I’ve always wanted to be one of those minimalist cooks who owns nothing more than a good knife and one skillet. After years of acquiring every kitchen gadget and appliance under the sun (including, but not limited to, a crepe maker, stand mixer, hand mixer, waffle iron, and panini press), I finally had to admit that I’m actually a kitchen maximalist. The upside of this is that I didn’t have to run out and buy anything for my baby-food making needs.
Below you’ll find my review of every conceivable food-masher known to home cooks. Needless to say, it makes the most sense to start with what you already own and purchase something only if what you have doesn’t work. I’d also recommend buying something that you’ll use in the kitchen for years, even after baby’s palate has matured.
Blender–I found it funny when Joy wrote about using her blender to make baby food because this is the one gadget I never tried–it seemed like too much mess, and I didn’t want to add a lot of water to the food. If this is what you have, though, it will work just fine. Keep in mind that the blender is better at liquefying than mashing, which is why you’ll need to add water for best results.
Hand blender (immersion blender)–My aunt and cousin gave me a hand blender years ago. At first I thought I would never use it. What’s the point of a little hand blender if you already own a full-size blender? At the time I didn’t have a full-size blender, but I was still skeptical. But then, only moments after unwrapping my new gadget, we used it to chop up some chocolate in a big pot of milk. This was necessary for reasons I have now forgotten. I still use my hand blender to this day.
But I digress. The hand blender is great for making baby food. You don’t need to add a lot of water, and it’s much easier to clean than the regular blender. Plus, it’s efficient for mashing small batches of food when you don’t want to drag out the heavy-duty appliances.
Food Processor–Due to my aforementioned desire to have a minimalist kitchen, I lived without a food processor for most of my life. Now I can’t envision a future without it. It turned out to be my number-one tool for food-mashing. You can grind dry things as well as blend wet things, so I used it to mill oats that I then cooked into a porridge. Audrey ate this porridge three times a day for months. (Read about that here.) You can also use a food processor to grind nuts into nut butters or chop up vegetables very finely without liquefying them. The food processor works much better than a blender to make hummus, another baby staple (or so I’ve heard–my particular baby has not caught on to this infant culinary trend).
Food Mill–A food mill is another handy gadget for the baby food chef. The advantage of this implement is that it will sort the stringy, seedy, or otherwise inedible parts of food from the soft, mushy parts. So, for example, you could cook up some string beans and crank them through the food mill, and the strings and stems would be left behind. Beyond the realm of baby food cookery, I’ve used the food mill to make gnocchi (a food processor would render the potato dough into a gluey mess) and coulis–the food mill saves hours pushing berries through a sieve with a spatula.
Mini Food Mill–I never had one of these, but Joy soon abandoned hers in favor of her blender. These teeny-tiny food mills are sold in baby stores all over. Supposedly you can take them everywhere you go and grind up your food at restaurants with it. This doesn’t seem particularly practical, and once the baby is eating normal food the mini food mill would be out of commission.
Potato Ricer–Many mashed potato lovers swear by the potato ricer, which could also be used to mash starchy baby foods. It wouldn’t work at all on green vegetables or fruits, I would imagine.
Potato Masher–So many foods can simply be mashed with a potato masher. This is a nice, carbon-free way to pulverize your baby’s delicacies. Of course, this is just conjecture as I do not own (nor will I ever own) a potato masher.
Pastry Cutter–A pastry cutter can double as a potato masher, in a pinch. It’s also great for turning soft foods such as sweet potatoes or bananas into delectable purees.
Fork, knife, hands–Most home cooks own one or all of these items. They can be invaluable for the baby-food maker in the family and have many household uses once baby yearns for more toothsome fare.
Other implements–I’m sure I’m missing a few obvious food-mashers. A mortar and pestle? A chinois? An ulu?
Making all of my baby’s meals from scratch (and avoiding jarred and boxed baby food) has saved me hundreds of dollars. I always knew exactly what went on my child’s plate and had a grand time experimenting with my arsenal of kitchen gadgets. My daughter has since moved on to more sophisticated fare (such as apple slices and crackers), but I’ll always take pride in knowing that I created some truly delicious and wholesome recipes. I’ll leave you with one of my favorites:
Ingredients: one banana
Directions: peel banana and place on a small plate. Press the tines of the fork repeatedly into the banana until it is completely mashed. Serve immediately.