Delicious cast-iron shepherd’s pie: a savory layer of ground meat and vegetables topped with cheesy mashed potatoes, then baked in the skillet. Classic comfort food at its best.
The cast-iron skillet shepherd’s pie is a complete meal cooked in a skillet: meat, gravy, and mashed potatoes layered together to produce the most comforting and flavorful dish possible. This an easy recipe that your whole family will love!
What is shepherd’s pie?
A savory pie made with minced lamb and topped with mashed potatoes. While a traditional shepherd’s pie recipe is made with lamb, cottage pie is pretty much the same dish made with minced beef.
You have the choice here; you can make this recipe with lamb and call it shepherd’s pie or with beef and call it cottage pie.
My favorite version is the one made with lamb. However, I often make the beef version as ground lamb is not as easily available as ground beef.
What is the best about this recipe?
You will only need one cast-iron skillet to make the meat filling and one pot for boiling and mashing the potatoes. There is no need for an extra casserole dish to transfer the filling to it. So no extra dish to clean after the meal.
- Ground lamb or ground beef, the choice is yours. The nutrition is calculated for the lamb version.
- Ground turkey, chicken, pork, or venison are also great if you prefer them. Not genuine, but tasty, and should you choose poultry, also lower in calories.
- Vegetables: One large or two medium onions, two medium carrots, three fresh garlic cloves, and frozen peas.
- Beef stock or broth: You can use chicken stock or vegetable broth instead; made from a cube is fine. The needed amount is small, so I am not particular about what I use.
- Other ingredients for the meat filling: Vegetable or olive oil, tomato paste, Dijon mustard, dried herbs, Worcestershire sauce, fine sea salt, and ground black pepper.
- Potatoes: Preferably starchy (floury) potatoes, like Yukon gold and russet potatoes (in the US), Kind Edward and Maris Piper (in the UK), or Coliban and Desiree (in Australia). Starchy potatoes become soft and fluffy when cooked, and unlike waxy potatoes, they won’t turn gluey when mashed.
- Semi-starchy or all-purpose potatoes are also fine.
- Milk: Preferably whole milk or half-and-half.
- Butter: Salted or unsalted butter; adjust the salt accordingly.
- Spices: Grated nutmeg, salt, and pepper.
- Cheese: Freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Substitute it with freshly grated Cheddar cheese if you like, I’ve tried it, and it’s delicious. Or replace the cheese with about two tablespoons of cream cheese or sour cream.
How to make shepherd’s pie in the cast-iron skillet?
- Start with the potatoes. Cook the cubes in a large pot of salted water until fork tender, drain potatoes well in a colander, and let them steam in the same hot pot for about one minute before mashing.
- In the meantime, make the sauce for the cast-iron skillet shepherd's pie.
- Saute onions and carrots with a pinch of salt in a large hot skillet on medium heat (1). Add garlic, then meat. Brown the minced meat, and add herbs, tomato paste, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, broth, salt, and pepper, breaking the meat as it cooks.
- Simmer the browned ground beef or lamb for about 15 minutes (2), add peas and cook for 5 more minutes. Adjust the taste with salt and pepper (3).
- In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350°F/ 180°C.
- Mashed potato topping: Mash potatoes with hot milk, butter, and spices using a potato masher. Add cheese, mix, and adjust the taste (4,5).
- Assemble: Evenly spread the potato mash on top of the lamb or beef mixture in the skillet (use the back of a spoon) (6,7). Carefully (the skillet is hot and heavy) transfer to the oven.
- Bake the skillet shepherd's pie for 25-30 minutes until bubbly and golden (8). Let the pie rest for about 10 minutes before serving.
- Skillet: Use a large cast-iron skillet (12-inch/30 cm diameter) (Amazon affiliate link). If your skillet is slightly smaller and very full after assembling the pie, place it on a baking sheet in the oven to avoid the filling bubbling over into your oven.
- The skillet will be very hot and very heavy when you transfer it to the oven. Use kitchen mittens and handle it with care to avoid burns.
- Time management: Start with the potatoes; the water will need a while to start boiling, and you can already start making the meat filling during this time.
- Mashed potatoes: Use hot milk for the mash. The potatoes will absorb it more easily, and you will not be tempted to overmix. The butter should be at room temperature for the same reason.
- Don’t overmix the potato mash, or it will turn gluey.
- Use freshly grated cheese; it tastes and melts better in the hot potato mash. The additives contained in the already-grated cheese prevent it from melting nicely.
Cook the meat filling in a regular pan, then transfer the mixture to a casserole dish. Top with mashed potatoes and bake.
Or use a shallow large Dutch oven.
Refrigerate the cast-iron skillet shepherd's pie in an airtight container for 3-4 days. Don’t leave the pie in the skillet when refrigerating; transfer the leftovers to another container.
Oven: Place the leftovers in a small oven-safe dish, cover with foil and reheat in the preheated oven at 350°F/180°C until hot; it will take 10-20 minutes, depending on how large the portion is.
Microwave: Place the leftovers in a microwave-safe container. Reheat at 30-seconds intervals until heated through.
Freeze the baked pie in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Defrost in the fridge and reheat before serving.
Freeze the unbaked dish in a casserole dish (not the cast-iron skillet), wrap tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil, and freeze for about 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight and bake at 400°C/200°C until hot and bubbly.
What to serve with shepherd's pie?
You will not need starchy sides to serve with the cast iron skillet shepherd’s pie; the potato topping is enough.
More delicious skillet meals
Cast-Iron Skillet Shepherd’s Pie
- Large cast-iron skillet 12-inch/ 30 cm diameter
- Medium or large pot
- 1 lb ground lamb or ground beef
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil or olive oil
- 2 onions finely chopped
- 2 medium carrots diced
- 3 garlic cloves grated
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ½ cup beef broth 125 ml, Note 2
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 cup frozen peas 150 g
- fine sea salt and ground black pepper
- 2 lb russet potatoes 900 g
- ½ cup whole milk hot, 125 ml Note 3
- 2 tablespoons butter at room temperature, Note 3
- a few gratings of nutmeg
- ½ cup Parmesan grated, 60 g, Note 4
- fine sea salt and ground black pepper
- fresh parsley chopped
- Boil the potatoes: Wash, peel, and cube 2 lb potatoes (900 g). Place them in a large pot, cover them with water and bring to a boil. Add ½ teaspoon fine sea salt, lower the heat, cover the pot leaving a small crack open, and cook the potatoes until fork tender, about 15 minutes.
- While the potatoes are cooking, cook the ground meat.
- Cook meat: Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in the skillet. Add 2 chopped onions and 2 diced carrots and cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes, often stirring, until softer. Add 3 grated garlic cloves, stir for a few seconds, then add 1 lb ground beef (450 g). Cook for 5-6 minutes until the meat is brown, breaking it up with a wooden spoon as you go along.
- Add 1 teaspoon dried parsley, 1 teaspoon thyme, 3 tablespoons tomato paste, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, ½ cup broth (125 ml), and some salt and pepper. Stir well to combine.
- Simmer without a lid for about 15 minutes. Add 1 cup of peas (150 g), stir to combine, and cook for another 5 minutes. Adjust the taste with salt and pepper.
- In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350°F/ 180°C.
Mashed potato topping:
- Drain potatoes: Once the potatoes are tender, drain them well and return them to the hot pot. Let them steam for about 1 minute.
- Heat ½ cup milk (125 ml) in a small pan or microwave.
- Mash potatoes: Add milk, 2 tablespoons butter, a few gratings of nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Mash the potatoes with a potato masher until smooth. Stir in the ½ cup grated Parmesan (60 g) and adjust the taste with salt and pepper.
Assemble and bake:
- Spread the mashed potatoes on top of the meat in an even layer. Then, carefully (the skillet is hot and heavy), place the shepherd’s pie onto the middle rack in the preheated oven (Note 4).
- Bake for 25-30 minutes until the filling is bubbling and the topping is golden.
- Let the pie rest for 10 minutes, sprinkle with fresh parsley, and serve.
- Ground meat: Ground lamb is traditional, but ground beef is also delicious (and more readily available).
- Stock: Sub with chicken or vegetable stock (from a cube is fine).
- Hot milk and butter at room temperature absorb more easily in the mashed potatoes, thus reducing the risk of you overmixing the mash.
- Cheese: Sub with grated Cheddar. Or with about 2 tablespoons of cream cheese or sour cream.
- If the pot seems too full, place it on a baking sheet to avoid the filling bubbling over into your oven. However, if you use a large skillet, that should not happen.