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May 11, 2013

Steak Pie
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 01:01 AM *

This recipe is from the intensely talented fantasy author Stacia Kane, and is reprinted here with her permission. Stacia is originally from the USA but now lives in England.

Steak Pie

I like puff pastry crusts for meat pies—I like a high crust-to-meat ratio—so I buy it ready-made; making puff pastry is so time-consuming (all that buttering and folding and rolling and resting in the fridge and buttering and folding and rolling and resting in the fridge), and I’ve actually never gotten great results. Pepperidge Farm makes a really nice ready-made puff pastry; you can find it in the fridge or freezer section in any grocery store (I also did smaller pies using their little round hors’d’ouvres pastry crusts: one with ground beef and one with shredded chicken, which are much quicker than the steak pie). (Here in the UK I use Jus-Rol, but Pepperidge Farm is the way to go in the US.)

I have made a nice hot-water pastry for meat pies, too, but I like puff. All those flaky layers.

So, here’s what I do, for a regular 9-inch pie. You’ll want to do this either quite early in the day, or the day before, because ideally the filling will be cool when it goes into the crust:

3 lbs stewing beef (if you want, you can buy a chuck roast and cut it into chunks)
1 16-oz can/bottle dark (stout) beer; I prefer Murphy’s Irish Stout to Guinness (really, I’ve used both and for me there’s no comparison)

1 onion, chopped fine (if you want; I use onion powder, usually)

In a large frying pan/saucepan/braiser with a good lid, brown the beef in a Tbsp or so of butter, with a tsp of olive or vegetable oil to keep it from scorching. Brown it in batches (I put the browned meat in the upturned lid to save washing dishes).

If you’re using chopped onion (I’ve minced a shallot in there, too, on occasion), add it after the meat is browned and stir it until it’s soft. Then add the beef back in, and add a handful or two of


Stir well to make a sort-of roux; this will help thicken the filling later.

Once the flour is cooked (just a minute or two), add salt and pepper; not too much at first, maybe a tsp of salt and half a tsp of pepper?

Then add your herbs etc. I usually use (all of these are dried, as this is a long-simmered dish):

½ tsp or so of:


¼ tsp or so of:


a dash of nutmeg/rub the nutmeg over the microplane grater once or twice

Now add at least a tsp or two of Worcestershire (VERY important!). Sometimes I add a splash of soy, too. If you have some Kitchen Bouquet that’s great to add. I also often add a bit of beef stock concentrate, just as a flavor boost.

This next bit depends on how hot your burners run. Mine run very hot—it’s hard to get a good low simmer—so I add the entire can of beer (slowly so it doesn’t foam over). When I had a burner that ran lower I’d add about ⅔ of it and wait to see if it needed more. So that would be my recommendation unless you have a hard time simmering something low.

Scrape up all the fond (most of it probably came up already with the flour/Worcestershire, and especially if you used diced onion).

Add two or three bay leaves (I use three).

Cover and let simmer 2½ - 3 hours. I like the meat VERY tender; you may want to stop simmering sooner, but as with any stew beef recipe you’ll want to give it at least a couple of hours. Check it every once in a while to see how the liquid level is doing. When it’s done, taste it and adjust the seasonings. Remember that the pastry crust is rather bland, so it’s okay for the meat to be a little more highly flavored.

At some point during the cooking, preheat your oven to 400° F and thaw one of the pastry sheets. You want it to still be cold, but not frozen hard. Personally, I just sort of push and manipulate it with my hands to fit it into the pie dish; you may want to roll it out, but I’ve made this at least a hundred times over the years so no longer bother with all of that. I just plop it into the dish, push it into the edges, and trim the excess (which I then squeeze into the parts where it isn’t covering the rim of the dish). A good way to keep it from shrinking too much is to fold the tiniest bit over the rim of the pie dish. It will still shrink some but that won’t matter too much.

Some people only use a top crust. IMO that’s not a pie, that’s beef stew with a pastry lid. (Like I said, I am a pastry girl and like a high crust-meat ratio.)

Anyway. Shove that bottom crust into the oven and bake it about fifteen minutes (or according to package directions, but don’t give it the full time, just most of it). This will help keep the bottom crust from getting too soggy. Again, you’ll want to do this fairly early on, because ideally this bottom crust will be cool when you add the filling. (I have often added hot filling to hot crust, and it’s fine if you just don’t have time to let it all cool etc.—it won’t ruin the pie or anything—but it really is nicer if you can let it all cool, both for a less-soggy crust and a thicker filling.)

Once the meat is done, let it sit uncovered for a while, stirring occasionally. It will thicken as it stands. It’ll still be a bit liquidy, FYI, but it won’t be AS liquidy. Take out the top crust when the package tells you to, in terms of how far in advance.

I have a little Le Creuset pie bird. They’re very inexpensive, and good/kind of fun to have, but they’re not necessary. If you have one, plunk it into the center of the bottom crust and add the filling around it. If not, just add the filling. I recommend spooning the filling into the crust, because you can control the liquid level better. Honestly, you probably only want like ¼ cup of the liquid in there.

The top crust is easier than the bottom crust, and again, I just trim the ends off and plunk it on there. Also again, make sure it’s still quite cold! Otherwise it won’t rise and flake as nicely. If you have a pie bird, fit the center around the bird’s beak and cut a few more vent slices in the top crust. If you don’t, make an X in the very center and reflect back the points so you have a little hole, and cut some vents—I usually do four vents, which makes it look pretty. The vents also really help the top crust puff and flake up.

Pop the pie into a 400° F oven. Set your timer for ten minutes. Take a look at the ten minute mark; is it browning? It’s not uncommon for the edges to puff and brown before the center (which will look sunken and bumpy as it “melts” over the meat before puffing up), so there’s nothing wrong if it’s doing that but at some point you may want to cover the edges with foil to keep them from burning. Also at that ten-minute point, give it a turn to help even cooking.

Check it again at twenty minutes. If the top crust isn’t fully puffed and golden, give it another turn and another five-ten minutes. This really depends on your oven and even stuff like humidity etc. Usually my pies take about twenty-five - thirty minutes for the top crust to be all nice and flaky/puffy.

Let the pie sit five minutes or so before cutting (longer if you can, up to about fifteen).

You can use the leftover cooking liquid to make gravy, but keep in mind how highly flavored that liquid probably is; you’ll want to add water and simmer it down. Sometimes I use gravy mix and add a few Tbsp of that liquid to that, because I’m lazy and because at that point I’ve got my big burner going with potatoes to mash and at least one smaller burner with vegetables, and there’s not room for the big braiser I did the meat in, too. But that’s up to you.

This is just as good as leftovers, and really, you can easily make the meat the day before and just assemble the pie as usual. I’ve actually put the filled bottom crust into the fridge before when dinner plans suddenly changed, and just popped the top crust on and cooked it the next day, and that worked great, too.

You can add whatever seasonings you want, of course. Sometimes I add a bit of mustard powder. Whatever you like. I stick to the savory herbs, because that’s what I like. And I really don’t recommend garlic in this; I’m not sure why but it just always tastes weird to me to have garlic in here. But hey, give it a try if you like.

Sorry if these are a tad disjointed; again, I’ve made this so many times I don’t really even have to think anymore about what I’m doing. But that’s the basic recipe/method, and again, one of my absolute favorite dinners and something we all like and have a lot. So I’d love to hear what you think!

Stacia’s latest book is Chasing Magic. Buy one. Better still, buy a dozen. They make excellent gifts.
Cooking With Light (Recipe Index)
Comments on Steak Pie:
#1 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2013, 08:09 AM:

Dammitall! No way in hell I'll wait long enough to have one for brekkie!

#2 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2013, 08:20 AM:

The stew portion of this pie is remarkably similar to the one I make. The difference is I use a homemade pie crust rather than puff pastry and I have a fancy tin that makes four individual pies rather than one large one. That is to say, I have used homemade crust; maybe next time I'll use the puff pastry. Sadly, this fortnight's meat shopping did not include beef, so I'll have to save this for later in the month.

#3 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2013, 08:37 AM:

A lower church version copped from high school dining hall:

SAS Turnovers

Thaw the puff pastry sheets, all the way. Take your leftover pot roast and tear it into shreds; also take the leftover liquid and add a can of beef broth. Use the latter to make gravy after reducing it a bit. Meanwhile, cut each sheet of puff pastry into four squares; put a sufficient quantity of the shredded meat into the center of each square, wet the edges, fold in half and pinch the edges shut. It doesn't have to be a really good seal, just enough to keep it from falling apart. Set the turnovers on a cookie sheet or other convenient dish and bake at 400F until sufficiently browned. Serve with the gravy.

#4 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2013, 10:36 AM:

dammit, why do the two people I cook for have to be vegetarian? I want this NOW,

Hmm. I've made beef stew with seitan chunks, and Marmite to doctor the broth. I believe I have a PLAN.

#5 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2013, 11:15 AM:

Years back I used to occasionally buy Irish steak and kidney or steak and mushroom pie in cans; found out that for my tastes I needed to pull off the puff pastry on top, remove visible fat deposits, and add chopped onion to replace the fat. Then I'd put the pastry back on top and bake per directions. Can't get these any more, but I kept the cans; they make nice little 7 inch pie pans, a good size for one person. I do largely make savory pies, and had beef and onion early this week.

#6 ::: Andrew Wells ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2013, 12:03 PM:

Only one thing could improve this - the addition of some diced kidney :-)

(I realise that it would no longer be purely a steak pie, though!)

#7 ::: David Langford ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2013, 12:08 PM:

Remembering John Sladek's recipe for "Accursed Steak Pie" in Cooking Out of This World ...

"It is said that James II was so taken with this dish that he drew his sword and on the spot created it Duchess of Williamsborough. His successor revoked the title and ordered the luckless pie to be imprisoned in the Tower, guarded by yeomen called 'beefeaters'."

#8 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2013, 02:48 PM:

Rikibeth @ 4:

Yes! We don't need to be slaves to the title (with its "steak"), and might even add a substantial amount of mushroom.

#9 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2013, 05:11 PM:

I did in fact pick up mushrooms today when I went shopping! Also, so totally making a hot water crust for this, for old-school freestanding pies. Lobscouse & Spotted Dog is going to get a workout.

#10 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2013, 11:10 PM:

My aunt and uncle, for whom I made this, are wowed. It was yummy. But mushrooms would have been a fine addition.

#11 ::: Zora ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2013, 12:10 AM:

The filling is Belgian beef-beer-onion stew, or carbonnade Flamande. I make it with dumplings.

#12 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2013, 02:23 AM:

OK, the pie bird is just adorable. I need to adopt one.

The beef-stewing portion of this program seems like a good crock-pot candidate. But I have never crock-potted a roux-based stew before. Any reason to be wary?

#13 ::: Stacia Kane ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2013, 08:18 AM:

Thanks, everyone!

Heh, I don't add mushrooms because I don't like them, but they would indeed be a fine addition. (When I cook mushrooms--they're part of my beef bourguignonne recipe--I saute them separately and add them for the last fifteen minutes of simmering. Mushrooms will absorb all the oil you cook them in as they cook, and then release it when they're done, which takes longer than you'd think but means your mushrooms aren't oily or soggy. For this I'd probably add them to the meat mixture just before putting in the pie, but again, I'm not a mushroom person so I can't say for sure.)

As to the Crock-Pot...I also use dark beer when I do roasts in the Crock-Pot, as opposed to the red wine many use; try it, it's amazing. I've never done this specifically in the Crock-Pot, but I don't see why it couldn't work. Either you could brown the meat and add the flour and liquid, then add it all to the crock, or do it all in the Crock and then cool the filling and see if it thickens up; if it doesn't you could always make a separate roux, add the cooking liquid until it thickens up, and then add the meat back to the thickened liquid before spooning into the pie.

(And yes, the pie bird is adorable! Mine is red. It looks so sweet sticking out of the center of the pie.) (Also, yes, it is a carbonnade.)

#14 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2013, 10:49 AM:

Hmm, if I want the others to eat it, I COULD even do it as an entirely mushroom ragout. Housemate actually likes mushroom marsala.

Pity I don't have a sow to dig up yearth-grobbets for me, or live anywhere that they grow in the wild. And affordable truffle oil is barely related to real truffles.

#15 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2013, 12:31 PM:

Nicole, I have a blue pie bird available for adoption. It's not quite as traditional as the black one, but just as functional. PM me at strongerthantea at the mail that is g.

#16 ::: Ralph Robert (Rob) Moore ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2013, 07:04 AM:

Anne at #5: I suspect you're talking about Fray Bentos Steak and Kidney pies. I love 'em, even though it's always frustrating trying to get their metal lids off (especially when you're really hungry.) They're back on sale in the U.S. (they were pulled for a while because of mad cow.) You can order them through Amazon.

#17 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2013, 11:55 PM:

Tracie, you have mail that is e. And now I have "Whiskey You're The Devil" stuck in my head.

Stacia, I am also very fond of dark beer as a broth, which I have on hand for the purpose much more often than I do red wine. I have this tendency to bring home growlers of yumminess from local brewers, and then fail to drink it all up before it goes flat, because I am the only beer drinker in the house and a lightweight. Then I'll hold onto the remains until I have something stew- or soup-like to add them to. This seems like the thing to do Very Soon Now.

(That said, tonight's gumbo doesn't really want the remains of the growler of Bootstrap Brewery porter. It's an okra-based gumbo, more specifically an "I am constitutionally unable to leave Pacific Ocean Market without a pound of fresh okra which I then don't know what to do with so I guess I'll chop it up and stew it into gumbo base and throw it in the freezer against future need" gumbo. If it were a roux-based gumbo the porter would totally be going in.)

Am now rethinking my intentions for a recent ground beef purchase. Savory pie just sounds like a lot more fun than beef-and-bean casserole.

#18 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2013, 10:49 AM:

Rob @16 - The brand name was Old England. Kind of funny, seeing Product of Ireland after that. I actually preferred the steak and mushroom pies; I was willing to try the steak and kidney pies, several times, but kidneys don't do much for me (aside from my own personal kidneys).

#19 ::: Wendy Bradley ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2013, 03:27 PM:

Stacia, I see you're living in England - have you tried replacing the Worcester sauce with Hendersons? ( I live in Sheffield so I'm biased, but even as a vegetarian I very very occasionally give in to my meat-and-potato-pie problem by making something very like the recipe you describe, only using Hendersons instead of Worcester sauce. (And potatoes, of course)

You can also make a vegetarian version of the pie using quorn marinated in Hendersons and Budweiser, but I'm assuming that's just me...

#20 ::: Ken Brown ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2013, 05:07 PM:


As others said, a more blatantly English pie ought to have some kidney in it. If beef kidneys are too strong or tough for your taste, four or five small lamb's kidneys would do fine, maybe cut into thirds or quarters if they are large. And petsonally I'd use more than one onion and not chop them too finely.

A recipe for overcoming a finicky aversion to kidney: get a couple of small lamb's kidneys and some mushrooms that come to about the same volume. Cut into slices about a centimetre thick (If the mushrooms are small you might want to just halve them or even use them whole - the idea is to have about the same number of pieces of about the same size) Fry quickly in butter, maybe with a little onion or garlic. Grind some black pepper in. When its ready add a large splash of red wine, and bring that to a boil as quickly as possible. Then eat it on the two thick slices of toast you remembered to put in the toaster before you started - it only takes about three to five minutes.

With a big mug of tea that makes a luxurious late breakfast on a cold Sunday after church :-) And you can be sitting down to eat it ten minutes after entering the kitchen.

#21 ::: Ken Brown ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2013, 05:13 PM:

I should point out that with a more elaborate sauce and a little more spice cooked a little longer to thicken it, that's the classic "devilled kidneys". My version is the lazy quick one.

#22 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2013, 11:12 PM:

After hearing that Steak & Cheese pie was a BIG thing in NZ, I went looking for a recipe. I don't think this one is necessarily authentic, but boy is it popular online.

#23 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2013, 01:49 AM:

Bruce #22:
That Jamie Oliver recipe is for a fancy/gourmet steak & cheese pie; standard shop pie recipes don't normally use beer.

Pies: it's a serious business.

#25 ::: Ken Brown ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2013, 02:39 PM:

This thread is a mindworm. I went to a supermarket yesterday to buy detergent and various boring household cleaning products - and came home with a small piece of stewing steak, some oxtails, kidneys, mushrooms, and ready-rolled pastry.

I wonder what I can do with that lot?

#26 ::: John Rynne ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2013, 12:46 PM:

I tried the recipe with excellent results. However, the mere idea of cooking something for 3 hours makes me weep. I gave the beef 30 minutes in a pressure cooker, than popped in some chunks of carrot and gave the whole thing another 4 minutes of pressure.
I know pressure cookers have got a lot of bad press lately for reasons unrelated to cooking.
However, their advantages are undeniable: shorter cooking time, huge saving on fuel, ...
We have pressure cookers in several different sizes, and at least one gets used every day. A vegetable soup takes 5 minutes of pressure, chicken in any shape or form is done in 10 (your mileage may vary).
Tip with roast chicken: once you have stripped all the meat, pop the carcass into a pressure cooker with a leek and a stick of celery, seasoning, cover with water and pressure for 5 minutes. You get a great broth for accompanying a chicken sandwich, or whatever. It's even nicer if that chicken was stuffed to begin with :-)

#27 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2013, 01:07 PM:

I don't have a pressure cooker, but instead used a slow cooker (crockpot) for the long simmer. Turned out really well....

#28 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2013, 01:40 PM:

I have now tried, or am trying this, twice. In case others find it useful, some notes:

INGREDIENTS: Both times, I used a pound of ground beef and a package (6 to 8 oz?) of portabella mushroom, along with about half a large onion.

BEER: The first time, it was "as much Bootstrap Brown I have left in the fridge so the growler won't be in there anymore." The second time, same, but I measured it and it came to about 1.75 cups. I suspect the first time it was a great deal more than the 2 cups recommended for the 3 lbs beef.

PIE CRUST: First time, bought a pie crust. Wasn't the flaky poofy sort, but I do seem to have luck with folding and rolling a few times.

This time, I'm using a home-made crust because that's always gone over rather well. Linked is the recipe/method I've used ever since making TNH's Savory Midwinter Pie a winter solstice tradition. Shredded the frozen butter by hand, but mixed in the not-quite-frozen water by food processor. I always use a little more water than the recipe calls for and don't bother to measure--I just add it and mix until I get a sense that I won't have to work too hard to get all the crumbles to make a ball.

METHOD: The first time, I went crock-pot. Browned everything on the stove and then scraped it into the crock-pot, and let it go. Fooled by the amount of beer that everything was swimming in, I let it go Far! Too! Long! and it scorched badly. We're not talking "ooh, yummy crispy burnt bits" scorched. We're talking "this is very bitter; what the hell is in it and why are you suggesting it should go in my mouth?" Adding bacon did not much mitigate the effect. Nor did "fine, it's already ruined, I'll experiment more and add that frozen pumpkin puree."

This time I'm using the stove. Less beer plus more flour than the first time seems to help make the thickening process easier to oversee.

PIE BIRD: Didn't bother last time, seeing as how everything went to hell. Am looking forward to trying it this time.

I am finding it hard to wait for it to be done so I can EAT IT ALL. Possibly I should not let my impatience get the better of me, possibly I should wait until I actually am done and eating it before I post the results, but I must do SOMETHING other than eat it all right out of the pan while it tries to simmer.

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