The Biggest Mistake You're Making With Mashed Potatoes In Cottage Pie

When it comes to cottage pie, the ingredients that are included are often a subject of confusion due to the dish's similarity to shepherd's pie. From a visual standpoint, they're nearly identical, but as MasterClass explains, shepherd's pie is made with lamb, while cottage pie instead is made with beef. Both have a layer of vegetables as well as a layer of potatoes, but in shepherd's pie, the potatoes are mashed. Cottage pie, at least traditionally, is made with sliced potatoes.

Because the two dishes are often mistaken for one another, many modern recipes for cottage pie actually call for mashed potatoes. Either form of potato will make for a delicious crust, but mashed potatoes are more of a challenge to work with: Whereas sliced potatoes can easily rest on top of the meat and vegetables, mashed potatoes are prone to sinking. If you find that all the separate layers have melded into one by the time you take your cottage pie out of the oven, Don't Go Bacon My Heart reveals it's usually because of excess moisture. Fortunately, there's an easy way to avoid it.

Let the potatoes dry out a bit

One of the most important elements of good mashed potatoes is the consistency. Gummy mashed potatoes aren't exactly appetizing, and neither are watery ones. (Some say that baked mashed potatoes are the way to go.) As far as texture, creamy is usually best, however, if you're making cottage pie, you want to aim for dry, Don't Go Bacon My Heart stresses. Don't bother changing up your mashed potato recipe, though. Creamy ingredients like butter and milk are fine — just make sure to let your cooked potatoes dry for a while before you mash them. Residual moisture from the potatoes will drip into the beef below as it cooks, and too much of it will cause the potatoes to eventually sink.

Aside from ridding your potatoes of excess moisture before you mash them, it also helps to cool the beef down, BBC Good Food shares. The layer of potatoes traps in the steam produced by the beef, but if the beef is cooled down beforehand, it won't produce as much. Without the overall extra moisture, it'll be easier for the mashed potatoes to remain intact.