10 tips for next level cottage pie guide title image

How to make next level cottage pie

There's more to cottage pie than mince, mash and gravy. We’ve taken this comfort food family favourite to a new level that’s bound to please everyone. 

Originally created as a way of using up leftovers, this simple dish of mashed potatoes, mince and gravy has as many variables as there are cooks who make it. It can be an eat-with-a-spoon comforting dish, but it can also be an impressive and more structured centrepiece.


The main ingredients in this classic dish are a given – it’s what you do with them that counts. We’ve taken this humble cottage pie to the next level by giving it defined layers. We’ve also rethought the potato-peeling process to deliver a fluffier mash with much more flavour, and turned it into a rarebit topping. Finally, since there’s no such thing as too much gravy, we’re serving extra lashings of it on the side.

10 tips for the perfect cottage pie 

1.    Choose your mince  
2.    Brown the mince well 
3.    Flour power 
4.    Beer for body 
5.    Next level mash
6.    Rarebit topping 
7.    Construct with care 
8.    Spread the mash properly 
9.    Fork the top 
10.  Extra gravy on the side 

1. Choose your mince  

A bowl of beef mince

Beef mince goes in cottage pie; lamb in shepherd’s pie. The meats are completely interchangeable, so use your favourite or go with the famous version served at London’s legendary eatery The Ivy and use both. Use the best quality meat you can find, with 10-15% fat, which will form the basis of the ‘roux’ that thickens the gravy.

2. Brown the mince well 

Mince being stirred in a pot on the hob

Brown mince for extra flavour. Be patient and render it until it sizzles and browns in its own fat. Meat gets more flavour from caramelisation. 

3. Flour power 

A classic thickening method for a classic dish. A few tablespoons of flour, cooked-out so you can’t taste it, turns a thin sauce into a velvety gravy of dreams.  

4. Beer for body 

Beer being poured from a glass bottle

Booze adds body to a sauce, and while red wine goes with red meat, we felt a lot more at home with the deep flavour we got from a British beer.

5. Next level mash

Whole potatoes, partially peeled

Boil your potatoes with their skin on, and peel them once they’re cooked. This means they’ll absorb less water, giving you a fluffier mash with an earthier flavour. It’s less effort this way since the skins will just rub off.

6. Rarebit topping 

Cottage pie in oval dish topped with roughly spread mash

Cheesy mash is a must to a potato topped pie, but we’ve taken it a step further and added the rarebit seasoning of mustard powder to give the dish a touch of heat.   

7. Construct with care 

Cottage pie slice on a plate with peas

Spooning hot mash onto hot sauce will just mix the two elements together. By allowing the fat from the mince to cool a little and set, you give the mash a platform to support it. As it cooks, the mash will then adsorb the fat, making it even more delicious. 

8. Spread the mash properly 

Cottage pie with a ring of mash round the outside

With potato-topped pies, always start with a ring of mash, using the side of the dish to scrape the mash off the spatula, working your way into the middle. This encases the dish in potato without messily pushing the filling up the sides.

9. Fork the top 

Baked cottage pie in oval dish with crispy mash topping

As well and looking pretty, using a fork to create ridges on the mash topping will allow it to go more golden brown and crisp up as it bakes. 

10. Extra gravy on the side 

The right consistency for a meat sauce that mash can sit on can leave the finished pie on the dry side. So we’ve gone with a jug of extra gravy because, let’s face it, who doesn’t love extra gravy? 

See the full recipe for our next level cottage pie.

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Got any tips for the ultimate cottage pie? Leave a comment below…