Rich and savory, this beef and stout pie recipe is always a huge success every time I serve it. A crisp, tender crust covers a robust stew made by simmering beef and root vegetables in a thyme-scented broth made with bittersweet dark ale.
It makes an appearance at our table every St. Patrick's Day, along with other classic Irish recipes, but it's perfect on any day when your body craves something hearty and robust.
What is it?
Meat pies are common all over the British Isles. And beef and Stout Pie is particularly common in Ireland, where it's also referred to as Beef and Guinness Pie. In the tradition of other ale pies, you start with a slow-cooked stew of beef, vegetables, broth, and beer topped with a tender, flaky pastry.
While most versions include only a top crust, the recipe is traditionally baked in a pie dish with both a bottom and top crust. And sometimes it's even turned into a hand pie, a convenient option for a picnic or lunch on the go.
What's in it?
Like other savory pies, this recipe works by slowly and gradually building flavor. You start by searing seasoned beef cubes before adding broth and stout beer. To this, you'll add root vegetables and aromatics such as onions and herbs. These key ingredients simmer together until fragrant and tender, after which you'll add a top crust and bake it a second time until the pastry's cooked.
- Beef is the foundation of the dish. Cheap cuts of meat work well for this recipe. Chuck roast makes excellent stew meat since it's affordable and flavorsome. long-simmering gives the meat a chance to render its fat and release collagen, which gives the stew an unctuous texture and deep, savory flavor.
- Root vegetables such as parsnips, carrots, and celeriac give the stew flavor and bulk. They bring balance to the tender cubes of meat and add a little sweetness to the savory meat juices.
- Beef broth, bone broth, or stock provides about half the liquid portion of the recipe. This combines with flour to form the gravy that binds the stew. It also provides a good dose of protein as well, since properly made bone broth is rich in protein in the form of gelatin.
- Stout beer is a dark ale with notes of chocolate, toasted barley, and coffee. As with broth, stout forms about half the liquid portion of the stew. It brings a bittersweet element to the stew, which amplifies the flavor's depth and complexity. Guinness is the traditional choice, but other stout beers work as well.
- Aromatics such as slow-cooked onion and fresh thyme round out the flavor, bringing balance to the savory stew and earthy root vegetables. Yellow onion works well in this recipe, but many people enjoy small pearl onions instead.
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Tips for Making Beef and Stout Pie
For this recipe, you'll need to make two components: stew and pastry. For that reason, it can be a little tricky to make, so there are a few key tips you'll want to pay attention to.
- Adding flour to the stew is important. While you might be tempted to cut the carbs, adding flour to the stew is important because it thickens the meat juices, broth, and ale. Without it, you'll have soup rather than stew.
- The stew will thicken as it bakes. As the stew bakes, the flour and liquids will combine, resulting in a thickened meat gravy. You may wish to stir it once or twice as it bakes to ensure the stew cooks (and the gravy thickens) evenly.
- Add the vegetables toward the end of cooking. While it's easier to add the onions and root vegetables at the beginning of cooking, they'll overcook with a prolonged period of time in the oven. So, it's best to cook the meat, then add in the vegetables later. That way, you'll have super tender cubes of beef and delicious vegetables without overcooking them.
- Keep your pastry ingredients cold. Cold butter, cream, and even flour ensure that you'll have a flaky, tender crust. This is also why it's important to chill your pie crust in the fridge before baking the pie.
- You can use just about any container you want. Since the stew is already cooked by the time you add the pastry, you can bake the beef and stout pies in just about any container you like. A souffle dish works well, but so does a casserole dish, cast iron skillet, pie dish, or even multiple ramekins for individual portions. Just cut the shape of the pastry to match the opening of your cooking vessel.
- Make sure to vent your pie. Cut small slits or vents in the top of your crust to allow steam to escape as the pie cooks.
- Place the pie on a baking sheet to bake. The stew will likely seep at the edges of the dish as it bakes, so set it on a baking sheet to catch any drips. You'll save yourself cleanup time if you line the baking sheet with parchment paper beforehand.
- Brush your pie crust with cream or egg wash. Both will give the crust a pretty sheen and attractive appearance. Otherwise, the pastry will look dull.
- Serve it the next day. While the pie is ready to eat as soon as it comes out of the oven, it's often better and more flavorful the next day. So, plan ahead if you have the time.
Try red wine in place of stout beer. While dark beer is a central flavor profile of this recipe, you can make an alternate version using dry red wine in place of beer. Add bay leaves to the stew while it cooks, as they give it an irresistible flavor.
Mix up the vegetables. For this beef and stout pie recipe, you'll use a combination of parsnips, carrots, and celeriac. But, you can substitute other vegetables if you prefer. Both potatoes and mushrooms are common additions.
Turn it into a hand pie. For a version that you can pack on the go, try decreasing the liquid by about half so that it because thick. Then arrange 6-inch circles of pastry on a floured surface. Place a few spoonfuls of stew in the center of the pastry and then fold it in half, crimp the pastry shut, and cut a vent in the top of the pie. Bake until cooked through.
Use puff pastry instead of a homemade crust. If you're pressed for time and don't want the trouble of making a crust, you can use puff pastry. The baking time for puff pastry may be shorter than for a homemade crust, so keep an eye on the oven to make sure it doesn't overcook.
Add tomato paste. Tomato paste can give the beef stew a bright, acidic note with hints of umami. Stir a tablespoon or two into the stew at the same time that you add the broth, beer, and Worcestershire sauce.
Make it in a slow cooker. Instead of making the stew in a Dutch oven, you can use a slow cooker instead. Brown the meat first, and then add all the ingredients to the slow cooker, cooking on low until the stew is thickened and the meat and vegetables are cooked through. It'll cook for about 6 to 8 hours.
Yes, prepare the pie as you normally would. Ladle the beef and stout stew into your container, allowing at least 1 inch of headspace. Let it cool to room temperature, and then top it with the pastry. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and then freeze the pie for up to 6 months.
To reheat the casserole, heat the oven to 350 F, and then bake for 90 minutes.
Beef and stout pie will keep for about 5 days in the refrigerator and up to 6 months in the freezer.
To make a gluten-free beef and stout pie, substitute all-purpose gluten-free flour or gluten-free pastry flour for the all-purpose flour in both the stew and pastry.
While stout beer is one of the central elements of this recipe, you could make an alcohol-free version by substituting additional beef bone broth for the beer.
To make a dairy-free version, substitute tallow, lard, or olive oil for the butter and ice-cold water for the heavy cream. Instead of brushing the pastry with cream, make an egg wash using a mix of egg yolk and water. Brush it over the pastry before baking instead of cream.
Whole wheat pastry flour, which is made from soft white wheat, gives the crust a lot of flavor and so it's worth purchasing. If you can't find it, substitute an equal amount of all-purpose flour.