Shepherd’s Pie in a Skillet

8 Oct

Shepherds Pie is crave worthy food. Homey, flavorful and satisfying. This recipe has been adapted from Cooks Illustrated and I admit, for someone who disses this publications’ sometimes overly step-intensive preparations, there are a few like the Best Roast Chicken and Blueberry Muffins that prove that Cooks Illustrated is not always such serious business. This one has no unusual ingredients and although there are two separate elements, it comes together fairly quickly. And the leftovers are just as delicious as round one.

An alteration that is worth a try is to swap out the *mashed potato topping with whipped cauliflower. Although it’s hard to take issue with potatoes and butter, the mixture does tend to become dry when put under a broiler. Cauliflower when whipped has a creamy consistency and with the added garlic, is an improvement both texture and flavor-wise when combined with the stew-like base under heat. It brings up the veggie quotient too and is a great use for the nutritious but somewhat boring, colorless cruciferous cousin to broccoli.

Shepherds PieFor some time, my general impression of the dark, heavy cast iron skillet was that it welcomed rust and was typically found in the far reaches of grandma’s cabinet. Or among a mishmash of kitchen items on display at a garage sale, destined to never achieve clean and lacking the swag of today’s shiny All-Clads. But it appears these pans have made a comeback and for good reason. They’re versatile, reasonably priced (see link here), cook evenly and last forever. And, according to, there are health benefits as well.

In coming months, I’ll be posting more recipes that use the cast iron skillet. In the meantime, here are three that are on the list. Click on the image for the recipe.

Skillet Brownies

Skillet Brownies

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cinnamon Roll Dutch Baby

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cinnamon Roll Dutch Baby

Skillet Chicken Pot Pie

Skillet Chicken Pot Pie

Cast iron skillets now come pre-seasoned, but to keep them performing optimally, below are some general instructions.

Cast Iron Care

Shepherds Pie

Shepherd’s Pie in a Skillet

View or Print Recipe Only

Serves: 6  |  Prepping and Cooking: 45 Minutes


Stew Base

  • 1½ pounds 93% lean ground beef or turkey
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt, divided 1 and ½
  • ½  teaspoon pepper, divided ¼ and ¼
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 ounces white mushrooms (about 8), trimmed and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons Madeira or ruby port
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1¼ cups beef broth (Chicken stock or broth works too)
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons water

Whipped Cauliflower (*)

  • 1 large head of cauliflower
  • 4-5 large cloves garlic. (Cut root end, pull off skin, crush with side of knife.)
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 4 tablespoons Greek yogurt
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Stew Base

  1. Use a fork to blend beef with water, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper and baking soda in bowl until thoroughly combined. Set aside for 20 minutes.
  2. (Begin cooking cauliflower or potatoes *.)
  3. Heat oil in broiler-safe 10- or 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering.
  4. Add onion, mushrooms, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
  5. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are just starting to soften, 4 to 6 minutes.
  6. Add tomato paste and garlic and stir to combine, about 30 seconds.
  7. Add Madeira and stir, scraping up any browned bits, until evaporated, about 1 minute.
  8. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute.
  9. Add broth, Worcestershire, thyme, bay leaf and carrots; bring to boil, scraping up any browned bits.
  10. Reduce heat to medium-low, add beef in 2-inch chunks to broth and bring to gentle simmer.
  11. Cover and cook until beef is cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes, stirring and breaking up meat chunks with a spatula halfway through.
  12. Stir cornstarch and remaining 2 teaspoons of water together in bowl.
  13. Add cornstarch mixture into filling and continue to simmer for 30 seconds.
  14. Remove thyme and bay leaf.
  15. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  16. Adjust oven rack 5 inches from broiler element and heat broiler.
  17. Dollop mashed cauliflower or potatoes on top of beef, covering the surface.
  18. Smooth with back of spoon, then use tines of fork to make ridges in surface.
  19. Place skillet under the broiler until cauliflower/potatoes are golden brown and crusty and filling is bubbly, about 5 minutes.
  20. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

Whipped Cauliflower

  1. Cut cauliflower florets off the core into medium sized pieces.
  2. Put in a large saucepan and cover in water to rinse. (Can use steamer to drain.)
  3. Fill saucepan with about 1 inch of water. Place cauliflower and garlic on steamer in pan. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
  4. Turn flame on high until water boils.  Reduce heat to a simmer, cover pot and steam for 20-25 minutes.
  5. When tender, pull steamer out of pot and let cauliflower sit to drain/dry for about 10 minutes.
  6. Place in a food processor with Greek yogurt and thyme and blend for 30 seconds to a minute until smooth.
  7. Season with salt and pepper.

* Mashed Potatoes – alternative to whipped cauliflower


  • 2½ pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 8 scallions, green parts only, sliced thin (optional)


  1. Place potatoes in medium saucepan.
  2. Add water to just cover and 1 tablespoon salt.
  3. Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until potatoes are soft and tip of paring knife inserted into potato meets no resistance, 8 to 10 minutes.
  4. Drain potatoes and return to saucepan over low heat and cook, shaking pot occasionally, until any surface moisture on potatoes has evaporated, about 1 minute.
  5. Remove pan from heat and mash potatoes well.
  6. Stir in melted butter.
  7. Whisk together milk and egg yolk in small bowl, then stir into potatoes.
  8. Stir in scallion greens (optional) and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Cover and set aside.

Product Recommendations

Lodge Pre-seasoned Skillet

Lodge Cast Iron Skillet. Click image for ordering information through Amazon.

Shepherds Pie

Tomato paste in a tube will last for months or longer in the refrigerator and is available at most grocery stores.

 Adapted from Cooks Illustrated.


One Response to “Shepherd’s Pie in a Skillet”


  1. Apple Roast Beef with honey glazed carrots & baked spiral potatoes | LauraLovingLife - October 13, 2013

    […] Shepherd’s Pie in a Skillet ( […]

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