the people who call it pork roll versus those who say Taylor ham, according to Ralph...

Ralph: The cutoff's Woodbridge, usually. After Woodbridge it's pork roll. If you go further north than Woodbridge, it's Taylor ham. That's the cutoff I see.

Taryn: Forget what you call it. One thing is for sure: Pork roll, egg, and cheese is a rite of passage in New Jersey.
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Liz Walsh: No matter what time of year it is, we could sell nothing else, but we will sell tons of pork roll.

Taryn: How many pork roll cases would you say you go through in a week?

Ralph: In the summertime, probably 50.
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Taryn: 50 cases? How much do each of those weigh?

Ralph: 6 pounds, so 300 pounds a week.

Taryn: That's a lot of pork roll. That's a lot of processed meat.
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Ralph: In other words, there's not a lot of healthy people coming in here. That's for sure. [laughs]

There's nothing really nuts about it. I mean, it's just something that people grew up on here, and it stuck with them forever. You know what I mean? And you can't get it anywhere else. There's no other state you can get it from. You can buy them in a supermarket in other states in the packages. You know what I mean? The presliced packages, but it's not the same. Producer: Can I get a clap?
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Taryn: [claps] Whoo!

Producer: Been a while since I've said that.

Taryn: Been a while since I wore jeans.
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Pork roll, egg, and cheese. Woo-hoo! Looks messy! OK. First impression, I'm familiar with this sandwich, very familiar, being from New Jersey, but this thing is the largest pork roll, egg, and cheese sandwich I have ever seen. And I'm just gonna try to attempt to, you know, eat it in a good, solid bite.

If you've never had pork roll, I think you would be surprised by how salty it is, because it's definitely saltier the regular ham. And then also, if you think about Canadian bacon and how thick that is, it kind of resembles that, but it's also a meat and a product all of its own. It has, like, just a uniquely salty, spicy, smoky flavor, and this bee wants it too, whoa! OK. In terms of texture, it's thick. It's a little bit crisp on the outside, but it's not, like, crunchy in any way.

Customer: It's, like, in the field of breakfast meats like bacon or sausage. Just, it's different sometimes. I don't know, I can't describe it. I don't even know where it comes from.
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Producer: Could you imagine eating that entire sandwich?

Taryn: Six slices of pork roll is a lot. Normally, a normal pork roll egg and cheese, from what I have seen, is, like, two to three slices, max. And then your egg and your cheese and, you know, you got your whole complete meal, but to have six slices, that is a meal in itself. Though I do enjoy pork roll, this, you have to love it to have this much of it in a sandwich.

Customer: It's a taste of my childhood, I guess, is the best way for me to explain it. You know, my mom always made it at home, or we went to the deli and got it. So it's a Jersey staple.
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Taryn: I have trained myself for this video to say pork roll. Otherwise, it's obviously Taylor ham.

Producer: It's pork roll. Taryn: Oh, my God, Nicole.
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