Freezer Nesting: Shepherd’s Pie

I first tried out this recipe as a freezer-friendly option when I was making some meals to bring over to my sister. She and her family were caring for her mother-in-law for a bit. Knowing how not having to worry about a meal would be a nice way to help, I took this Shepherd’s Pie recipe – designed to be made in a skillet – and translated it into a thaw-and-reheat respite. With the savory meaty flavors, the bright notes from the beer and the visual medley of vegetables, it’s a complete meal right out of the pan.

When we make it at home, there’s always leftovers; we can only manage to eat about half of the recipe in one sitting. So I knew this would be a nice two-fer in the mission to fill the freezer!

Skillet Shepherd’s Pie

(From America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook)


  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 1 celery rib, sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1 pound 95 percent lean ground beef
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup beer – you can use nonalcoholic beer if you like, or a mild lager.
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 ear corn, kernels removed – or you can substitute 3/4 cup frozen corn, thawed
  • salt and pepper


  • 1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup 2 percent lowfat milk, warmed
  • 1/4 cup lowfat sour cream, room temperature
  • salt and pepperIMG_1375


Adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and heat the oven to 375 degrees [I skipped this, as we were not eating it right away and would be freezing the entire recipe].

Heat the oil in a 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the carrots, onion, and celery and cook over medium heat until the vegetables are softened, 8 to 10 minutes.IMG_1376

Stir in the beef and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon until no longer pink, about 5 minutes.IMG_1377

Stir in the flour, garlic, and tomato paste and cook for 1 minute. IMG_1378

Gradually whisk in the broth, beer, Worcestershire, and thyme. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened but still saucy, 20 to 25 minutes.IMG_1379

Off the heat, stir in the peas and corn and season with salt and pepper to taste.IMG_1380


Bring 2 quarts of water and the potatoes to a simmer in a large saucepan over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the potatoes are tender, 15 to 20 minutes.IMG_1381

Drain the potatoes and return to the saucepan. Mash the potatoes with the butter, stir in the milk and sour cream until smooth, and season with salt and pepper to taste.IMG_1384

Dollop the potatoes over the top of the filling then smooth them into an even layer, making sure to spread them to the edges of the skillet. [Or just skip to the freezer prep section below.] Bake until the filling is bubbling, about 15 minutes.

Position an oven rack 6 inches from the broiler element, heat the broiler, then broil the casserole until the top is golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the skillet to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.


I departed from the recipe right after preparing the filling, and while the potatoes were boiling up in the pan I divided the filling into two 8-inch foil pans. IMG_1382

Then when the topping was made, split the topping between the two and spread it over the top just as the recipe directed.IMG_1385

I then took two squares of aluminum foil and a Sharpie, and wrote out the thawing/heating instructions on top: thaw in the fridge overnight, remember to uncover, bake in 375-degree oven for 1 hour, and broil 3-5 minutes for the golden brown crust.IMG_1383

Once the pans were covered (and they came with plastic lids too, which I figured wouldn’t hurt in protecting the pans from a rogue rack of ribs in the freezer, or something like that), it was off to the freezer.IMG_1387IMG_1386

That brings the meal tally up to 5; 25 more meals to go!


One Comment Add yours

  1. Ellen says:

    Love your ideas so far – we are a family on the go and sometimes, dinner is the last thing on our list. A dinner favorite of ours to freeze is soup. Once cooked, you bag it in the largest sized ziplock bags which you lay out flat on a cookie sheet to freeze. For me, these work better than stand alone containers.

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