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How to select the best baby food maker for your needs

By Juliet Spurrier, MD & Wendy Schmitz
Friday May 19, 2017

Ever consider making your own baby food? Not sure how to get started or if it is worth the effort? This article can provide background on understanding the fundamental differences between popular baby food makers to determine which might work best for your lifestyle. For an in-depth comparison of the makers we tested, please read our review on The Best Baby Food Maker.

After spending months in the lab kitchen, testing a variety of foods with our chosen food makers, we discovered a lot about why one baby food maker is better than another.

Do I really need to make my baby food?


The simple answer is no. The baby food available in grocery stores today can be good quality and possibly organic. Plenty of children have been introduced to solids on commercial baby food and turned out just fine. However, you may feel a desire to try making baby's food at home, from scratch. Maybe you're interested in saving money on groceries. Maybe you worry about food sourcing or production practices. Maybe you just love the idea of getting back to basics in the kitchen. Whatever your reasoning, if you decide to make your own baby food, you'll surely find beauty and peace of mind in knowing exactly what your baby is eating and how fresh it is.

We tested 7 of the top baby food makers on the market so you can determine which option is right for you.
We tested 7 of the top baby food makers on the market so you can determine which option is right for you.

Do I really need a special tool to prepare baby food?


Definitely not. Making baby food is as complex as you want it to be. In a small kitchen where countertop and cupboard space is tight, something like the Baby Bullet can work but is still not necessary.

The Sage Spoonfuls Puree and Blend is a blender only product that created smooth purees for almost every food we tested and can easily be used for food preparation outside of baby food.
The Sage Spoonfuls Puree and Blend is a blender only product that created smooth purees for almost every food we tested and can easily be used for food preparation outside of baby food.


In reality, having a product specifically for making baby food is a fantastic luxury. It is certainly convenient to toss some chopped broccoli into an all-in-one product, pour in water, and let the machine run. We really loved that we could set it and forget it, freeing us up to do other things like spend time with the baby. We also found the dedicated pureeing products were easy to use and made quick meals from already cooked foods. Depending on your goals you might be able to use a blender or mixer that you already have. While it might not do the job as efficiently as a product designed for the task, it can certainly blend food in the same way you'd make mashed potatoes.

Depending on the product you choose  making baby food can be easy enough for a child to do (with proper supervision of course)!
Depending on the product you choose, making baby food can be easy enough for a child to do (with proper supervision of course)!

Is baby food difficult to make?


Like many things, cooking for your baby will be as difficult as you make it. You'll be happy to know that making food for baby can be as simple as pureeing the same foods the rest of the family are enjoying for dinner. Gone are the days of rice cereal only for baby's first meals. With your pediatrician's approval, baby can enjoy a variety of food options from most food groups. Today, parents are encouraged to provide their infants with a wide variety in their diet once they are ready to journey into the messy world of solid foods. Don't be afraid to save some steamed broccoli from dinner and puree it for your baby later. Your time is at a premium as a parent, and you cannot afford to waste it! Just like naps and changing diapers, whipping up a meal for your baby could quickly become a habit that becomes a seamless part of your family's routine.

Preparing Food Safely
Safely preparing food for your baby is no different from regular food prep and cooking rules.
  • ALWAYS prepare foods on a clean cutting board and DO NOT use the same cutting board for both produce and meat.
  • Keep meat refrigerated until just before cooking it and after it has finished cooking and cooled, return it to the refrigerator for use within a few days or prepare it appropriately for freezing.
  • Use sharp knives when preparing food and exercise the necessary cautions when utilizing your oven or stove.
  • ALWAYS follow the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Keep in mind too, that these machines often contain sharp blades and use very hot steam to function.

Types of Baby Food Makers


There are three types of baby food makers:
  • All-in-one —
    The Cuisinart is easy to use earning a second place score for the ease of use metric thanks in part to an intuitive  simple  one knob design.
    These machines steam (cook) and blend baby's food in one product. Some use a single preparation bowl, and no food needs to be transferred, while others have two bowls and require cooked food to be moved to the blending bowl to finish food preparation. This type of baby food maker has a steam water tank that requires regular maintenance, and some of them can be tricky to see into or clean.
  • Blender only —
    The Bullet is really easy to use with minimal parts and only one function.
    This kind of machine does not cook the food and requires that you pre-cook food before using it. These types of products are usually simpler and have fewer parts to clean and no hidden areas where bacteria or mold can fester unnoticed. While there is the additional step of cooking baby's food, we found that cooking was easy and required less cleanup on the stove top than the all-in-one machines with the added benefit of not cooking food in plastic which could potentially lead to leaching chemicals into baby's food.
  • Manual Food Mill — This kind of food maker is one we reviewed in the past and decided to skip this go around as being somewhat impractical for new parents. The time and effort involved to use these items are beyond that of the other two types making it less desirable for parents with limited time.

No one single type of food maker will be the perfect choice for all parents and every goal. However, we think choosing a baby food maker can be easier than you first thought once you determine your short and long term goals, as well as your routine and lifestyle.

Before committing to a baby food maker of any kind  it is important to determine if you really want to make baby food. There is no shame in feeding commercial baby food products. With so many organic and natural options available you can feel good feeding baby off the shelf and skipping the time and energy involved in making your own.
Before committing to a baby food maker of any kind, it is important to determine if you really want to make baby food. There is no shame in feeding commercial baby food products. With so many organic and natural options available you can feel good feeding baby off the shelf and skipping the time and energy involved in making your own.

First: Do you really want to make baby food?


There is no right or wrong answer her, but if you aren't sure if making baby food is really for you then you either don't want to shell out the cash for a dedicated device or we suggest you choose the blender only option so you can use the device for other things in the future if baby food making turns out not to be your bag. The Sage Spoonfuls Puree and Blend is an immersion blender that allows for all kinds of mixing outside baby food. This product is easy to use, budget-friendly and makes excellent purees. The Baby Bullet can also be used for other things including smoothies and milkshakes or some light food processing. The Bullet is inexpensive, easy to operate, and easy to clean.

Sweet potatoes blended smooth in the Cuisinart with no chunks making it perfect for baby's first foods.
Sweet potatoes blended smooth in the Cuisinart with no chunks making it perfect for baby's first foods.

Second: Do you like to cook?


If you don't want to hassle with cooking and blending food, but still want your baby to have a nice homemade meal the all-in-one machines that use the same preparation bowl for steaming and blending is probably your best bet. Cleaning and chopping food is the hardest part of these machines because once the food is in the bowl and the timer is set the maker cooks and blends baby's food without a lot of fuss. The Cuisinart BFM-1000 is the top scoring all-in-one option in our tests with a simple user interface and better purees than the other all-in-one options. It comes with one of the higher price tags, but given its ability to cook, puree, and warm a bottle, the price might be a trade off you are willing and able to make. Alternatively, if you have concerns about heating baby's food in plastic or you are on a tighter budget, then you'll want to cook baby's food on the stove top and use the blender baby food makers to finish the puree.

Whether you want an all-in-one product that does most of the work for you  or you plan to keep it simple with a puree only option  there is a baby food maker out there for you.
Whether you want an all-in-one product that does most of the work for you, or you plan to keep it simple with a puree only option, there is a baby food maker out there for you.

Conclusion


Making food for your baby should be a fun process and done by choice, not pressure from those around you. As the guardian of your baby, it is your responsibility to determine what is best for your child and your family. We encourage you to take some time to reflect on our test results and consider what products (if any) will work best for you and your family's lifestyle. With multiple options in a variety of price ranges, we feel there is an option for everyone, even if it isn't an award winner.

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Dr. Juliet Spurrier is founder and Mom-in-Chief at BabyGearLab
Juliet Spurrier, MD
About the Author
Dr. Juliet Baciocco Spurrier is a board certified pediatrician, mother of two, and founder of BabyGearLab. Juliet earned her Bachelor of Arts degrees in Anthropology and Italian Literature from the University of California at Berkeley and her Medical degree from Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington DC. She completed her pediatric residency at the Doernbecher Children's Hospital at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, OR, and subsequently practiced pediatrics in both the Pacific Northwest and Silicon Valley. Juliet serves as Mom-in-Chief at BabyGearLab, where she oversees all baby product review activity, assuring that each review delivers on our commitment to quality.


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