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. Shortcrust base, slow cooked fall-apart chunks of beef smothered in a rich gravy with a golden puff pastry lid.
It’s knee-shatteringly good comfort food!
A big, fat, Family Meat Pie
It dawned on me yesterday that my very favourite foods are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Either completely raw (think: sushi, carpaccio, tartare) or cooked for hours to melt-in-your-mouth fall apart perfection, smothered in a rich sauce. Think: 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!
DNA of a Family Meat Pie
Here’s a breakdown of what makes up the great Aussie meat pie:
Shortcrust base – Buttery and flaky, this pastry has enough structure to hold up to 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 stout 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 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), beef osso buco (cook on bone then take off later) and beef cheeks (but the beef pieces will buckle rather than stay in neat cubes).
Not recommended: brisket (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 adds in. These introduce a bit of non-meat-goodness into the filling. Without, it’s just all meat and it’s a bit too much!
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 cross between Irish Guiness Stew but using French cooking methods used in Beef Bourguignon. Yep, we are stealing secrets from the French to make the very best Aussie meat pie!
The beer in this recipe is the reason why there are so few ingredients required for the sauce. Red wine can also be used, for a slightly more elegant sauce option – see below for more on this.
Guinness or stout – This rich dark beer is a magical ingredient to use in slow cooked dishes because hours of simmering cooks out the alcohol to leave behind rich, earthy flavour that you can’t buy in jars. There is no trace of beer flavour left at all.
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 or stout here because it gives the sauce a slightly richer, earthier flavour that Aussies know and love about Meat Pies!
Non alcoholic option – Best would be to add anchovies which will NOT make it taste fishy but will add the desirable complex flavours that beer adds to this sauce. 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 as ordinarily, for great classic dishes of the world, I note that homemade beef stock is a key variable 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 adds more flavour into the sauce than 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 technique using what is called a Beurre Manié. This is a method where you mix flour and softened butter together, then stir that into the cooked stew to make the sauce shiny and thick.
It is safer to use this method than the usual process of adding flour at the beginning like we do for most stews because the sauce needs to be thicker than stews else it runs everywhere when you serve a slice. Thicker sauces require regular stirring to ensure it doesn’t catch on the base of the pot and this makes tender slow cooked beef pieces fall apart.
It is much, much easier just to use a Beurre Manié to thicken the sauce! (Bonus: You get to sound like a total pro when you tell your family how you made this.)
Base and lid for Meat 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 – and we use every bit of the filling!
Store bought is fine, but homemade shortcrust pastry really is worth making if you have the time. Better flavour and also texture.
Puff pastry could also be used for the base, to avoid the need of buying two different pastries. See recipe notes for directions.
Meat pie lid – The traditional lid for meat pies is puff pastry. These days, the store bought quality is actually very good if you opt for butter puff pastry. The 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
This does take time to make because it involves a slow cooked stew filling which then needs to be cooled before filling the pie. But it’s straightforward, an excellent leisurely weekend project, and 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, the golden bits left on the base of the pot adds valuable flavour into the sauce (it’s called fond).
Cook ingredients individually – We start with bacon, cooked until golden and to release bacon fat which is then used to cook the proceeding 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 (well). We want the mushrooms to get nice and golden – and we need enough fat to do this properly! Once the mushrooms are done, remove into a separate bowl because we will be adding them into the stew partway through the slow cook time.
And lastly, onion, garlic, celery and carrots together. We don’t need to make these golden, we just want to cook the onion enough so changes 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. No flour to thicken yet – 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 in 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 – 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 watery. 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 less 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 helps the flour incorporate easily into the stew, lump free (yay!).
This method of using a Beurre Manié to thicken sauces is a French cooking technique. It is safer to use this method than the usual process of adding flour at the beginning like we do for most stews because the sauce for meat pies is thicker so it doesn’t run everywhere when you serve a slice. Thicker sauces = regular stirring to ensure it doesn’t catch on the base of the pot = makes tender slow cooked beef pieces fall apart.
It is much, much easier just to use a Beurre Manié to thicken the sauce! (Bonus: You get to sound and feel like a pro!).
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. And, as noted above – no flour lumps!
Thickened sauce – Continue to cook the sauce for a couple of minutes and the flour will thicken the sauce. Goal – sauce thickens that is about the consistency of honey. Thicker than normal stews, but not stodgy. When you cut the pie, you want the filling to ooze slowly not run everywhere. The filling does not thicken when it is baked in the pie, so you want to get the sauce thickens right at this stage.
This is what the filling should look like at this stage – fresh off the stove. There is more sauce than you think which is what you want because some will get absorbed by the pastry (don’t worry! It stays crisp!).
Cool filling – 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 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 = 😩
To cool the pie filling – Cover the pot with a lid to prevent further liquid evaporation (else the sauce will get too thick) then cool it in the pot or transfer it into 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 before filling the pie, for two reasons. Firstly, fridge cold filling is stiff and difficult to properly pack into the pie crust. And secondly, puff pastry on 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 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 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 rather than cutting out a circle because you really won’t know what size you need because the filling will mound slightly.
Crimp with fork – Use a fork to press crimps all along the edger. 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 slopping job gluing the lid on! 😂
Egg wash – Brush the surface with lightly whisked egg so it will bake up beautifully golden.
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 dome up from trapped steam.
Bake 45 to 50 minutes – Bake the pie 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 overflow, 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 HOW IS THIS 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 asap. 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 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 a couple of up-close-and-personals for you:
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!
Make ahead tips
Overload of meat pie making this year has lead to the discovery of some hand 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 fridge 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 on demand – Assemble the entire pie but do not do the egg wash (it just doesn’t hold up well 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 refrigerate 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
Family Meat Pie
Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 4 hrs
Servings5 – 6
Tap or hover to scale
- 30g / 2tbsp unsalted butter
- 200g / 7 oz mushrooms , smallish, halved (larger ones quartered)
- 125g / 4 oz streaky bacon , cut into 1 x 1.5cm / 0.4 / 0.6″ cubes
- 1 onion , cut into 2cm / 0.8″ cubes
- 2 garlic cloves , minced
- 1 celery , cut into 1cm/0.4″ slices (split wide end of celery lengthwise, don’t want giant celery chunks)
- 1 carrot , halved, 1cm/0.4″ slices (quarter very thick end if needed)
- 330ml / 11 oz Guinness (Note 2)
- 2 cups beef stock , homemade or store bought low sodium (Note 3)
- 1 cup water
- 3/4 tsp coarsely crushed black pepper , plus more as desired
Beurre Manié (sauce thickener, Note 4)
Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F (160°C fan).
Brown beef: Sprinkle beef with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large heavy based pot over high heat. Brown beef aggressively in batches (do not crowd pot, else it gets watery instead of browning). Then remove beef into a big bowl.
Wipe down pot: Wipe pot clean of burnt bits, if needed.
Cook bacon: Cool pot, add bacon. Place pot back onto medium heat. When you see some fat starting to melt, turn heat up to medium high and cook bacon until golden. Then remove into bowl with beef.
Cook mushrooms: Melt 30g/ 2tbsp butter in the pot. Cook mushrooms until golden with a pinch of salt and pepper. Remove into separate bowl with slotted spoon.
Cook other vegetables: Add onion, garlic, carrot and celery then cook for 5 minutes until onion is soft and sweet, not too golden. Add oil if needed, but bacon fat + residual butter should be enough.
Oven slow cook: Add beef, bacon, Guinness, water and stock. Stir then bring to simmer. Cover with lid, then transfer to oven for 1 hour.
Add mushrooms, then continue cooking in the oven for a further 1 hour. Meat should be starting to be tender at this stage.
Stove reduce: Remove lid, then simmer on low heat for 20 minutes to reduce sauce. Meat should now be “fall-apart-tender” but just holding form (not disintegrating).
Sauce thickener (Beurre Manié – Note 4): Mix together butter and flour until smooth.
Thicken sauce: Stir Beurre Manié into sauce. Once melted, leave on the stove for another 2 minutes. Sauce should be thicker than a normal stew, like a honey consistency. Sauce will not thicken any more in oven, so make it exactly what you want – Note 7. Also, there will be more sauce than you expect for a pie – some gets absorbed by pastry (but won’t make it soggy).
Cool: Cover pot with lid, then let it cool completely, preferably overnight. (Note 8)
Assemble and bake:
Shortcrust base: Make and blind bake Shortcrust Pastry per this recipe using a 23cm/9” pie dish, whether using homemade or store bought.
Preheat oven: Turn oven up to 200°C/390°F (180°C fan).
Fill pie: Bring filling to room temp, do not use fridge cold. (Note 9) Fill pie with filling (use it all, pack it in a level surface or have slight mound).
Puff pastry lid: Partially thaw puff pastry. Brush lip of pastry with egg, top with puff pastry sheet. Trim excess with scissors, press to adhere to edges. Then crimp with fork (to further adhere + decorative).
Egg wash: Brush top with egg wash, make a 2.5cm / 1″ X incision in middle to allow steam to escape (stops lid doming).
Bake: Bake 45 – 50 minutes until top is super golden. Rest 5 minutes. Brag in comments below that you made this magnificent pie. Save Nagi a slice. Then serve remainder with ketchup or Aussie tomato sauce!
Other beef cuts that can be used: 1.3kg / 2.6lb beef osso bucco (2.5cm / 1″ thick, cook whole on bone then flake big chunks of meat off at end, start checking at 1 hr as it cooks faster than chuck. Boneless beef ribs (but it’s fattier) or beef cheeks (though pieces will warp in shape). Brisket not recommended (too stringy / dry). Do not use steaks, roasts or other lean cuts.
2. Guinness – Key for rich flavour in sauce despite so few ingredients, so don’t skip it! Stout is also excellent.
Red wine (pinto, merlot, anything dry) – use 600ml and skip the water. Sauce colour will be more like Beef Bourguignon, slightly more elegant (French!) flavour. I love this version too.
Non alcoholic option –
3. Beef stock – Store bought is good! For this recipe, store bought stock yields a result quite close to using homemade, probably because the Guiness adds so much flavour and the sauce is more concentrated than typical stews. Be sure to use low sodium, else it will be too salty.
4. Beurre Manié sauce thickener – This is a French cooking technique where flour is mixed with softened butter to make a Beurre Manié. This is mixed into liquids to thicken it and make it glossy.
I am not using this method to show off! 😂 It works better and is easier than the usual method of adding flour at the beginning of the stew because this sauce is thicker than typical stew sauces. So you’d need to stir constantly to ensure the base doesn’t catch, and in doing so the tender meat falls apart. It is far easier and safer to just stir the thickener in at the end.
5. Shortcrust pastry – homemade will yield the best flavour and texture, if you have a food processor, it’s a cinch!
Store bought – 1 standard Australian sheet of store bought frozen shortcrust pastry (20cm/8″ square). Use offcuts to patch up as needed (use egg to glue then press firmly).
Puff pastry option (so you can just buy one packet of pastry) – line base, pick with fork, cover with 2 big sheets of baking paper in a cross. Fill to top with baking beads, rice or dried beans. Bake 200C/390F for 20 minutes, remove beans and paper, bake 5 minutes unfilled. Proceed with recipe. (Note: pastry is thinner and not as sturdy as shortcrust. But it is still very tasty!)
6. Puff pastry – Use butter puff pastry, puffs better, better flavour. You only need 1 standard Australian sheet which s 20cm/8″ square. Partially thaw then cut rounds using the pie tin as a guide. Do not let it thaw completely before using – harder to handle (floppy, sticky). Stick it back in freezer if that happens.
7. Sauce thickness – Adjust sauce as needed ie more water to loosen, or if meat is done before sauce reduced, remove meat with slotted spoon and reduce liquid.
In determining sauce thickness, remember that it will not thicken any more when cooked inside the pie. So make the sauce as thick as you want it to be in the finished dish. Ensure there is a bit more sauce than you expect in the finished pie as some will get absorbed by the pastry (but don’t worry, it’s not soggy, there’s plenty of crisp!)
8. Cooling filling – Essential to do this else the puff pastry melts and it won’t puff up. Do not cool uncovered otherwise too much liquid evaporates and sauce gets too thick. To speed up cooling, can spread on tray but work quickly to cover asap. Never put piping hot things into fridge, cool on counter first then place in fridge. Overnight is best because for all stews, flavour improves with time!
9. Room temp filling – Fridge cold filling is stiff and thick which makes it harder to pack into the pie shell. Plus (possibly more importantly) the puff pastry won’t cook well if it starts off resting on a fridge cold filling. Needs to be room temp – around 17C/63F. See above why filling can’t be hot.
10. Storage – As with all things puff pastry, this is best served hot and fresh out of the oven! Can assemble with puff pastry lid up to 2 days in advance, but do egg wash on lid just before baking. Store in fridge. Can also freeze, thaw then bake per recipe.
Life of Dozer
Cute when he photobombs day to day candid photos. Not so cute when he photobombs recipe video shoots.
Oh, who am I kidding. I think it’s cute whenever he photobombs ANYTHING! 😂