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Baby Food Makers
Do these specialty appliances make cooking purees from scratch any easier than a blender?
What You Need To Know
While packaged baby purees continue to be popular, some parents opt to make homemade versions. It doesn't require much: just something to cook the food in, such as a steamer basket, microwave, or roasting pan, and a blender or food processor to puree the food. Many parents already have all the tools they need to cook for their babies, but a growing category of dedicated “baby food makers” promises a hands-off approach to preparing baby food from scratch.
These machines come in two styles: those that only puree food and those that both cook and puree food. We focused on the latter. We rounded up six of these small appliances, priced roughly $75.00 to $160.00, and used them to prepare recipes from our upcoming The Complete Baby and Toddler Cookbook for pureed peas, fresh mango, and sweet potatoes and apples. All the machines cook by steaming the food with water from a tank that you fill. As the water heats up, the steam is pumped into the cooking container. Once the food is soft, you either blend the food right in the steaming container or transfer the food to a second container for blending with the push of a button depending on the model. After we'd prepared our purees in the baby food makers, we compared the results to batches we'd either cooked on the stovetop in a steamer basket (peas) or roasted in the oven (sweet potatoes and apples) and then pureed in our favorite food processor or midpriced blender, depending on what the recipe called for.
The Advantage: Walk-Away Cooking
Baby food makers do offer one big advantage over traditional cooking methods: You can walk away without fear of burning the food. The machines stop cooking either when the timer goes off or when they run out of water, which is great for busy parents with roaming toddlers to watch over.
The Murky: Nutrition Claims
Many of these machines also claim that they allow you to better preserve nutrients that can be lost during cooking. In a traditional steamer basket, moisture from the food drips down into the cooking liquid. For our baby food recipes, we add some of that liquid—a mixture of food liquid and steaming water—to the solid food before blending because it's convenient and may contain a bit of flavor. However, the liquid collected in the baby food makers is more concentrated because it collects in a separate cup and doesn't mix with the steaming liquid. Before blending, this concentrated liquid can be added back in with the food in place of (or in addition to) water, formula, or breast milk. Manufacturers claim that this liquid is filled with nutrients that otherwise would be lost during cooking.
However, our science editor explained that this nutriti...
Everything We Tested
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