How to Select a Food Maker for Babies

How to Select a Food Maker for Babies

Ever consider making your own baby food? Not sure how to get started or if it is worth the effort? This section provides background on understanding the fundamental differences between popular baby food makers to determine which might work best for your lifestyle.

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

Potential Concerns of Commerical Baby Food and Toxic Metals

A quick cruise down the baby food aisle at the grocery store, and you’ll notice lots and lots of available options, with some claiming to be good quality and possibly organic. We understand that plenty of children have been introduced to solids on commercial baby food and turned out fine. However, a recent investigation suggests that some leading baby food manufacturers knowingly sold baby food that contained high levels of toxic heavy metals. We understand that purchasing commercial baby food can be convenient for some families. Still, the awareness of babies potentially ingesting high levels of metals requires spotlight. Toxic metals can be detrimental to babies developing brains and bodies. Given our values and beliefs at BabyGearLab, we advocate for the health, safety, and best practices in parenting. We suggest making homemade baby food whenever possible, and you’ll find peace of mind knowing exactly what your baby is eating.

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 the countertop and cupboard space is tight, something like the Sage Spoonfuls Puree and Blend can work but is still unnecessary. 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.

Sage Spoonfuls Puree and Blend

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. Making baby food can be as simple as you want it to be, and included accessories, such as the NutriBullet Baby’s storage cups can make storing food even easier.

NutriBullet Baby's storage cups

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 a 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, your baby can enjoy various 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. 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 — 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 — Although this kind of machine does not cook food, requiring you to pre-cook food before use, these products tend to be more straightforward and have fewer parts to clean, plus no hidden areas where bacteria or mold could fester unnoticed. We feel that cooking food on the stovetop is easy and requires less clean-up than an all-in-one machine 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 great for meals away from home or a quick puree. However, keep in mind that these products require some time and muscle (depending on the food) to create a decent puree and are not the most efficient for making large baby food batches.

No 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.

First: Do You Really Want to Make Baby Food?

There is no right or wrong answer here. But, if you aren’t sure if making baby food is really for you, or you don’t want to shell out the cash for a dedicated device, 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. If you want a hassle-free approach to making baby food, an all-in-one machine may fit your needs.

all-in-one machine may fit

Second: Do you Like to Cook?

If you don’t want to hassle with cooking and blending food, but want your baby to have a nice homemade meal, all-in-one machines that use the same preparation bowl for steaming and blending are probably your best bet. Cleaning and chopping food is the hardest part of these machines. Once the food is in the bowl and the timer is set, the machine cooks and blends the food without much fuss. Overall, the all-in-one machines did not rank high, but if you think this type meets your needs, check out the Baby Brezza Complete. It has a higher price tag, but given its ability to cook and puree, the price may be a trade-off you are willing to make. Alternatively, if you have concerns about heating baby’s food in plastic or on a tighter budget, you’ll want to cook baby’s food on the stovetop 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.

all-in-one product

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.

How to make iced tea at home

How to make iced tea at home

Tea is one of the most popular beverages globally, served in the mornings, evenings or even at a high tea in the afternoon, per the British tradition. Tea requires individual bags or loose leaves, which can produce more flavor. There are hundreds of varieties, and you can brew all of them to serve hot or cold. We’ve combed hundreds of recipes to make the perfect iced tea at home, and with the directions and tips below, you’ll be able to enjoy tasty iced tea to quench your thirst.  

WHAT YOU NEED TO BREW TEA

  • One tea bag or 1 teaspoon of loose-leaf tea per 5-7 ounces of water. Depending on your taste, add more water to make stronger tea. 
  • 1 quart of ice cubes, plus additional cubes for glasses
  • 2-quart Pyrex measuring cup or medium saucepan
  • Sugar (optional)
  • Sliced lemon, fresh mint leaves or sliced cucumber (optional)

FAST AND SLOW RECIPES FOR ICED TEA

Slow-brewed iced tea recipe

  1. Place whole tea bags or loose leaf tea into the pitcher. Then pour in room temperature or cold water. Use spring or distilled water, based on your preference, for best taste.
  2. Cover the pitcher with a top or cellophane wrap and refrigerate it for 9-12 hours if you’re brewing black or oolong tea. For other varieties of tea, such as green tea, 5-7 hours will be sufficient. 
  3. After sufficient brewing time, pour the tea in the pitcher through a fine mesh filter or sieve to remove the loose leaves or take out and throw out the whole tea bags. 
    4.  Serve tea with ice, unsweetened or with any additions. 

Quick-brewed iced tea recipe

  1. This method requires a 2-quart Pyrex measuring cup or a microwave. Alternatively, you can brew the tea in a medium saucepan. 
  2. Place five tea bags into the Pyrex cup filled with 1 quart of water and cover with a plate.
  3. Microwave the mixture on high power until the water is on the cusp of boiling, which should take 7-9 minutes depending on the water temperature and microwave power. Or, bring it to near-boil in the saucepan, which should take about 8-10 minutes. 
    4.  Let the tea steep for a few minutes and remove and throw away the tea bags.
    5.  Add sugar and ice and stir until fully melted and stir.
    6.  Serve in glasses with ice cubes or refrigerate in a covered pitcher.

TIPS FOR BREWING TEA

Fruity additions

Lemon iced tea is the most popular, but adding ginger, mint leaves, cucumber slices, sliced strawberries or other fruit slices can add a twist of flavor. 

Sweetened or unsweetened

Sweet ice tea is a delightful beverage all year long, especially on hot summer days. However, for the health-conscious, unsweetened ice tea is just as flavorful. When adding sweetener after your iced tea is chilled, make sure to use a liquid sweetener (maple syrup, agave or liquid sugar) because granulated sugar doesn’t dissolve right away in cold water.

French press 

The French press is typically used to brew flavorful coffee, but it’s just as capable of making great tea. Add loose tea leaves, pour boiling water and stir, then let it brew for 10-15 minutes. Then use the filter to pour the tea into a pitcher and refrigerate. 

Be mindful of expiration dates

Your freshly brewed iced tea can maintain its fresh taste for 3-5 days if covered and kept in a refrigerator.  

Iced tea maker

If you’re an avid tea drinker or just want to try something different, an iced tea maker is something you may want to pick up. The small kitchen appliance makes ice tea either automatically or manually, depending on which type or model you pick. 

WHAT YOU NEED TO BUY TO MAKE ICED TEA

Luzianne Iced Tea Tea Bags

Luzianne Iced Tea Tea Bags
Luzianne Iced Tea Tea Bags

This orange pekoe and pekoe cut black tea is the must-have ingredient to make smooth sweet iced tea. Tradition is everything, as the Luzianne brand has been making great-tasting teas since 1902. 

Lipton Loose Black Tea

Lipton Loose Black Tea
Lipton Loose Black Tea

Essentially the standard in black tea, Lipton loose tea features a great aroma and a smooth, natural taste. It’s sustainably sourced, made with 100% Rainforest Alliance certified tea leaves and contains 55 milligrams of caffeine per 8 fluid ounces.

Tiesta Tea Fruity Paradise Loose Leaf Strawberry Pineapple Green Tea

Tiesta Tea Fruity Paradise Loose Leaf Strawberry Pineapple Green Tea
Tiesta Tea Fruity Paradise Loose Leaf Strawberry Pineapple Green Tea

This green tea is infused with strawberry pineapple flavor pieces that are fruity and naturally sweet. With moderate caffeine, this loose leaf tea is excellent for making iced tea.

Pyrex Glass Measuring Cup Set

Pyrex Glass Measuring Cup Set
Pyrex Glass Measuring Cup Set

This Pyrex seat features 1, 2, 4 and 8-cup versions and includes easy-to-read measurements in cups, ounces and milliliters. Each cup has a curved spout and handles for convenient pouring and grip.

Hiware Glass Pitcher with Lid and Spout 

Hiware Glass Pitcher with Lid and Spout
Hiware Glass Pitcher with Lid and Spout

With a 68-ounce capacity, this durable pitcher is designed with lead-free borosilicate glass to withstand temperatures up to 300 degrees. It measures 9.5 by 3.5 inches and has an extra-wide mouth to add more liquid or fruit as you make iced tea. 

Bigelow Earl Grey Black Tea

Bigelow Earl Grey Black Tea
Bigelow Earl Grey Black Tea

Earl Grey teas are blended with bergamot oil to add a citrus flavor to the black tea, generating a slight vanilla flavor when served iced. The tea is smooth yet strong, crafted by the Bigelow brand, founded by Ruth Campbell Bigelow in 1945.  

Cuisinart Set of 3 Fine Mesh Stainless Steel Strainers

Cuisinart Set of 3 Fine Mesh Stainless Steel Strainers
Cuisinart Set of 3 Fine Mesh Stainless Steel Strainers

These stainless mesh strainers are versatile and great for filtering loose tea leaves. With three different sizes of strainers, meet all of your kitchen needs, and place them in the dishwasher for seamless cleaning.

15 products to make the kitchen everyone’s favorite place

15 products to make the kitchen everyone’s favorite place

The living room is said to be the main communal space in a home, but we all know it’s actually the kitchen. Cooking and dining aside, it’s where we hang out, indulge, imbibe, and more. Because it’s the most happening room in the home, people invest considerable money making it as welcoming as possible. 

Go beyond cute tea towels and novelty salt-and-pepper shakers and outfit your kitchen with products that will make it everyone’s favorite place— friends, family, and roomies alike. With the right combination of items, from smart devices to small appliances, you’ll never want to leave the kitchen. Here’s our list of the top products to keep your kitchen as fun, accommodating, and delightful as possible.

MUST-HAVE KITCHEN PRODUCTS

Echo Show 10 

Echo Show 10
Echo Show 10

Smart home hubs, like the Echo Show, often end up on kitchen counters. It makes sense; if you spend so much time in the kitchen, you might as well turn it into a central command center. The all-new Echo Show 10, the latest and most-feature rich model, has a 10.1-inch HD screen, 13MP camera, and a robust speaker. Besides controlling smart devices, this Echo Show is a smart sous chef since it can leverage Alexa’s Food Network Kitchen skill to access an exhaustive collection of interactive recipes and cooking shows. Or, you can simply enjoy streaming your favorite music, audiobook, or Netflix show while you hang out in the kitchen.

Great Northern Popcorn Movie Theater-Style Machine

Great Northern Popcorn Movie Theater-Style Machine
Great Northern Popcorn Movie Theater-Style Machine

There’s something profoundly nostalgic about movie popcorn, but these days, the price of a small bag at the theater is rather steep. That doesn’t mean you need to say goodbye to movie popcorn forever, nor do you need to resign yourself to microwave popcorn. Great Northern’s countertop machine lets you enjoy the favorite fresh-popped snack in your kitchen. The machine has vintage vibes and comes with essential popcorn serving paraphernalia, like scoops and bags. Once your popcorn is ready for snacking, however, you’ll have a big decision to make: whether you’ll enjoy it salty, buttery, plain or mixed with movie candy.

Ivation 18-Bottle Compressor Wine Cooler Refrigerator

Ivation 18-Bottle Compressor Wine Cooler Refrigerator
Ivation 18-Bottle Compressor Wine Cooler Refrigerator

Many wine enthusiasts share the same frustration: there are only so many bottles you can fit in your refrigerator. To make matters worse, the refrigerator’s temperature and light exposure may affect the wine, which means you won’t be able to enjoy vino at its best. The Ivation Wine Cooler, however, is a stand-alone solution that accommodates 18 750-ml bottles. It offers temperature control with a range of 41-64 degrees and has a double-paned glass door that protects bottles from harmful UV light. The wine cooler is small enough to fit in most kitchens, and if it doesn’t fit, we’re confident that creative logistics will carve out a new home for it.

Cuisinart Electric Fondue Maker

Cuisinart Electric Fondue Maker
Cuisinart Electric Fondue Maker

If you can’t book a table at your favorite fondue restaurant, don’t fret; just bring the cheesy goodness into your kitchen with a fondue pot. It’s that simple, and considering the prices of some fondue establishments, it’s an affordable way to indulge. The Cuisinart Electric Fondue Maker, for instance, comes with a three-quart bowl and fondue forks for eight. It has a sleek, stainless steel construction with a non-stick bowl for easy cleaning— a welcomed feature according to anyone who has tried scraping cheese off cooking surfaces. If you’re not already sold on having a fondue pot, rest assured it’s not just a one-trick pony. The multifunctional device comes in handy for dessert stations with dippable delights like strawberries, marshmallows, and pretzels.

Signature by Ashley Centiar Mid Century Round Dining Table

Signature by Ashley Centiar Mid Century Round Dining Table
Signature by Ashley Centiar Mid Century Round Dining Table

There’s a lot that happens on kitchen tables between dining, entertaining, and everything in between. Many people opt for round tables so guests are equidistant from one other, which in turn, facilitates conversation and family-style serving. After all, any gracious host wants everyone to feel included, whether it’s on Taco Tuesday or board game night. This 42-inch Signature by Ashley table lends itself to plenty of entertaining. With mixed materials and a two-tone aesthetic, the table coordinates well with seats that have similar accents or finishes. There’s plenty of legroom with the criss-cross metal base so you can stretch out while you hang out, too.

Bella Classic Rotating Belgian Waffle Maker

Bella Classic Rotating Belgian Waffle Maker
Bella Classic Rotating Belgian Waffle Maker

Yes, the rumors are true: any home can be a Waffle House with the right appliance, and that nifty device is a Belgian waffle maker. When you consider how versatile waffles are, it almost seems too easy to put one in your kitchen. From syrupy waffles to fried chicken and waffles for dinner, they’re worthy of all-day indulging. This Belgian waffle maker has a classic rotating design and cooks up to four waffles in 10 minutes. With a speedy turnaround like that, it’s ideal for hosting breakfast or brunch. The device is equipped with browning settings as well, which means you can cater to everyone’s crispness preferences.

Linon Kitchen Island 

Linon Kitchen Island
Linon Kitchen Island

If you feel like you’re missing out by not having enough counter space, a portable kitchen island is one way to add square footage. Besides, there’s nothing worse than feeling cramped when you’re cooking. The Linon Kitchen Island adds a little room that makes a huge difference with a 22.8 x 15.63-inch granite table top as well as three levels of storage. It’s perched on locking casters and can be used as a mobile chopping, preparing or serving station. Looking for the perfect place to display your Instagram-worthy charcuterie board? Here it is.

Moen Arbor Motionsense Wave Sensor Touchless Kitchen Faucet

Moen Arbor Motionsense Wave Sensor Touchless Kitchen Faucet
Moen Arbor Motionsense Wave Sensor Touchless Kitchen Faucet

We’re filing this one under one of those kitchen upgrades that you had no idea you desperately needed. Touchless kitchen faucets are an easy way to cut down on germ transfer when handling raw and messy foods, whether it’s cookie dough or chicken cutlets. A simple wave operates this mid-range Moen’s faucet, making it a cool, hygienic alternative to an otherwise high-contact surface. It features the brand’s respected Reflex system, in which the faucet head releases and retracts in one smooth motion. Installation is simple according to most buyers, so it’s another DIY project you can cross off your bucket list, too.

Margaritaville Key West Frozen Concoction Maker

Margaritaville Key West Frozen Concoction Maker
Margaritaville Key West Frozen Concoction Maker

Want to impress your guests with fancy adult beverages? A drink shaker can only do so much, and blenders rarely achieve the consistency of island-inspired drinks. If you like piña coladas — and other fruity frozen beverages — this Margaritaville maker is sure to make a splash. It has four pre-programmed settings as well as a shave n’ blend cycle to achieve the classic textures of margaritas, snow cones, and slushies. With an extra-large ice hopper that fills the 36-ounce pitcher three times, it’s easy to keep the party going while the machine takes over bartending duties.

UMAID Natural Himalayan Salt Block

UMAID Natural Himalayan Salt Block
UMAID Natural Himalayan Salt Block

So, you’re on the hunt for a cheese board that doesn’t look like all the others? Enter the top contender: a Himalayan salt block, like this one by UMAID. While they’re typically used for grilling, salt blocks have become favored as cheese and charcuterie boards because they can be refrigerated and maintain cool temperatures well. And we know what a chilled salt block means: no more melting, gooey cheese slices that stick to one another. The salt block is easy to wipe clean with a wet cloth, making it a low-maintenance piece of serveware. When the salt block isn’t in use, it functions as an ornate centerpiece on a kitchen table or island.

Cuisinart Pure Indulgence Automatic Ice Cream Maker

Cuisinart Pure Indulgence Automatic Ice Cream Maker
Cuisinart Pure Indulgence Automatic Ice Cream Maker

Love ice cream? (And who doesn’t really?) If you’ve ever felt inspired to churn a batch yourself, it’s pretty easy with an ice cream maker. And believe it or not, they’re more affordable than you think. Take Cuisinart’s 2-quart automatic ice cream maker, which only costs around $100. It takes 25 minutes to churn a batch of homemade ice cream, sorbet or frozen yogurt, which is usually quicker than taking a trip to the frozen section of your grocery store. We don’t have to tell you an ice cream maker is a fun kitchen investment, not to mention it fosters culinary creativity since you can experiment with all kinds of flavor concoctions. You might even give Ben & Jerry’s and Häagen-Dazs a run for their money. Shop Now

ODK Kitchen Baker’s Rack

ODK Kitchen Baker’s Rack
ODK Kitchen Baker’s Rack

Ever heard of a baker’s rack? If you think this piece of kitchen furniture is worth skipping over, think again. These days, modern baker’s racks aren’t even used for baking, and instead, they function as coffee and tea stations. ODK’s rustic-inspired baker’s rack, for example, has plenty of shelves as well as drawers and hooks so you can store all your brewing accessories, including mugs, K-Cups, and specialty teas. It’s ideal for storing small appliances as well, especially if you aren’t a fan of microwave carts and other bulky kitchen storage units. The best part? This baker’s rack assembles in as little as 20 minutes.

Aerogarden Bounty Hydroponic Herb Garden 

Aerogarden Bounty Hydroponic Herb Garden
Aerogarden Bounty Hydroponic Herb Garden

Few things punch up a dish better than fresh herbs, so many people grow herb gardens so they’re always within reach. Unfortunately, squirrels and other critters like herb gardens as much as you do, so you usually end up with fewer usable leaves than you need. That’s where indoor hydroponic gardens come to the rescue. The Aerogarden Bounty, one of the brand’s largest hydroponic gardens, cultivates up to nine herbs or plants on your kitchen counter. Even if you don’t have a green thumb, it’s a fool-proof setup that yields success for everyone. The only party who may not approve of the Aerogarden, however, is the squirrel family who will soon miss out on their favorite source of rosemary and cilantro.

Litever Under Cabinet LED Lighting Strips  

Litever Under Cabinet LED Lighting Strips
Litever Under Cabinet LED Lighting Strips

Lighting fixtures might not be exciting or glamorous, but some of them can transform your kitchen into a backlit masterpiece. Under-cabinet lighting echoes modern vibes and makes kitchens appear larger than they are, not to mention they illuminate counters for much safer chopping and cutting. These Litever LED lighting strips glow with a warm white light that eliminates glare and is easy on the eyes. They even have a dimmer so you can adjust the lighting to suit your needs or mood, whether you’re looking for a brighter light to read a cookbook, or something understated for relaxing wine and cheese nights. There’s no need to spend big bucks on an electrician to install these lights, either, because the set comes with self-adhesive pads and mounting clips.

Sky Solutions Anti-Fatigue Mat 

Sky Solutions Anti-Fatigue Mat
Sky Solutions Anti-Fatigue Mat

If you enjoy cooking over catering and take-out, you know that preparing meals is a labor of love that entails standing. And when you spend prolonged periods of time on hard kitchen floors, your back pays for it— but it doesn’t have to. Anti-fatigue mats, which have been used in delicatessens for decades, maybe your best option to relieve pressure, stress and tension on your body. The Sky Solutions Anti-Fatigue Mat, a commercial-grade design, offers three-quarters of an inch of premium high-density foam cushioning. It only takes a few minutes of standing on it to realize that you probably don’t want to live without this kind of cloud-like comfort while you cook.


Sian Babish is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.