These steak and ale pies, made with tender beef, Guinness gravy, and shortcrust pastry, are just like the kind you get at a British pub.
These steak and ale pies are a real pub classic. If you want to eat it like they do in the pub, then serve it with steamed peas, carrots, and thick-cut chips. You can also make these pies with leftover stew—just halve the recipe for the dough if necessary.–Regula Ysewijn
WHAT TYPE OF PIE PAN SHOULD I USE?
The original recipe calls for four 6-inch (15-cm) pie pans. This can be a little tricky for a couple reasons. First, oven-safe dishes of this size can be tricky to find. Also, it makes an exceedingly generous portion. Our testers found that the smaller aluminum foil or ceramic pie plates (or even small soup tureens) work well. If using a smaller (4-inch | 10-cm) dish, you can expect to get 6 individual pies.
Steak and Ale Pies
For the filling
- Mild vegetable oil
- 1 medium (7 oz) onion finely chopped
- 1 medium (3 oz) carrot finely chopped
- 1 3/4 pounds beef chuck steak cut into 1 1/2-inch (4-cm) cubes
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 to 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour for dusting
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 cup Guinness stout, porter, or bitter dark beer (or use beef stock for an alcohol-free alternative)
- 1 slice of bread spread with English mustard
For the shortcrust pastry
- 5 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 10 tablespoons (5 oz) chilled butter diced, plus more for the pans
- 6 ounces Cheddar cheese grated or 10 tablespoons butter (5 oz | 143 g)
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water plus more if needed
- 1 egg yolk plus 1 tablespoon milk for egg wash
Make the filling
- Preheat the oven to 325°F (163°C). Adjust the oven rack to the middle position.
- In a Dutch oven or flameproof casserole dish over medium heat, warm 1 to 2 tablespoons oil. Add the onion and carrot and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften, 5 to 7 minutes.
- Season the beef with salt and pepper. Place the flour in a shallow bowl and then roll the meat in the flour. Add the beef to the vegetables and cook, turning once, just until browned, adding more oil if necessary, 5 to 10 minutes.
- Stir in the tomato paste. Pour in the beer and use a wooden spoon to stir and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the Dutch oven.
- Bring to a boil and then add the slice of bread with the mustard. Stir until the bread falls apart, 2 to 5 minutes.
- Cover and place in the oven. Cook until the beef is tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. (Alternatively, you can very gently simmer the stew on the stovetop so that it’s only barely simmering.) Check on the stew occasionally. If it is looking dry, pour in up to 1 cup of water. Let the filling cool while you make the pastry.
☞TESTER TIP: To help prevent evaporation of liquid from the stew, an old-fashioned trick is to place a piece of parchment paper on top of your Dutch oven before covering it with the lid.
Make the shortcrust pastry
- In a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, combine the flour, salt, butter, and cheese. Pulse until the mixture resembles bread crumbs, about 8 seconds.
- Add the water and pulse until the dough forms a ball in the bowl. If the dough is dry, drizzle in more water, 1 teaspoon at a time. Remove from the bowl and knead briefly, just to bring the pastry together, drizzling in additional water, if necessary. (Alternatively, you can do this by hand by rubbing the butter into the flour and salt until it is the consistency of breadcrumbs, then add the water.)
- Wrap the pastry in plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Make the pies
- Preheat 350°F (177°C) and butter the pie pans.
- Set aside 1/3 of the pastry for the lids. Roll out the remaining pastry on a floured work surface until 1/8 inch (3 mm) thick. Roughly cut the pastry into 4 or 6 pieces, depending on the size and number of pie pans you are using. Each piece should be slightly larger than the size of the pans. Gently lift each piece of pastry over a pan and let it sink into the base. Let the excess dough hang over the edge to help attach the pastry lid. Gently use your fingers to press the edges into the tins.
- Roll out the pastry for the lids until large enough to cover the pies and fill the pies with the cooled stew.
- Place a piece of pastry on top of each pie and use a sharp knife to cut the excess pastry from the base and top. Squeeze the edges together so that the pies don’t open during baking.
☞TESTER TIP: If you like, you can cut the scraps of pastry into whatever desired shapes and use them to decorate the top crusts.
- Brush the top of each pie with the egg wash. Bake until the pies are golden brown, 45 to 65 minutes. You can also freeze the unbaked pies and bake them straight from the freezer. Let cool slightly before serving.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
If you can’t be in a favorite special pub delving into a piping hot steak and Guinness pie along with your favorite half pint to sip on, making your own is an awfully good option. The stew is easy (you could even do it the night before), the pastry is easy, and you can even indulge your artistic whim in decorating the tops. The cheese adds a nice flavor to the pastry without being overly present and probably contributes to how well it puffed up, making the pie more impressive.
The only stress this recipe triggered was self-generated—my searching for a 6-inch pie dish (and four of them!). But really, any soup tureens that can go into the oven (or if I plan well—some glass or even aluminum foil mini pie pans) and I can make this, serving up a couple and freezing the others for a wet and stormy night. Honestly, a generous soup tureen or giant ramekin with this steak pie will be welcome by anyone. I DO strongly believe you want the drama of individual servings and this is perfect for that.
While the meat was cooling, the pastry was made and chilled. My scale made dividing the dough simple, and plenty of scraps were available to decorate. If you increase the stout or broth to 11 or 12 ounces, you will have more lush gravy. Do check the meat every 30 minutes—mine was quite done at 1 1/2 hours. And while it is cooking, your kitchen will smell wonderful. No one will be late to the table.
Recommended for even the pastry novice (like me!). One-dish remedy for longing for a pub visit in my favorite village. Feeling posh? You could add mushrooms. Feeling virtuous? Make a half recipe of the pastry and just use it to top off the hearty stew.
Another small surprise—the only salt in this recipe comes in the pastry (and cheese), yet the steak stew was perfectly seasoned. The tiny dice of the carrots and onions just disappeared into a nice sauce, and the cooking time allowed all the connective tissue to transform and give you the slippery velvety result you want. With adjustment to increase the liquid and the option to use less pastry, this is a great recipe! Do not stress over the perfect size pie plates—make one big pie or be creative.
This was my first attempt at a meat pie and what a success it was. The pastry is the star of the show. Not only was it easy to work with, it was crisp, flaky, and so flavorful. I added Cheddar to the crust, which definitely came through. The stew filling was good but I think it could use a bit more seasoning.
Ultimately, I think this is a really versatile recipe as you can customize the filling to your personal taste. Overall, this was a fun weekend cooking project and made for a very impressive dinner that I would absolutely make for guests. I served this with buttered peas and red wine—a perfect meal for a wintery day! Comfort food at its finest.
My tester and I agreed that the pastry is the star of the show. The filling was good, but I do think that it could have used more spices and seasoning. That being said, it all came together very well and was a very tasty pie. We only ate half each, which is why I think a smaller pie would be better.
A really nice recipe that makes sturdy steak and ale pies which could be served as a hand pie. The cheesy crust was a great contrast to the beef filling. We really enjoyed them and will be saving the crust recipe to use with different fillings.
Overall, the recipe isn’t too difficult to follow. We cooked two and saved the rest in the freezer for a delicious dinner another day. I only had access to foil 4 3/8th pot pie dishes and managed to make 5 good-size serving pies. However, in the 6-inch pie dish, the pie would have been a huge serving for an individual and would probably have been 1 1/2 servings.
Originally published February 09, 2021