Aussies love a good meat pie. We love the hand-held ones because we get the whole thing to ourselves. But when you’ve got sharing vibes, this Family-size Meat Pie is the one you pull out. With a shortcrust base, slow-cooked fall-apart chunks of beef are smothered in a rich gravy, topped off with a golden puff pastry lid.
It’s knee-knockingly good comfort food!
A big, fat, Family Meat Pie
It dawned on me yesterday that the traits of my very favourite meat-based foods lie at opposite ends of the spectrum. Give me either the spanking freshness of raw stuff (think: sushi, ceviche, tartare) or the melt-in-your-mouth-tender perfection of slow-cooked meat smothered in a rich sauce like shanks, short ribs, pulled pork, stews. 🤩
There’s plenty of good stuff that falls in between. But if you want to win me over*, bring me a tuna carpaccio or a slow cooked lasagna.
Or – a big fat Meat Pie!
* Or just give Dozer a lot of attention. Actually, this is the most effective method!
Anatomy of an awesome Family Meat Pie
Here’s a breakdown of what makes up a great Aussie meat pie:
- Shortcrust base – Buttery and flaky, this pastry type has enough structure to contain the considerable volume of rich filling! It is blind baked (ie partially cooked before filling) so it doesn’t go soggy once baked with the filling. Use store-bought shortcrust pastry for convenience (freezer section), but for a truly great Meat Pie, use homemade shortcrust pastry!
- Meat Pie Filling – Your basic meat pie might only be made with beef. But the addition of mushroom, bacon, celery and carrots only makes it better! Bacon for flavour, mushroom for just general extra-delicious factor. Celery and carrots add flavour into the sauce as well as breaking up the filling texture a bit so it’s not just 100% full-on meat.
The secret ingredient in this meat pie sauce is Guinness (or other dark beer or red wine) which makes it dark and rich as well as adding a stack of flavour. It puts your basic store bought pies to shame!
- Puff pastry top – The traditional topping for Meat Pies is puff pastry. You simply can’t top golden, flaky and buttery puff pastry as the lid for a meat pie!
Ingredients in Family Meat Pie filling
Here’s what goes in the Family Meat Pie filling:
- Chuck beef – A cut of beef made for slow cooking that breaks down into fall-apart goodness, ideal for using for meat pie fillings.
Alternative cuts: boneless short ribs (but it’s fattier and pricier), beef osso buco (cook on bone then discard later) and beef cheeks (but the beef pieces will buckle rather than stay in neat cubes).
Not recommended: brisket (a bit stringy), steaks and other quick cooking cuts of beef, or roasts (too lean and will dry out).
- Onion and garlic – Essential flavour base for the rich sauce.
- Carrots, celery and mushrooms – Vegetable add-ins. These introduce a bit of non-meat goodness into the filling. Without it’s meat, meat, meat! Which, while delicious, can be a bit too full-on!
- Bacon – This is one of my “secret ingredients” in meat pies. Also for sausage rolls, for that matter! It’s sautéed at the beginning so other ingredients can be cooked in the bacon fat. And the bacon releases flavour into the sauce. But no, it doesn’t taste bacon-y at the end!
For the Meat Pie Filling Sauce
The sauce is essentially a very rich stew sauce that is a Beef & Guinness Stew that borrows techniques from a French-style stew like Beef Bourguignon. Yep, we are stealing secrets from the French to make the very best Aussie meat pie!
The flavourful stout beer in this recipe is the reason why there are so few ingredients needed for flavour in the sauce. Red wine can also be used, for a slightly more elegant sauce option – see below for more on this.
- Guinness or other stout – This rich, dark beer is a magical ingredient to use in slow cooked dishes because hours of simmering cooks out the alcohol and leaves behind a rich, earthy flavour that you can’t buy in jars. There is no trace of “beery” flavour left at all, just the dark and complex notes from the stout.
It also gives the sauce the deep, dark brown colour which is part of the appeal of this filling. Nobody wants a meat pie with a pale filling!
Red wine can also be used for a slightly more elegant sauce option (essentially Beef Bourguignon sauce) which is equally as delicious. I opted for Guinness here because it gives the sauce a slightly richer, earthier flavour that Aussies know and love about Meat Pies!
Non alcoholic option – The best flavour-boosting alternative would be to add anchovies. It will NOT make it taste fishy but will add some desirable complexity in lieu of beer. See recipe notes for directions.
- Beef stock – Believe it or not, there is not a huge difference between homemade and store-bought beef stock in this recipe! I was quite surprised because ordinarily, for great classic dishes of the world, I find that homemade beef stock is a key quality that sets apart a good homemade version from an exceptional restaurant quality one (like in Bourguignon and Coq au Vin).
However, for the Aussie Meat Pie, I found that store-bought beef stock was almost as good as using homemade. I think it’s because beer does so much more heavy-lifting in the sauce compared to wine.
Whichever way you go, I don’t recommend using powdered beef stock.
- Flour and butter (sauce thickening) – In today’s recipe, we are thickening the stew using a simple French finishing technique called a Beurre Manié. This is raw flour and softened butter mixed together, and then stirred into a liquid (a sauce usually). It makes the sauce shiny and thick.
The idea for this pie is as follows. The sauce needs to be thicker than regular stews else it runs everywhere when you serve a slice of pie. Adding flour at the start means you’re working with an already-thick sauce while it cooks. Thick sauces require regular stirring to ensure it doesn’t catch on the base of the pot but the problem is all this stirring causes the beef pieces that are tender from long cooking to break apart. We want lovely big chunks, not shredded beef!
It is much, much easier just to use a Beurre Manié instead to thicken the sauce at the end! (Bonus: You get to sound like a total pro when you tell your family how you made this.)
Base and lid for Meat Pie
Meat Pie Base – The traditional base for Meat Pies is shortcrust pastry. This is a buttery, flaky pastry that is used for things like quiche and sweet pies (like Pumpkin pie, Pecan pie).
It is ideal for meat pies because it is sturdy enough to hold up to the rich, dense filling. This recipe calls for 800g / 1.6 pounds of beef – this makes quite a bit of filling!
Store-bought is fine, but homemade shortcrust pastry really is worth making if you have the time. The flavour is better and also texture.
Puff pastry could also be used however for the base, to avoid the need to buy two different pastries. See recipe notes for directions.
Meat pie lid – The traditional lid for meat pies is puff pastry. These days, the quality of store-bought is actually very good if you opt for real butter puff pastry. Cheaper puff pastry is made with oil rather than butter so it doesn’t tastes as nice and doesn’t puff up as well.
If you make your own, I will be mighty impressed. Brag in the comments section below – you deserve to!! 😂
This is the brand I usually use, just purchased from grocery stores in Australia:
How to make Family Meat Pie
Buckle in! This does take time to make because it involves making a slow-cooked stew filling which then needs to be cooled before filling the pie. But it’s straightforward, and an excellent leisurely weekend project. Most of all you’ll know with just one bite that it was worth every second!
1. Make the Meat Pie Filling
- Brown beef – Season the beef with salt and pepper, then brown aggressively in a heavy based pot over high heat. Turn the beef cubes to get a lovely brown crust all over. You don’t need to cook the beef all the way through here, we are just after colour on the outside. This not only adds flavour to the beef, but the golden bits left on the base of the pot adds valuable flavour to the sauce (that beautiful stuff is called fond).
- Cook ingredients individually – We start with bacon, cooked until golden and to release its fat. We then use the fat to cook the following ingredients. After the bacon is cooked, add it into the bowl with the browned beef.
Then we add a little butter into the pot because the residual bacon fat isn’t enough to cook the mushrooms properly. We want the mushrooms to get nice and golden – and we need enough fat to get there! Once the mushrooms are done, remove to a separate bowl because we will be adding them into the stew partway through the slow cook time.
Lastly onion, garlic, celery and carrots go in together. We don’t need to make these golden, we just want to cook the onion enough so the flavour transforms from pungent to sweet.
- Add liquids – Add Guinness, beef stock and water to the pot, then give it a good stir.
- Return beef and bacon to pot – Then add the browned beef and bacon back into the pot.
- Bring to simmer – Bring the stew up to a simmer, then cover with a lid. Remember, no flour added yet to thicken – we’re going to thicken the stew at the end because it’s easier.
- Slow cook 2 hours – Transfer the pot the oven for 2 hours adding mushrooms at the 1 hour mark. We add the mushrooms in later so they don’t become too soft.
The oven temperature is 180°C/350°F (160°C fan) which might sound quite high, but actually, it’s the equivalent of simmering the stew on a very low heat on the stove. I generally prefer doing slow cooked stews in the oven rather than the stove because it’s lower maintenance – it’s entirely hands-off, no need to stir.
2. Thicken Sauce
- Out of oven – After 2 hours, the meat should be quite tender but not yet completely “fall apart at a touch”. The sauce will have reduced and darkened in colour but will still be very thin. We are going to thicken it in the next steps.
- Simmer for 20 minutes – Next, we put it on the stove to simmer for 20 minutes. The purpose of this step is to reduce the liquid a bit more because meat pie fillings have a more concentrated, smaller volume of sauce than typical stews. During this step, the beef will become “fall-apart-tender”. If it doesn’t, cover with a lid (to prevent further liquid evaporation) and keep simmering until it does!
- Sauce thickener Beurre Manié – Mix together the flour and softened butter to make a Beurre Manié. This is going to be mixed into the stew to thicken the sauce. The butter stops the flour forming lumps when it hits the hot stew (yay!).
The purpose of using a Beurre Manié here is explained in the ingredients section earlier. It allows us to thicken the sauce without the problem of broken up meat from excess stirring!
- Stir in Beurre Manié – As noted above, once the Beurre Manié is made, you just need to stir it into the sauce. The butter just melts in effortless, so you hardly need to stir. Watch the lump-free thickening magic unfold!
- Thickened sauce – Continue to cook the sauce for a couple of minutes. As the flour cooks, it will continue to thicken the sauce. The goal: A sauce viscosity that is about the consistency of honey, ie. Thicker than normal stews but not pasty. When you cut the pie, you want the filling to ooze slowly not run everywhere. The filling does not thicken further when it is baked in the pie, so you want to get the sauce thickness right at this stage.
The photo below shows what the filling should look like at this stage fresh off the stove. There is more sauce than you think too, which is what you want because some will inevitably get absorbed by the pastry (don’t worry! It stays crisp!).
- Cool filling – A VERY IMPORTANT STEP! The filling must be cooled before using for two reasons. Firstly, so it doesn’t soak into the pie crust base and make it immediately soggy. Secondly, so the hot filling doesn’t melt the butter in the puff pastry when the lid is put on. Melted butter in puff pastry = no puff = 😩
How to cool the pie filling – Cover the pot with a lid to prevent further liquid evaporation (else the sauce will get too thick from water loss). Then leave in the pot or transfer to a container. Let it cool on the counter for a few hours then transfer into the fridge. Never put a hot pot in the fridge!
PRO TIP: For best results, leave the filling overnight. As with all stews, the flavour just gets better!
3. Assembling the Family Meat Pie
We’re on the home stretch here! So close to tasting this magnificent beast!
- Blind bake pie crust – Whether using store bought or homemade shortcrust pastry, it needs to be blind baked to ensure the base doesn’t go soggy once filled with the pie filling. “Blind baking” simply means that the crust is partially baked. It will finish baking once we fill it.
Follow the directions in the Shortcrust Pastry recipe for how to make shortcrust pastry (if you want to use homemade) and how to blind bake the pie crust (whether using homemade or store bought).
- Fill crust – Once the crust has been blind baked, let it cool for 15 minutes. This helps ensure the base stays crispy because the pastry is more porous when hot.
The Pie Filling should be at room temperature and not cold before filling the pie, for two reasons. Firstly, fridge-cold filling is stiff and difficult to evenly pack into the pie crust. Secondly, puff pastry sitting atop fridge-cold filling doesn’t cook as evenly. The edges of the pastry will go beyond brown well before the middle cooks.
Fill the pie crust with the Meat Pie Filling. If using a 9″ / 23cm pie tin as I do, you should be able to use ALL the pie filling! It will fill it right to the surface with a slight mound. The filling sinks a bit as it settles into the casing when in the oven.
- Top with puff pastry – Brush the rim with egg (the world’s best food glue) then place a sheet of puff pastry on the pie. Use scissors to trim excess so the puff pastry lines up with the edge of the shortcrust pastry.
It’s easier to trim with scissors after placing rather than cutting out the shape before placing because you really won’t know what size you need due to the filling mounding slightly.
- Crimp with fork – Press down with a fork, to crimp all along the edge. While this is optional from a decorative purpose, it also helps ensure the puff pastry is firmly adhered to the base. Nobody wants pie filling bursting out of their pie because of a sloppy job gluing the lid on! 😂
- Egg wash – Brush the surface with lightly whisked egg so it will bake up beautifully golden and shiny.
PRO TIP: For guaranteed deep golden surface, brush with egg yolk. It’s just a little less practical because you need to use a whisked whole egg for brushing the edges to adhere the puff pastry lid to the base which doesn’t use much egg so you’ll have a lot left over. Then you need another egg, yolk only, to brush the surface. But if you have a good oven, you can just brush with whisked whole egg, as I have done.
- Incision – Then use a small knife to cut an X in the middle. This allows steam to escape so the puff pastry lid doesn’t distend from trapped steam underneath.
- Bake 45 to 50 minutes – Bake the pie straight on an oven rack for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the top is beautifully golden. Do not put it on a tray because this will affect how evenly and quickly the puff pastry cooks (as the tray will affect how the hot air circulates in the oven). If you are concerned about mess if the filling leaks out, put something on the floor of the oven.
If your pie filling was a little on the cool side, you will probably find that it takes closer to 60 minutes. Just bake until that top is golden and flaky!
- Voila! Yes, I know it’s been quite a journey to get here. But when this fat, bronzed beauty comes out of the oven just ask yourself, HOW IS THIS MEAT-FILLED MASTERPIECE NOT WORTH IT!!?? (That’s a dead set rhetorical question, in case you didn’t pick it)
Rest 5 minutes – I know, I know, you are busting to crack through that pie lid immediately. But I need you to be patient for just 5 minutes longer! Let it rest just for a wee bit to make the pastry a bit more stable so it’s easier for you to cut and serve slices.
The perfect meat pie filling….
Notice how the pie filling is saucy, and that there’s plenty of it, but it’s not running everywhere and nor is it thick and stodgy (that’s a frequently used and unflattering term used around these parts). It’s a nice, thick gravy that (mostly) stays in the pie. That’s exactly what we’re aiming for!!
And here’s a couple of up-close-and-personal snaps highlighting the finest features of our meaty model:
- Fall-apart beef – Just some photo evidence, in case you were in any doubt!
- The pie crust! Flake perfection. It’s not stiff enough so you can hold an entire slice in your hands, nor is it supposed to be. But if you’re like me and you like to save the best for last, you’ll start from the sloppy end and eat your way towards the crust, then use your hands to eat the crust!
Overload of meat pie-making this year for various pie recipes has lead to the discovery of some handy make ahead tips!
- Bake ahead and store – Let the whole pie cool in the pie dish, then refrigerate. Once cool, you will be able to lift the whole pie out of the pie tin – it’s solid! Wrap and refrigerate 4 days or freezer 3 months. Thaw then bake for 30 minutes to reheat at 180°C/350°F, loosely covered with foil.
- Assemble and bake at the ready – Assemble the entire pie but do not do the egg wash (it just doesn’t hold up well when done ahead). Then refrigerate 2 days (beyond this, thawed puff pastry suffers) or freezer 3 months. Thaw, egg wash, then bake per recipe.
As a general note, thawed then refrigerated or refrozen puff pastry doesn’t puff up quite as well as when it is thawed then baked immediately. But for a meat pie, the difference is marginal enough to not matter.
Comfort food menu suggestion
Make a mega-feast starring this Family Meat Pie with the addition of the following:
- A big, beautiful Spring Salad filled with peas, asparagus and snow peas.
- Garlic bread! Because nobody ever says no to garlic bread…
- Self Saucing Butterscotch Pudding for dessert. Warm, soft, caramel flavoured cake AND a butterscotch sauce that magically makes itself? It’s got my name written ALL OVER IT!
If you’re about to make this for dinner, I’m so jealous. I want to be you! I want to be there! – Nagi x
Watch how to make it
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